How to Meditate
So many things in life are out of our control. But do you know what you CAN control? Your mind and how you react to the stresses of everyday life.
Meditation is the process of calming the mind and freeing it of racing thoughts. It’s only when you are free of stress and worry that you can achieve a deeply peaceful state. And with meditation, we move toward achieving this sense of calm, even if we’re surrounded by chaos.
What is Meditation?
Meditation practice promotes and develops focus, clarity, emotional positivity and a relaxed state of being where you can recognize the true nature of things. You can learn the specific habits and patterns of your mind by engaging in meditation, which has the power to cultivate a new way of thinking.
Meditation that leads to a focused, peaceful, nourishing state of mind can have a permanent transformative effect on your mind, leading you to a completely new perception of life.
What Happens in Your Brain When You Meditate?
Scientists have developed a more accurate understanding of how meditation affects our brains by using modern technology like MRI scans. Our brains show a significant decrease in beta waves which means that it stops processing information as fast as it normally would.
Meditation is also connected to bigger amounts of grey matter in the frontal areas of the brain as well as the hippocampus. Increased grey matter may lead to longer-lasting emotional stability, more positive emotions and increased focus in your daily life.
The Power of Meditation
More and more people are moving away from the notion that mindfulness meditation is some kind of strange practice that doesn’t actually work. But the truth is that there is power behind regular mindfulness meditation.
Your brain waves changes when you meditate. The human brain is made up of neurons or brain cells which communicate with each other through electrical brain waves. Brain wave patterns change depending on your level of consciousness and cognitive processing.
There are 5 categories of brain waves:
- Gamma State (Hyperactive)
- Beta State (Thinking/working)
- Alpha State (Relaxed)
- Theta State (Deep awareness)
- Delta State (Similar to deep sleep)
Meditation practice can take you from Beta to Theta state. This state is powerful and commonly compared to the trance someone experience when playing video games. Recent research suggests that brain wave frequencies like Alpha and Theta can promote profound bodily relaxation and mental
Scientists have discovered that brain wave frequencies like Alpha and Theta can facilitate deep bodily relaxation and promote mental lucidness.
Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation
Being mindful suggests the ability to be present or to relax in the moment. Being completely involved with the task you’re busy with in the here and now. Below are 9 ways you can benefit from adding mindfulness meditation to your daily routine.
Chronic stress can disrupt sleep and promote anxiety and depression. It can also contribute to physical symptoms like increased blood pressure, fatigue and mental fogginess. Regular meditation can help you manage stress better.
Promotes Mental Health
Meditation can also lead to a more positive outlook on life and improved self-image by drastically decreasing depression.
The aim of meditation is to help you develop a better understanding of yourself. How you react to situations and relate to others around you.
Improves Focus and Brain Function
Meditation trains your brain to stay focused for longer periods of time. It’s kind of like strength training but for the brain. The long-lasting effects of meditation help increase endurance and strength of your attention.
Slows Down Age-Related Memory Loss
Meditation will keep your mind young by improving your focus and clarity of thinking. In addition, meditation might even improve memory function in dementia patients.
The anterior insular cortex (compassion and empathy parts of the brain) lights up significantly during meditation. By developing kind feelings and thoughts toward yourself through meditation, you can learn to extend this to others around you.
Meditation can teach you the mental discipline needed to help you eliminate your dependencies on your addiction. By increasing awareness and self-control of your triggers, you can overcome addiction.
Without proper sleep, your body will suffer. You’ll feel tired and run down and be more susceptible to illness. If your insomnia is related to racing thoughts, meditation can help you release tension by relaxing your body into a peaceful state where you’re more likely to fall asleep.
Types of Meditation
Like any other skill, learning to meditate can be challenging. It’s like going to the gym for the first time. Meditation takes consistent practice, even if for just 10 minutes at a time, to get more comfortable. If you’re finding it difficult to focus your attention or keep it focused, it’s worth trying a guided meditation to get you going.
Also known as Metta meditation, this practice has one goal which is to develop an attitude of kindness and love toward everything and everyone – even your enemies and your stress sources.
By practising deep breathing, you open your mind to receiving loving- kindness after which you send the same message back into the world, to your loved ones or specific people.
The key is to repeat this message of loving-kindness over and over until you feel compassion and love for yourself or the person you’re sending it to. This meditation practise proves to be beneficial for people struggling with frustration, anger, interpersonal conflict and resentment. It can also increase positive feelings and has been connected to reduced anxiety, depression and PTSD.
Also known as body scan meditation practise, it encourages individuals to examine their bodies for tension areas. The key is to recognise the tension and to allow the release thereof. During progressive relaxation, you’ll start at one end of your body, for example, your feet, and work your way up until you reach the other end of your body.
Some progressive relaxation practices require you to tense your muscles after which you relax them again. It might help to envision a wave flowing over your body to release tension. This type of meditation can promote feelings of relaxation and calmness and can also be beneficial for people who suffer from chronic pain.
Being mindful requires you to stay focused and aware in the present moment. Rather than dreading the future or dwelling in the past, mindfulness meditation encourages being aware of your current reality and surroundings.
The key is that there will be no judgement. Instead of reflecting frustration or annoyance of a situation, you will simply recognise it and move on.
Mindfulness meditation can be practised nearly anywhere. You can do it while waiting in line or on your lunch break. Simply notice your surroundings, including sounds, smells and sights and let it be. There is evidence that suggests that mindfulness meditation may improve physical health.
Breath Awareness Meditation
A type of mindfulness meditation, breath awareness encourages mindful breathing. You start by breathing deeply and slowly, focusing on your breathing and counting every breath. The goal is to ignore any thoughts that enter your mind and only focus on breathing.
Breath awareness meditation offers similar benefits as mindfulness meditation which includes reduces stress and anxiety, improved focus and concentration and more emotional flexibility.
Different from most meditation practices, Kundalini practice is a physically active form of meditation. It combines movements with mantras and deep breathing. This type of practice can be beneficial for people who deal with chronic pain by improving physical strength and reducing pain. By reducing depression and anxiety, it may also improve mental health.
The purpose of Zen meditation is to achieve a calm, focused state and to stop aimless thoughts. While similar to mindfulness meditation in many ways – focusing on breathing and letting thoughts enter and exit your mind without judgement – it also requires more discipline. For this practice, you’ll need to be seated in a comfortable position and a quiet place.
This practice is a spiritual form of meditation commonly performed by monks and Buddhists. It requires you to breathe very slowly and remain seated. The aim is to rise above your current state of being by focusing on a mantra. A mantra can be one word or a series of words, repeated over and over again. People who practice this type of mediation practice report heightened mindfulness and extraordinary spiritual encounters.
How Often Should I Meditate?
Meditation is a personal experience and there’s no wrong or right answer to this question. A valid notion is that any meditation is better than none. However, regular meditation around the same time every day can easily become a habit, making it easier to incorporate into your daily routine.
While it might take time to ‘master’ the skill of meditation, perfect meditation practice simply doesn’t exist. Sometimes you’ll forget to focus on your breathing and other times your mind will wander. And that’s OK. It’s all part of the experience. What matters is that you are consistent with your meditation practice.
People often become frustrated and anxious about their first few attempts at meditation. It’s important to focus on and enjoy the moment and not get too hung up on the results.
If you’re finding it challenging to get started, here’s a quick meditation exercise to guide you in the right direction:
- find a quiet place where you can sit or lie down, free from distraction
- Find a comfortable position and give yourself enough time to become calm and relaxed
- Breathe in and out naturally, and focus on your breath. How it feels when your breath leaves and enters your body, the movement and sound it makes. Try not to think about anything else
- If your thoughts start to wander, bring your focus back to your breathing and continue to do so until the time is up
Most people start a meditation practice for 3 to 5 minutes, but you can work it up to longer periods over time.
Meditation is a simple solution to help improve your emotional and mental health. Mindfulness meditation can be practised anywhere, without any special equipment. If you need help, an Integrative Coach can give you the tools and guidance to start your daily meditation practice.