Words by Kathy Iandoli
For those unfamiliar with meditation, images of someone sitting cross-legged on the side of a mountain chanting “OM” may come to mind. You may be picturing this far away, seemingly impossible, mental state to reach that many think they simply don’t have the time for it. Either that or it’s just perceived as categorically weird. But truthfully speaking, meditation could be all of that and none of that. The most important thing to know is that, believe it or not, meditation can save your life. Yeah, you too fellas. Find out how with our guide to mental ease.
What is Meditation?
If you’ve read this far then you’re at the very least curious about meditation. The definition of meditation is the act of being quietly in thought for either relaxation, de-stressing or for religious purposes. Those defining characteristics are not mutually exclusive; rather they serve as their own respective blueprints for defining your #meditationgoals. Chances are, if you’ve participated in any quiet prayer then you may have already meditated, but for many, meditation is more rooted in releasing stress and finding a relaxing state of mind.
How Does Meditation Work?
Scientifically speaking, meditation helps to unwind our nerves so to speak, which is the heart of many problems we face internally. Stress, anxiety, digestive problems, high blood pressure, and even pain are all connected to your central nervous system. When you clear your mind and eliminate thoughts, you give your body a much-needed balance where your nerves can be at complete ease. Focusing on breathing patterns also helps bring a healthy boost of oxygen to your cells. The result is an all around feeling of peace. That’s that “zen” state people talk about. Studies have shown that meditation can alter your brain activity patterns in a good way of course, while many also argue that meditation helps with anxiety and depression as well as reversing the symptoms of a number of ailments. So now that you know what meditation is, it’s important to know how to do it.
Meditation Is A Marathon, Not A Sprint
There are some people who can meditate for an hour; others struggle with ten minutes. It’s a gradual build, punctuated with paying attention to how your body and mind adapts to a meditative state. To start, find a quiet place. Put your phone on your TV and find a place with minimal bright lighting. Sit in a comfortable position or lie down. It’s best not to meditate when you’re ready to go to sleep, as the REM state of sleeping and the airplane mode, turn off meditative state are two completely different things. Once seated, close your eyes and simply breathe—in through your nose and out through your mouth. Clear your thoughts and focus on how you’re breathing. It’s best to wear comfortable clothes too, so as not to restrict your breathing. Designate a short time frame to start. Maybe three minutes? Five? Ten? Gradually increase the minutes as you go along. This is the first step for beginners when meditating.
The Sound Of Silence
Not all meditation has to be done in complete silence. Some prefer gentle music to be playing. If you need a little background music, play ambient music through headphones. It’s important to use headphones, as the tones playing in each ear are known to relax brainwaves, called binaural beats. Another approach is through guided imagery, an audible meditation where you’re given prompts to envision specific images, guiding you on a meditative journey that simultaneously clears your thoughts.
When In Doubt, Find A Podcast
Here are some podcasts surrounding meditation that might interest you as you begin your meditation journey:
10% Happier with Dan Harris
Based on the book of the same title, Dan Harris has crafted a podcast to help you with your own mindfulness, meditation, and overall happiness. Interviews and other bits of information help you out along the way.
The Meditation Podcast
A simple enough name with complex options, this podcast has everything in the form of meditations and guided imagery that can help you with a number of situations. From sleep assistance to taming fears, there’s something for every occasion.
The Daily Meditation
Meditation guide Mary Meckley provides many techniques for de-stressing on a daily basis.