What is it?
Meditation comes from Buddhism and is, simply, the act of controlling the mind so it can become calm and focused. The goal is to stop thoughts from racing and bring peace to the mind and body. There are many ways to meditate, but probably the most well-known is focused-attention meditation. In focused-attention meditation, the practitioner focuses on a single thought or action. Breathing is one of the most common ways this is done. By focusing solely on one’s breathing, the mind can clear and the body can relax. Another common way to practice focused-attention meditation is by reciting a mantra. A mantra can be a single sound, word, or statement. It is repeated over and over throughout meditation to keep the mind focused.
Why do it?
Many studies have shown health benefits of meditation. It has been shown to increase gray matter in the brain which can improve emotional stability and reduce cognitive decline. Meditation also weakens negative connections between our body and brain. This doesn’t mean we don’t connect things happening to our body with our brains, rather it helps with our reactions to scary or painful stimuli. What actually happens is that we can look at the situation more rationally instead of getting anxious right away. This can, in turn, reduce stress!
Meditating has also been shown to improve memory and focus. The “zoning out” done when meditating causes an ability to ignore distractions when not meditating. This can help us better remember things and focus on tasks.
How to do it?
Settle into a quiet, comfortable place, close your eyes, and breathe. Sounds simple, right? Clearing our minds can actually be very difficult. Try doing just a few minutes a day and work your way up to 10 or 20 minute sessions. At first, your mind will probably wander a lot. Just re-focus on your breathing or your mantra and keep at it!
If you want some extra help, there are some great apps that will guide you through the meditation process. Headspace, Buddhify, and Calm are all great ones!