Need a vacation? Get into meditation! It’s free, easy to learn and is an essential skill that you can use anytime, to help you manage the stress, pressure and non-stop challenges of modern life. And did we mention that meditation can also keep your heart, brain and body young, healthy and relaxed?
If you’ve resisted getting into meditation or simply haven’t been able to find the time, I urge you to let go of the excuses and get into a meditation groove and take advantage of it’s health-enhancing and possibly even life-changing mind/body benefits. Here’s how to get started:
Meditation cultivates adaptability and resilience and reduces reactivity.
A steady practice can help you manage strong emotions and surf the choppy waves of life, whether that looks like an angry teenager, a demanding boss, bumper-to-bumper traffic, or anything in between. Think of a meditation session as a way to re-set the emotional scales, so that when the day’s tough stuff arises, you’re greeting it with a more relaxed, chill point of view, rather than all wound up and looking for a fight. That lower set point will also help you recover more quickly when there are unavoidable set-backs. Think of a regular meditation practice as a strong, flexible foundation that will enable you to stay centered in the midst of the tornado of turmoil that may be swirling around you.
Meditation benefits brain health, blood pressure – and more.
Meditation has an exceptionally positive influence on the brain. Research shows it helps improve attention, memory, processing speed, and creativity, and it may even counteract some of the age-related atrophy that can lead to cognitive conditions like dementia. Meditation is also linked to decreased blood pressure and reduced stress and anxiety, which is why a daily practice helps “prime the pump” for sleep to come more easily at night. Though meditation is not a magic ‘cure-all’ pill, it certainly comes close, delivering multiple benefits, without negative side-effects – and how many pills can say that? Here are a few of the wonderful physiological and psychological benefits to expect when you work meditation into your daily routine:
- The release of feel-good endorphins into your bloodstream, which in turn increases feelings of well-being, calm and empathy (all great ways to combat chaotic times!)
- According to the Journal of Neuroscience, reduced physical pain, thanks to the release of pain-relieving chemicals to the brain
- Possible preservation of the brain’s gray matter, according to UCLA researchers
- Increased telomerase activity, which keeps your chromosomes young and is linked to longer life expectancy, according to a study out of UC Davis
Your meditation education – learn from the pros.
Now that you know a few of the benefits to expect, it seems almost crazy not to indulge in a meditation practice. Which brings us to the next question: where to start? Fortunately, meditation has at last entered the mainstream, so it’s easier than ever to get into – and there are hundreds of ways to do it. Here are four simple ways to help get your meditation ball rolling:
1) Take yourself to your neighborhood meditation school or studio: One of the easiest ways to get started is to sign-up for a meditation class. They’re inexpensive – some offer optional pay-what-you’re-able fee schedules — and, helpful if you’re on the shy side, there’s little if any need to speak. What’s wonderful about being part of a group ‘sit’ is that committing to a regular class helps keep us accountable. And nothing beats the energy of sitting shoulder to shoulder with people who are doing the same practice you are. The group silence, broken only by occasional comments from the teacher, is a unique and powerful experience – one that might just become addicting, in a very, very good way. Attending a regular class will also give you the opportunity to begin to build a relationship with the teacher (and, if you like, fellow meditators) who can help you develop and maintain a lifelong practice.
2) Read up – and DIY it: If you prefer to go solo with a home practice, then check out one of our favorite articles on getting started by meditation teacher Norman Fischer. In his piece “How to Start a Home Meditation Practice,” Fischer shares tips for the newbie as well as a simple roadmap on how to do a beginner’s 2-week trial run at home.
3) Go online, or head to a Buddhist center: For folks who don’t live near a meditation studio, head for a class at a nearby Buddhist center or try an online platform. There are thousands of videos on YouTube to check out or you can take step-by-step classes with teachers via MNDFL Video I am a big fan of the pragmatic style of ‘Vedic’ meditation, which helps the body release stress and drop into a state of deep restfulness.
4) Meditate virtually anywhere with an app: For a little extra support between group sessions or when you are on the go but still need a mind/body time-out, you can also fill in the gap with an app. Check out Healthline’s 2019 roundup for their 12 favorite meditation apps, including: Headspace; Calm; Buddhify; 10% Happier; and Insight Timer.
Be patient and kind to yourself as you learn.
Remember, meditation is a practice and a skill – the more you do it, the better at it you become. Also keep in mind that you may not become a new person overnight – it may take some time before you start noticing the positive effects – so take your time. Do go for consistency. It’s probably the most important element of the learning process, particularly when you’re just starting out. A consistent amount of time, a consistent time of day, a consistent spot in your home (or favored location) – all will help develop your meditation practice into a wonderful, health-sustaining, life-long habit. Even if all you manage at first is ten minutes a day, you’ll be off to a great start and you can grow your practice from there. We all have to start somewhere!