Benefits of Meditation & 10 Tips to Get Started
Just like your daily trip to the gym trains your body, meditation trains your mind. Hitting the treadmill boosts your cardio fitness just like meditating, even for a short time, boosts your mental fitness.
There are so many benefits to a regular meditation practice, it’s hard to pick a favorite. Research shows it decreases cortisol (that stress inducing hormone!), insomnia, symptoms of certain illnesses, anxiety and panic attacks. Studies show it helps prevent depression relapse, ability to control of blood sugar in type 2 diabetes, increases self-awareness and ability to detach from reactions.
We’re all so busy, moving from one activity to the next, constantly ticking things off the to-do list. Meditation is a fantastic way to center in on just being rather than constantly doing.
It can be hard to get started – whether that’s because you don’t know if ‘you’re doing it right,’ or if sitting with your emotions is difficult or uncomfortable for you. Just like fitness is a journey, meditation is too. Try not to criticize yourself, it is a skill that you hone with practice and like a fitness journey, its benefits will grow through consistency and time.
We’ve pulled together our top ten tips to getting your meditation practice off the ground. And don’t forget to check out our meditation challenge and show us your Zen on social media with #InShapeAttitude and #InShapeMeditationChallenge
1. Start by focusing on the present moment:
Purely paying attention to the present moment – whether that’s when you’re in the shower, making a cup of coffee, folding the laundry or driving to work – is one way to get started meditating. According to Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, and founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program, mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment and nonjudgmentally. So, simply start by paying attention. Just start to notice what’s going on in your mind, in your body and with your breath.
2. Do it in the morning:
Set your alarm five minutes before you need to get up. Use this time to center in, to just be, and to meditate (even if that’s simply sitting up in your bed) before all of the doing of the day begins. It’s easy to say you’ll meditate every day, but then life happens, and you get too busy. Getting it out of the way first thing in the morning not only sets you up for the day, but you don’t have to worry about ticking it off the list as well. If when you wake up doesn’t work well for you, set a reminder on your phone during your lunch break, or put a post-it note on your mirror to remind you to do it after your morning coffee.
3. Start small:
Try our meditation challenge. It’s designed to be extremely easy by meditating for a very short time, and slowly building up to five minutes at the end of the month. That’s it! Just five minutes out of your day. Once the challenge finishes, keep it going. Add another minute or two at the end of each week, and before you know it, you’ll be moving to Tibet to learn from the masters. Ok, maybe not, but you know what we’re saying!
4. Just keep breathing:
In the wise words of Ariana Grande, just keep breathin and breathin and breathinnnn. But seriously, meditating can be as easy as turning your attention to your breath. Focus on it as you inhale – the feeling of the cold air in your nose, how your chest rises as your lungs fill with fresh oxygen and then finally how the breath fills your belly. Then notice how your stomach compresses as you exhale and your chest falls. Once you have this breath awareness, try “one” as you take in the first breath, then “two” as you breathe out. Repeat this to the count of 10, then start again at one.
5. Use a mantra or word:
Another great way to get started meditating is to focus on a word, or phrase known as a mantra. It doesn’t have to be anything ‘official,’ but just something that speaks to you. Try something that is special to you, or something you’d like to consciously bring more of into your life. It could even be as simple as, “I breathe in. I breathe out.”
6. Notice the monkey mind, or the distracted mind:
You will inevitably be distracted by your thoughts, or your to do list, or just about anything that will distract you from the present moment. When that happens, simply notice it, smile and return to your breath or mantra. You might feel frustrated, but be kind to yourself and remember, you can’t run a marathon after just one run. It’s the same with meditation!
7. Don’t judge yourself, just love yourself:
Thoughts and feelings will arise during meditation. Notice them and be nice to them! While they might be unusual or make you feel uncomfortable, they are temporary and do not define you.
8. Focus on your body:
A common technique found in yoga classes is to scan your body. Take your attention to one body part at a time, then move on to the next. Notice how each body part feels – start by trying to notice the feeling of the air or your clothes against it. Start at the soles of your feet — how do those feel? Slowly move to your toes, the tops of your feet, your ankles, all the way to the top of your head.
9. Use an app or follow a guided meditation:
Guided meditations are a great way to start a practice as they give your busy brain something to focus on – the words! There are a ton of apps and online resources available, so surf the web to find your ideal wave.
10. Commit to the practice:
Set a goal of 21 days. Research shows that if you commit to something for 21 days it becomes a habit. Remember, you can meditate anywhere – at a stop light, at your desk between meetings at work, or in a hotel room while travelling. Set an alarm and do it every day.
Armed with these ten tips, and November’s meditation challenge, you’ll be well on your way to a reaping all the benefits of meditation – all in as little as five minutes a day.