What comes to mind when you think of meditation? Do you picture a guru sitting cross-legged, eyes shut, back straight, alternating between silence and chanting for hours on end?
If so, you are not alone. Meditation is intimidating for those of us who have this perception of what it MUST look like. But meditation comes in dozens of forms—all of which simply bring you to a heightened state of awareness around where you are RIGHT NOW.
It’s difficult to be in the present moment in today’s society—we are glued to our smartphones, our social media, and our deadlines. At any given time, our thoughts are bouncing like ping-pong balls between the past and the future, stuck on what could have been or fixated on what might be. Rarely do they zero in on what IS. Meditation is one antidote to this, my friends.
Studies suggest that muting the outside world, even if only for a few minutes, can protect you from the stress and noise of daily life and have a lasting impact on your physical and mental health.
BRAIN: Research shows that meditation can increase alpha and theta brain activity, which is linked to relaxation. Practicing meditation every day for two months can physically beef up some parts of your grey matter. The body’s senses—speech, hearing, feelings, seeing and memory—and muscle control are governed by grey matter.
MOOD: Meditation lights up the area of your brain that controls complex thoughts and positive emotions. Some kinds of mediation can also build mental muscles in the brain’s hubs for compassion, empathy, and fear, improving both your emotional control and your relationships with others.
LUNGS AND HEART: Meditation increases activity in your parasympathetic nervous system, which controls your rest-and-digest functions. When you meditate, your lungs draw deeper breaths and your heartbeat slows, causing your blood vessels to relax. Regular mediation can lower your blood pressure and your risk of heart disease.
RELAXATION: During meditation, your adrenal glands dial back production of the stress hormone cortisol. Meditation also increases blood flow to your brain, which helps lower anxiety and improve memory.
WILLPOWER: It sounds too good to be true, but practicing meditation can lower your blood sugar levels and may cut cravings for salty foods.
IMMUNE SYSTEM: Meditation can prompt your body to step up its antibody production and nix the mental negativity that may dampen immune response.
To get started, let go of any preconceived notions or limiting beliefs about your ability to meditate. Mindfulness meditation is simple: sit still and breathe normally. Close your eyes if you’d like. Focus on your inhales and exhales, and if your mind wanders, acknowledge your thoughts and gently bring your attention back to your breath. That’s it. No worry, no hurry, no pressure or expectation.
Maybe you do sit cross-legged, back straight, eyes closed, maybe you don't. Find a receptive posture that is comfortable and will allow you to stay aware of your breath.
I suggest setting aside a few minutes first thing in the morning or right before bed to make meditation part of your daily routine, but you can use this technique anytime you have a quiet space to yourself. Start with 3-5 minutes a day, and you’ll quickly find that you are able to sit for 20 minutes or more! Apps like Insight Timer and websites like YogaGlo are good resources for guided meditation. I also have a meditation video in my ULTIMATE TRANSFORMATION series!
It is never too late to start meditating. I love this quote from Tao Porchon-Lynch, an inspiring 90-something yoga teacher who lives in New York. She demonstrates the simplest form of meditation—starting the day with thoughts of self-love.
When I wake up in the morning, I know that it’s going to be the best day of my life. I never think about what I can’t do. Make sure positive thoughts are the first ones you think in the morning. And never procrastinate.
Go forth and meditate!
*Source: Women’s Health Mag