We are constantly trying to remain balanced in our lives. Distractions surround us. These distractions can take different forms depending on where we are located geographically. In the United States for example, if we live in a rural area we may be distracted by television, internet, cell phones, and small-town drama. If we live in or near a big city we face similar distractions that include large crowds of people and constantly trying to fit in.
Meditation has existed for thousands of years, but it has only made its way to the West within the last 50 years. Meditation can still be seen as taboo in the West, but its health benefits are so great that we need to look past any stigmas that may be attached to it.
I have been mediating on and off for years, and daily for the past year. I felt the benefits within the first 30 days. Below are some of the many benefits, including ones that I have personally experienced.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF MEDITATION
- Greater Focus – Wandering minds are associated with being unhappy
- Management of Depression
- Less Stress – Calmer and greater self-control
- Decreased Anxiety and Social Anxiety
- Helps with Addiction – Finding balance
- Increased Gray Matter – We lose gray matter as we age. Loss of gray matter increases risk of mental illness and neurodegenerative disease
- Strengthens Immune System – Stress suppresses the immune system
- Reduces Inflammation – Any associated pain
- Reduces Blood Pressure – Stress raises blood pressure. Sometimes to dangerous levels without ever being aware
Listed above are just a few of the many benefits we can experience by practicing meditation. It is important for me to note that meditation alone will not treat or heal any condition that we are already dealing with, but by adding it into our daily regimen we will most certainly begin to benefit from the power of meditation.
TYPES OF MEDITATION FOR BEGINNERS
Meditation does not always need to be done sitting in a chair with our legs crossed. It is about self-awareness and understanding our emotions at any given moment. Becoming more self-aware will allow us to better manage our lives. Below are a few simple types of meditation.
Zen meditation is what many of us have heard of. Traditionally it is practiced while sitting on the floor, mat or cushion with our legs crossed in the lotus position. This is not necessary as we can get the same benefits sitting upright in a chair. Once we find a comfortable position it is important to begin focusing on the breath. An easy exercise is taking long deep breaths through the nose while counting to 8-10 then exhaling again through the nose. Each of the following breaths will be shorter in duration.
E.g. Our first breath we inhale through our nose to the count of 8, slowly exhaling through the nose. The following breath inhale through the nose to the count of 7, exhale through the nose. Next, to the count of 6, and so on.
After each breath, we will notice that our mind and body begins to feel more relaxed. We will continue to hear the chatter in our minds, this is normal. When it happens acknowledge it and allow it to pass. We should not become frustrated with the chatter as this will only lead us further away from a state of relaxation.
Like Zen meditation, and all other meditations, mindfulness teaches us self-awareness. This can be practiced throughout the day. It does not matter where we are or who is around us. The point of mindfulness is to relax our mind and body throughout the day allowing us to feel more centered and relaxed.
The technique is simple. We need to find a comfortable place to sit and begin breathing as we relax. Using the breathing techniques above will work. We can also take long steady breaths in without counting and exhale as we relax deeper. With each breath, we will begin to scan our body. Starting with our feet we should take a deep breath in while focusing our attention on our feet, exhale and relax while paying attention to any sensations that we may feel.
Next, we will move up our body finishing at our head (cheeks, ears, forehead, etc.). The order isn’t important, it is only important that we scan our bodies while become fully aware of each body part while breathing slow and steady breaths. Once we try it a few times we can use this technique throughout the day. When we feel stressed at work we can begin scanning our body while breathing in and out of our nose until we regain focus and begin to relax.
It is important to pay close attention throughout the day to our breathing. Our mouths should be closed as we breathe through our nose. Breathing through the mouth sends the body into a stressed state. Think about it. If we are being chased by a dog we will be panting in fear as we fight to catch our breath. A calm relaxed body will feel calm as we breath in and out through our nose.
Take Back Control of Your Life
Meditation will allow us to slow down and move more in sync with our bodies. We are likely to experience the benefits above and possibly even more. The experience is different for each of us, and like anything, we get what we put into it. Life is short. We are all born to walk this earth at the same time. Some of us walk longer than others, but one thing is for certain – We all get the same 24 hours in a day, but it seems to go by much faster for those who have less control of their lives.
Take a deep breath and begin to enjoy the journey more than you believe that you may be.
There are many other types of meditation, but the above mentioned (and any embedded links) will certainly help anyone who is interested in beginning. Our bodies are meant to perform in a certain way, but life disrupts that flow daily. By becoming more aware of our thoughts, emotions, stress, and tension that we hold onto we will better be able to manage everything that life tries to throw our way.
I want everyone to live the life that they desire and there is no reason why they can’t. Trying new things like meditation can grab and throw us back on track to the lives we always dreamed of living. It is easy to get caught living in a way that we have always been taught to be normal, but we need to remind ourselves, if it’s normal than why are so many people unhappy with their lives?
Have you ever tried meditation before? If so, what works best for you? If not, will you consider beginning?
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