Research has shown that regular meditation can significantly reduce stress and anxiety and help you achieve peace of mind. A type of meditation called ‘mindfulness meditation’ is particularly recommended by the NHS and involves sitting silently and paying attention the sensation of breathing, thoughts, sounds and parts of the body. Anyone can practise meditation, although it takes focus and daily training to make mindfulness a consistent part of your daily life.
Benefits of meditation
Regular meditation is proven to relieve stress and anxiety and is recommended by NICE for people who have previously suffered from depression. For maximum impact, you should meditate for 15-20 minutes around five times a week. Combined with the posture movements of yoga or tai-chi as it often is, meditation can also be part of your recommended strengthening and stretching exercises.
How to meditate
As the goal of meditation is to completely quiet and focus your mind, it is important to first choose a peaceful and quiet environment to meditate in. Wear comfortable loose clothing and sit or lie comfortably with your eyes closed so there are as few distractions as possible.
It is also recommended that you choose to meditate at the same time each day so that it becomes a part of your daily routine. This will help you stick to it even if you feel it isn’t working at first.
Many people meditate as part yoga routine as it can sometimes be difficult to achieve a mindful state when not sitting completely still. Whether this helps you or not, you may still find it useful to complete some simple stretches before your meditative period to help you relax or relieve any muscle tension that could distract you.
The most basic and fundamental part of meditation is your breathing. Don’t try to change your breathing patterns at all, or even really think about it, but just try to become aware of it. It may help to follow some mental images to help you do this.
You should try to clear your mind of all thoughts completely. However, if this proves difficult it can help to focus on one thing in particular, such as a visual object. Some people also choose to focus on a mantra – usually a single word or sound that helps you enter a deeper level of awareness and prevents your thoughts from drifting.
Many people also choose to practise visualisation techniques which involves creating a completely peaceful place in your mind and exploring it until you achieve complete calm. Other popular techniques also include completing a body scan, where you focus on one body part at a time and consciously relax it. This allows you to relax the mind at the same time you relax the body.