Tense muscles. Obsessing about the news. Anxiety about the future. Difficulty sleeping. Do all of these sound familiar? If so, you’re definitely not alone. There’s no doubt that we are living with a lot of uncertainty right now. How can we cope? Doing Nothing To Cope With Everything The answer might be as simple as doing…. nothing. Simply sitting still and mindfully clearing your thoughts through meditation has an astounding number of benefits that are vital right now. In fact, fostering an ongoing meditation practice can change the structure of your brain, providing benefits that really last. In short, meditation may be one of the best things you can do for yourself, and it is free! Lower Blood Pressure Meditation can decrease the “flight or fight” hormones in your body. As a result of this relaxation response, your blood vessels open up, which in turn improves your blood pressure. Less Stress-Induced Inflammation Excess cortisol, one of the central stress hormones, can lead to inflammation in many parts of the body. An example of this is in the gut, with digestive issues being so common during times of high stress. Because meditation can lower the amount of cortisol you produce, inflammation is reduced. Reduced Anxiety And Fewer Obsessive Thoughts It’s not unusual to be experiencing anxiety and obsessive thoughts with all the distressing news that bombards us. However, those thoughts can spiral out of control and negatively affect your health and your family members. And anxiety is actually perpetuated by high cortisol production. A More Positive Outlook Who doesn’t need a more positive outlook right now? Meditation has been found to actually alter (in a good way) the parts of your brain responsible for positive thoughts. Also, by becoming more aware of your thoughts, you can fend off negativity. How Does Meditation Help With Negative Thoughts? It can be difficult to imagine gaining control over the thought train when world events, and the changes to our daily lives, seem so overwhelming. However, meditation teaches us how to experience and sit with those thoughts – without panicking or feeling like we need to repress them. With a little practice, you should be able to just sit with your thoughts and feelings, without judgement or analysis, and start to process them without spiraling out of control. You can be present in the moment without projecting into the future or ruminating on the past. How To Start Meditating Many people find the thought of taking up meditation a bit intimidating. After all, it has had an esoteric reputation through the ages. It’s important to know that you don’t have to “master” meditation: it’s OK to be imperfect. Your mind will probably wander, and you may feel uncomfortable at first. That’s perfectly normal. Setting Up Your Practice The good news is that it’s surprisingly simple to get started. In basic terms, you just need to: ● Find a comfortable place. Ideally, it will be quiet ● Sit in a natural position ● Breathe normally ● Focus on your breath Try not to overthink this: just focus on each exhalation and inhalation. It’s not necessary to force anything. If your mind wanders, and since you’re human, there’s a good chance that it will, try to sit back and “observe” your thoughts. Don’t analyze them, and don’t scold yourself for losing focus. It’s all part of the process. They are just passing through your brain. How Long Should You Meditate? You may have heard of people going on week-long meditation retreats. That’s great – but it’s not really necessary. Just a few minutes a day is a good start. In fact, studies have found that just five minutes a day can have significant benefits. And who doesn’t have five extra minutes? How Often Should You Meditate? Consistency is a key component of a successful meditation practice. Try to carve out a few minutes a day to dedicate to your mental health. Some people find that it helps to make it the same time every day. Embracing Uncertainty Despite all of the health benefits, the ultimate goal of meditation isn’t necessarily focused on physical results. It’s more a process of learning to embrace uncertainty.
Relax, nothing is under control! Resources To Get Your Meditation Practice Started There are quite a few wonderful resources available to help you get started with meditation should you need a little help – here are a few of our favourites: Headspace Calm Wherever You Go, There You Are Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics Meditations by Dr. Joe Dispenza