We live in a busy world, the pace of life is extraordinary, our mind is always busy, and we are always doing something. Think about the last time you did nothing for 5 minutes, undisturbed. This means no emailing, no T.V, no WhatsApp, no Facebook, not even thinking about the past and future. Simply doing nothing. Well?
How does our mind work?
The mind is our precious resource, through which we experience every single experience of our life. The mind that we rely upon to be happy, peaceful, content, emotionally stable, to be kind, thoughtful and considerate of our relationship with others. This is the same mind we depend upon to be focused, creative, to perform at our very best in everything we do and yet we don’t take enough time to look after it.
Our mind goes round and round like a washing machine each day every day. And the sad part is that we don’t really know how to deal with this. We are so much distracted that we no longer live in the world we presently live in. And we assume that is how life must be, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
‘’Our mind is lost in our thoughts almost 47% of our waking life”
Meditation is all about stepping back, seeing the thoughts clearly, witnessing the emotions coming and going without judgment with a relaxed mind.
Your mind will be in a state of:
Restless mind: Always thinking about something day in and day out. Always into work pressure, engagements, etc. keeping your mind always alert and busy.
Mechanical Mind: Every day it's like a routine, get up, eat, work, sleep. This goes round and round each day.
Thought-provoking mind: You will be having that one nagging thought which is always in your head and couldn’t take it out.
Whatever your mind is in, meditation offers the potential to step back and get a different perspective to see that things are not always as they appear.
The four pillars of a healthy mind:
Awareness: The capacity to focus our attention and to resist distraction. It also includes meta-awareness which means knowing what our minds are doing.
Connection: This refers to those qualities that nurture harmonious interpersonal relationships.
Insight: This insight is the narrative that we all have about ourselves.
Purpose: Having a sense that our life is headed in a particular direction. Taking more and more activities in our life as belonging to the sense of purpose.
“We can’t change everything that happens in our mind, but we can change the way we experience it, that is the potential of mindfulness”
What are the benefits of meditation?
The benefit of meditation is both short-term and long-term. Reduced anxiety, better sleep, a greater connection within the self, more patience and a greater ability to simply be in the present.
Experts agree that meditation has a powerful impact on our body as a whole. Studies have shown that deep relaxation that comes with meditation has a very positive impact on our health.
Below are some of the health benefits:
Long-term meditators have better-preserved brains than non-meditators as they have more grey matter volume throughout the brain.
Mindfulness meditation decreases activity in the default mode network (DMN), the part responsible for mind-wandering thoughts- aka “Monkey brain’’.
Meditation helps to lower depression and act as anti-depressants. Its effect size is 0.3 which is similar to antidepressants drugs available.
Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) was found to increase critical thickness in the hippocampus which governs learning and memory.
One of the central benefits is that it improves the brain area linked to attention and concentration.
Meditation also helps people with social anxiety disorder and brings changes in brain regions related to stress and anxiety.
It helps on the self-control regions of the brain which is very effective in helping people recover from various types of addiction decoupling the state of craving.
Meditation has the ability and power to change the body on a genetic level. Long-term meditators were shown to have far more disease-fighting genes.
Stress can cause inflammation, acid reflux, ulcers and even food allergies. By calming our mind and body, meditation enhances the efficiency of the digestive system.
Studies have proven that women are far more likely to conceive when they are in a relaxed stage and the introduction of meditation is the best way to assist this.
People who exercised meditation experienced fewer negative thoughts in response to viewing negative images compared to non-meditators.
One study showed that people who meditated slept longer and had improved insomnia severity, help relax our body, releasing tension and placing us in a peaceful state in which we’re more likely to fall asleep.
Meditation has a greater ability to cope with pain, experience a reduced sensation of pain which benefits the controlling of pain.
Meditation helps to control blood pressure by relaxing the nerve signals that coordinate heart function, blood vessel tension and stress-releasing hormone.
Tips for a good meditation
Create a consistent schedule: Consistent daily practice is a way to see the biggest mental health benefits from meditation.
A quiet meditative space: Your physical environment matter, especially in the early stages of your meditation practice. Consider curating a small space in your home just for meditation.
Meditate with others: Collective energy creates a powerful ambiance and there is no doubt meditating with a partner or in a class can amplify your experience. There is a tendency to show up more fully knowing that we are part of something bigger than ourselves.
Meditate to a recording: Listening to a guided voice provides our brain with something to focus on, keeping wandering thoughts at bay. Select a video or recording that fits best for you, such as meditation for anxiety, better sleep or greater focus.
Do some yoga warmup: There is a reason that yoga and meditation go hand in hand coordinating your inhales and exhales to the physical environment. A study found that movement-focused and breath-focused yoga reduced stress parameters.
Add Music: Music makes our life a whole lot better, and meditation is no exception. Studies show that the right music can train your brain to be more attentive and may help your heart rate slow down more than silence. Experiment with different music styles to find out what suits you.
Remember wandering thoughts are normal: If you’re struggling with the monkey mind, you need to understand that racing thoughts are completely normal. We live in a world full of 24/7 alertness, so it's no wonder we are having trouble with this.
“People in their 60’s with low purpose in life are over 2 times more likely to die within 5 years as those with high levels”
How to do a 5-minute meditation?
The most basic way is to simply focus your attention on breathing (inhale and exhale), finding a spot and relaxing down. You may or may not close your eyes, but closing your eyes maintains your focus more easily.
Find a relaxed comfortable place: you can sit on a chair or lie down on your bed keeping your back straight, hand resting by side and tongue on your roof of the mouth or wherever comfortable.
Notice and relax your body: Try to notice your body as you breathe. Relax and scan your body, the sense you have, the alertness you’re into with your environment.
Focus on your breath: Feel the natural air going in and out as you inhale and exhale. Just naturally breathe and notice how your abdomen expands and contracts as you breathe.
Notice your wandering mind: As you do this, you might notice that your mind may start to wander. Your mind starts to think of random things. This is natural and just notice that your mind has wandered. As you notice this, gently bring back your attention and focus on breathing.
Se a timer of 5-7 mins: Keep a low volume timer just to remind yourself of the time. As you do this, relax your body and gently open your eyes offering yourself some appreciation for doing this practice daily.
Types of meditation
Guided meditation: This meditation is usually led by a guide or mentor. This can be in person or a recorded voice. He/she guides you throughout the meditation process. You try to use as many senses as possible, such as smell, sight, sound, etc.
Mantra meditation: In this type, you silently repeat a calming word, thought or phrase, mantra to prevent any distraction.
Mindfulness meditation: This meditation is based on how aware and conscious we are of our surroundings. You focus on what you are experiencing during meditation, such as the flow of your breath, your senses, inhale-exhale, etc.
Qigong: This practice of meditation combines relaxation, physical movement and breathing exercises to restore and maintain balance. This is part of Chinese traditional medicine.
Tai chi: This is a gentle form of Chinese martial arts, combining self-paced series of postures and movements in a slow manner. All this with deep breathing.
Yoga: We perform a series of postures with controlled breathing to promote a more flexible body and a calm mind. You are more focused on your movement and breathing than the outside environment.
“You may find that your mind wanders from time to time, distracted by thoughts or your environment. That’s perfectly normal. Just notice that this is happening and gently bring back your attention to your breath”
Apps that help you to do a 5-minute meditation
Calm is a flexible app with less structured programs and exercises that help manage anxiety. The app focuses on teaching a variety of tools and using different methods to help you stay centered throughout the day.
Cost: Calm offers a seven-day free trial with annual membership for around $70. If you want the Calm app for life, you can pay a one-time fee of $400.
Headspace has a very user-friendly interface with hundreds of guided meditations from beginners to experts. The app provides breathing exercises and sleep meditations. At night, the screen is dimmed, so that there is no headache-inducing from bright light.
Cost: Headspace offers a two-week free trial. An annual subscription is about $70 and a monthly membership cost is around $13.
3. Simple Habit
Simple Habit offers free, short meditations from top mindfulness experts and has an extensive library of meditations, all cataloged and easy to find. The app offers special meditations designed to help you overcome panic attacks or lessen stress. Each meditation is specifically titled, making the app something you can turn to for any occasion.
Cost: The app is free restricted to few mediations. A monthly subscription of $12, annually $90 and $300 for a lifetime.