By now we're all familiar with the many benefits of a meditation practice. From experiencing more positive emotions, to better health and increased focus, meditation can and will also change your life.
Here are a few life-changing benefits of a meditation practice that I've noticed about myself and from working with my clients:
- Reduced patterns of thoughts, especially negative patterns or fears
- Getting out of your head and into your body, creating lightness and ease
- Remaining calm in high stress jobs or crisis situations
- Owning and releasing emotions without being overwhelmed by them
- Cultivating deeper love and appreciation of yourself and others
Meditation is also much easier than you may think. Many people believe meditation requires stopping your thoughts altogether, but this is simply not true, if not impossible for most human beings.
Meditation or mindfulness, is a focused thought or concentration on the present moment, or shifting to a non-judgmental mindset. More simply stated, it is a deeper level of awareness. You do not need to empty your mind completely of all thoughts in order to receive the many benefits of meditation.
You can create this non-judgmental, detached sense of awareness in a few different ways. In a stressful discussion, you can return to calm awareness with deep, mindful breathing. Or if you are feeling depressed, focused concentration on a task can be extremely helpful at producing a sense of joy.
Here are three easy meditations that you can do in under five minutes. Give them all a try and choose the one that resonates most with you right now, noticing how your body feels and how your mood changes.
1. Breathing Meditation
Benefits: Immediate calming
Time: 30 seconds, up to two minutes
How to do it: Take deep breaths, all the way into your belly, hold for a second and then exhale. Repeat this until you are calm.
Why it works: According to the Harvard School of Public Health, "Deep abdominal breathing encourages full oxygen exchange — that is, the beneficial trade of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide. Not surprisingly, it can slow the heartbeat and lower or stabilize blood pressure."
2. Mindfulness Meditation
Benefits: Reducing stress and increasing happiness
Time: 1 to 5 minutes
How to do it: This exercise is commonly known as a "moving meditation." As you walk, focus your attention on your feet. What do you notice? What is going on there? Move your focus to your legs, then to your hips, torso, your arms and hands. Be curious about them. Can you create more space in them?
You can also look around for something you like. It can be a lamp, a photograph, or a stunning view. What do you like about this? How would you describe it?
Why it works: Depression usually comes from thinking of past events, while anxiety stems from our expectations for the future. The present is free of both, allowing you to see more clearly.
3. Kindness & Compassion Meditation
Benefits: Creating more compassion, reducing anger, repairing relationships
Time: 4 to 8 minutes
How to do it: Close your eyes and begin to breathe slowly, focusing on your inhales and exhales. Silently repeat to yourself, "Be happy, Be healthy, Be easy," for 1 to 2 minutes. Next, extend this mantra to someone you love for 1 to 2 minutes. And now think of someone you might need to forgive (maybe they wronged you in some way) and repeat the mantra for another 1 to 2 minutes.
Lastly extend these words to your entire community, expanding to those whom you don't even know for 1 to 2 minutes
Why it works: The ancient meditation practice of a Loving Kindness Meditation is a form of Metta meditation that has been used for centuries, inviting a positive attitude and acceptance of ourselves and others.
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