Most of us have heard of meditating, but not all of us have tried it. Meditation is an ancient art that dates back to 1500 BCE, and has been practiced, in one form or another, by most religions. Meditation is the art of focusing on a single thing, in an attempt to clear the mind or achieve inner calm. Meditation is often a method of prayer, where the worshipper focuses on a single attribute of the divine and meditates on it. Religious or not, meditation can help restore a sense of calm in anyone.
If you’ve never meditated before, you’re likely wondering how it works. (You may have even half-attempted meditation and found that you spent the entire half-hour worrying instead.) There are two common forms of meditation: concentration, which is to focus on a single point, or mindfulness, which is to let thoughts pass through you without being altered or judged. When you meditate for the first time, try to focus on something simple, like your breathing. It takes a lot of skill to focus on only one thing for a half hour or more, so start small–think 2 to 3 minutes. Focus on your body and your breathing, without controlling your breathing. It also helps to sit comfortably, close your eyes, or create a designated meditation spot. Try filling a corner of your house with plants or incense, and make use of certain products like a Dry Herb Vaporizer to help set the peaceful ambiance with herbs and extracts. You can also fill this space with meaningful objects, like a buddha statue or a singing bowl from an artisan group like Shakya Handicraft to make your meditation space all your own.
While meditation often starts slow, there are many reasons to learn to meditate. Once you’re able to meditate for 10 to 60 minutes at a time, you’ll likely start enjoying some of the following benefits.
Cortisol is a stress hormone that your body loves to increase every time you’re stressed out. Cortisol can cause inflammation, and a lot of the negative health effects of stress are due to this inflammation. Mindfulness meditation can greatly reduce a person’s stress levels, lowering cortisol and improving your overall well-being.
In the same way that it lowers stress, meditation can also lower anxiety. Mindfulness often has a calming effect, and many believe that anxiety is related to bottled up emotions. Mindfulness helps release some of that build-up, making meditation an excellent way to improve anxiety levels.
It’s no secret that meditation takes a lot of mental concentration. The more you meditate, the better you get at it, until some individuals are able to keep their mind clear for an hour or more. That kind of concentration improves brain ability in other areas of life as well, so meditation could be the answer for a better attention span.
Excess stress interrupts healthy sleep. Since meditation helps halt a cortisol dump, it can also keep stress from disturbing our rest. Anxiety as well can contribute to someone’s quality of rest, so meditation will have an all-around positive effect on the depth of our sleep.
Meditation isn’t hard to practice in small doses. If you commit to a little bit each day, and slowly work your way from there, you’ll soon be experiencing the many benefits of meditation.