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Meditation 101

What is meditation

Article at a glance:

  • In order to achieve anything in life it will often take a certain amount of effort; you study hard for exams, you train every day before a marathon, to excel at work, you put in extra hours. With meditation, unlike the material world, we learn the complete opposite. 
  • The exact date in which meditation was discovered is unknown but scientists have recorded ancient practises of mindfulness dating back to 5,000 years ago. Its practises have been followed by many different religions and cultures such as; Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism, and, of course, Buddhism.
  • Many individuals use it as a technique to relieve stress and improve attention. People also utilise it to cultivate other desirable behaviours and sentiments, such as a pleasant mood and outlook, self-discipline, healthy sleep patterns, and even enhanced pain tolerance.


Meditation is a sensational item to have in your mental wellbeing toolkit. It has so many benefits proven by science, and you can enjoy these benefits from doing it from as little as 5-10 minutes each day! 


Take a breath to arrive at this moment. Right now you are most probably sitting in front of your laptop, or slouched over the couch, scrolling on your phone, or maybe you’re in bed. However you are, don’t change it, just come into the awareness that surrounds you. Notice how your body feels, how fast or slow your breath is, any sounds of your surroundings. This simple exercise, believe it or not, is meditation. While there are many different forms of meditation one of the key focuses of this practice is arriving into the present. 


“The more regularly and the more deeply you meditate, the sooner you will find yourself always acting from a centre of peace.”  

 

This means that the more you meditate, the less stress, anxiety, frustration and depression will be visiting, and when it does, you will have mastered how to handle it so it doesn’t consume you. In the fast-paced society that we all live in today, this would mean meditation is the key to keeping calm. [1]  

It can be the difference between acting out when someone cuts you off in traffic and instead of getting angry and beeping and yelling profanities, you instead smile to yourself, and might think “gosh they’re in a hurry - probably late to something”. 

In order to achieve anything in life, it will often take a certain amount of effort; you study hard for exams, you train every day before a marathon, and to make money you show up and work five days a week. With meditation, unlike in the material world, we learn the complete opposite. We learn to let go, relax and accept what is right now. In this blog, we are going to begin to understand the art of meditation in order to calm our agitated, restless, and stressful minds - effortlessly.

Where does meditation come from?

The Origin Of Meditation

The exact date in which meditation was discovered is unknown but scientists have recorded ancient practises of mindfulness dating back to 5000 years ago. Its practises have been followed by many different religions and cultures such as: Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism, and, of course, Buddhism. Over time this ancient practice will slowly start to make a global impact and is now performed all over the world. It is most common in yoga studios around the world and even practised alongside other fitness routines. It also has joined the digital sphere as most smartphones are now able to download a variety of apps such as Headspace, Insight Timer, Calm, and many more.

In earlier times, if you wanted to practice the art of meditation you needed to catch a plane to Tibet or India, but now all one needs to do is open their phone or walk to their nearest yoga studio. All of a sudden many meditation teachers are available and can help guide you through various forms of meditation and yet for 2600 years Buddhist were the only ones practising this form of mindfulness. Although this ancient practice has become mainstream [2] , it doesn’t mean that it’s just a trend. The beautiful balance between a full mind and mindfulness can offer anyone major health benefits in all aspects of the human experience: mind, body, and soul.  

The benefits of meditation

The Benefits of Meditation

Meditation is the practice of teaching your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts on a regular basis. Meditation is becoming increasingly popular as more people become aware of its numerous health advantages. It can help you become more aware of yourself and your environment. Many individuals use it as a technique to relieve stress and improve attention. People also utilise it to cultivate other desirable behaviours and sentiments, such as a pleasant mood and outlook, self-discipline, healthy sleep patterns, and even enhanced pain tolerance. A meditation approach known as "mindfulness meditation" was found to lessen the inflammatory response produced by stress in an 8-week research [3] .


1. Meditation helps lower stress, which leads to reduced anxiety.

One research discovered that 8 weeks of mindfulness meditation helped persons with generalised anxiety disorder reduce anxiety symptoms, increase positive self-statements, and improve stress reactivity and coping. [4]


2. Some types of meditation can help you have a better self-image and a more optimistic view on life.

For example, one study of almost 3,500 people found that mindfulness meditation alleviated symptoms of depression. [5] Similarly, a meta-analysis of 18 trials found that patients who received meditation therapy had less depressive symptoms than those in a control group. [6]


3. It improves your attention's strength and endurance. 

“Focused-attention Meditation” is similar to weight training for your attention span. One research [7] , for example, discovered that those who listened to a meditation CD had better concentration and accuracy while completing a task than those in a control group.

Jerry Seinfeld and many other notable names are huge meditation fans. Seinfeld specifically likes “Trancendental Meditation (TM) as it helps him stay mentally sharp. Seinfeld says "As a standup comic, I can tell you, my entire life is concentration fatigue"


4. Meditation can at least partially enhance memory in dementia patients.

Improvements in attention and clarity of thought may aid in the preservation of your mind's youth. In addition to combating typical age-related memory decline [8] , meditation can also aid in the management of stress and the improvement of coping in people who care for family members with dementia.

Meditation practice

Take a Moment - let’s try one out together.

This brief “anxiety meditation” is a simple and relaxing method to reconnect with your breath and body. Because it is a brief reading, it may be done at any time of day to help you reconnect with the present moment. It can be read aloud or
studied as a self-study.

This is a 5-minute "breathing space" technique that you may utilise whenever and wherever you need to restore calm, clarity, and confidence.

To begin, find a sense of stillness wherever you are, whether you are lying, sitting, or standing.
Choose the most comfortable position for you and close your eyes softly.
Bring your attention to whatever is going on in your life right now.
Allow the gravity of this to bear the weight of your body.
Allow your weight to sink into the spots where your body makes contact with the floor, chair, or bed.
What feelings do you have right now?
If you feel any tightness or resistance to painful or unpleasant sensations, gently redirect your attention to them.
Accept them to the best of your ability.

If you find yourself tense in the body around the breath, let go a little more with each outbreath.
Relax into gravity.
Whenever thoughts begin to race back into the mind, gently acknowledge the thought.
Breath in your awareness of this recognition and then breath out, back into stillness.
Letting go of the thought.
Allow yourself to be in this space, relaxed, empty, and still.
Whenever thoughts arise, acknowledge and let go.
For a moment, let all else fade away and be fully here.
… and then, when you’re ready, start to bring awareness back into the body.
Start to wiggle your toes and fingers.
Maybe moving the head from side to side.
Just slowly coming back into the body.
Taking a moment to find gratitude for finding the time to take a moment.
Start to open your eyes and slowly acknowledge your existence in the present as you go about your day.
Remember the only thing that truly matters is what’s happening right now. 
“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift… that’s why it is called the present.”

References:

[1] 25 Meditation Quotes to Give You Peace

[2] How Meditation Went Mainstream

[3] A comparison of mindfulness-based stress reduction and an active control in modulation of neurogenic inflammation

[4] Randomized Controlled Trial of Mindfulness Meditation for Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Effects on Anxiety and Stress Reactivity

[5] Meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being: a systematic review and meta-analysis

[6] Critical Analysis of the Efficacy of Meditation Therapies for Acute and Subacute Phase Treatment of Depressive Disorders: A Systematic Review

[7] Brief Mindfulness Meditation Improves Attention in Novices: Evidence From ERPs and Moderation by Neuroticism

[8] Stress, Meditation, and Alzheimer's Disease Prevention: Where The Evidence Stands