Many of us go on vacation, fishing, or for a night out to relax and get away from every day stress. It’s good for your health to de-stress but sometimes we aren’t able to go fishing or even get out for the evening. There is another way to let go of stress and tension and it doesn’t require travel or cost you any money. Meditation can do wonders to relieve stress and promote overall well-being. And you don’t have to be a Buddhist or Zen master to reap the benefits.
In a nutshell, meditation involves learning to clear your mind and focus your attention and has been shown to produce positive changes in the body. Meditation can produce a calm, relaxed state, stimulate pleasure centers in the brain, help lower blood pressure, improve blood flow and digestion and increase the ability to concentrate during every day tasks. Research also suggests that meditation may be helpful in easing conditions such as anxiety, depression, chronic pain and insomnia. Some people with chronic illnesses such as cancer and heart disease use meditation to cope with physical and emotional symptoms, as well.
Quieting the mind can also help during workouts. All too often we get distracted by what we have to do after training so we aren’t focused on the moment. Being focused allows us to put more intensity into the workout, which will yield better results. Some even find exercise to be meditative because they are focused on the moment and not what will happen next or what they need to do after the workout.
There are many ways to learn meditation, including classes, books, DVDs and online programs but you can start practicing on your own with a few basics.
Start by finding a quiet spot, free from distractions, where you won’t be disturbed. Now get comfortable. You can lie down but if you worry about falling asleep, any position that will allow you to relax your entire body will do just fine. Focus your attention. Many people use a word, phrase or sound, such as the familiar “om”, to repeat. This allows the mind to focus on one thing at a time. You can also choose to focus on your breathing or visualize a calm, peaceful scene. Some find it more effective to visualize a blank chalkboard or a TV screen with just white noise.
If you choose to focus on your breathing, you should learn to breathe properly. I will post another article on proper breathing techniques but for now, learn to breathe with your abdomen, not just your chest. Place your hand over your navel. When you inhale, your hand should rise. Practicing this will give you something to focus on to clear your mind of other thoughts.
Don’t worry about perfection, no one does it absolutely perfectly without many years of practice. It’s normal for thoughts to creep in. You just need to brush them aside and re-focus. Start small by trying to focus your mind for just a few minutes at a time. This practice will allow you work up to longer periods. Most of all, don’t get frustrated when you find it difficult to focus your thoughts. Getting frustrated or angry will only lead to more stress and that completely goes against the point of meditation. Stay calm and relaxed and if you do find yourself getting frustrated, move on and try again later.
Give meditation an honest try before dismissing it as some New Age thing. You may be pleasantly surprised at the benefits you get from it.
Until next time…
To your health and success,