When it comes to managing life’s stressors and agitations, this one trick can make the world of difference to your day – and longterm outlook.
While getting physical is a great stress-buster, the simple practice of meditation can have immediate short-term benefits, improving your mental, emotional and physical balance.
It needn’t be a lengthy session, either. Research shows just five minutes of meditation can greatly impact your mental wellbeing.
So, what does meditation feel like?
The meditative state may be described as a state of restful awareness. You’re completely relaxed, often more deeply than when you sleep, yet still conscious.
Think of how you feel when you’re absorbed in a task: maybe doing your favourite workout or working in the garden. Afterwards you’re refreshed and invigorated. This is the feeling we’re after.
Once you enter the meditative state, conditions are perfect for the body to start to stabilise and repair itself.
Don’t stress if you’re not an instant expert!
Even after many years, the meditative state can be elusive, so bear with yourself and remember: when you notice that your mind has wandered from the present, into the future or the past and you bring it back to the present again, that is the practice of mindfulness.
Just a few minutes in this state is deeply beneficial. Mindfulness meditation has been shown to improve emotional wellbeing, immune functioning, attention, memory and concentration, increase empathy and compassion and can have neuroprotective effects and reduce cognitive decline associated with ageing.
In the long term, many benefits flow from a daily meditation practice, such as growth of creativity and intelligence, sharper perception and general improvement in health.
A key benefit is a sharper intuitive sense and the ability to tune into your “gut feelings” much more easily.
The power of breath: a quick task
Practice smooth breathing twice a day. Focus on the breath as it enters your nose. Allow yourself to draw your attention to the inhale and the exhale.
Now notice, the smoothness of the breath and allow your awareness to stay with the length of the inhale and the length of the exhale. If your mind wanders, as minds do, gently bring it back to the breath. Continue for a few minutes.
You can put your hand on your tummy and notice how your belly rises as you breathe in and falls towards your spine as you breathe out. Continue for a few minutes.
Now you can stop counting and return to the sensation of the breath as it comes in through your nostrils and out through your nostrils. Slowly become aware of your surroundings and noises inside the room and outside the room, and when you are ready, you can gently open your eyes.
Here’s a simple meditation you can do anywhere, anytime. If your lifestyle allows it, five minutes of meditating first thing in the morning is ideal, but if not then steal a moment in the day whenever you can.
Step 1: Choose a comfy seat.
The easy part! Sit on the floor with legs crossed and if your knees are higher than your hips, elevate your buttocks with pillows until your hips are higher than your knees. If this is uncomfortable, try sitting with your back against a wall, kneeling, or just sit on a chair. Set a timer for five minutes.
Close your eyes. Keep your spine long, like someone has a piece of string at the top of your head and is lifting you taller. Check that your face, eyes, eyebrows, jaw, teeth and tongue are relaxed.
Step 2: Be still.
This is the tricky part. Don’t move. Don’t doubt your choice of seat.
Step 3: Breathe in and out through your nostrils.
Don’t control or modify the breath in any way, just allow it to move freely and naturally.
As you inhale think of the word ‘let’, and as you exhale think ‘go’. Your mind will wander – that’s OK. Just notice where it’s gone, without story or judgement, and come back to the breath and thinking: inhale ‘let’, exhale ‘go’.
Continue this process until your 5 minutes is up.