Even at the best of times, our fast-paced lifestyles can be overwhelming. Between work, family, school, extracurriculars, your Twitter feed, and on and on, it may seem like you have a limitless number of things pulling at you.
Our modern, largely technology-driven lifestyles often push the boundaries of stress. It has become dangerously common to feel burned out, anxious, depressed, and overwhelmed as a result of trying to keep up. Just like your physical health, when you neglect your mental and emotional wellness, you will eventually fall out of balance.
One of the best ways to retain a healthy balance is to find time for yourself, taking advantage of all that meditation has to offer.
The Importance of Meditation
Multiple studies on meditation illustrate numerous physical, mental, and emotional benefits—everything from improved immune response to boosting kindness and emotional intelligence. When considering a shorter-term impact, let’s look at the importance of meditation as a stress management technique.
When you’re stressed, your body can be affected in a number of ways. Poor sleep patterns, depression, anxiety, and a number of other physical responses all may stem from overstress. Meditation has been shown to help reduce these phycological stressors, and may even play a role in improving physical pain.
How to Meditate
If you’ve never participated in a meditation practice before, the picture in your mind may be of someone sitting cross-legged and chanting endless mantras. The truth is, there’s no right or wrong way to meditate. It’s extremely personal. What works for you may not work for someone else, and vice versa. Whether you’re at work, out for a run or a hike, or waiting to pick up your kids from school, you can meditate wherever you happen to be.
Here’s how: Sit quietly and try to clear your mind or focus your thoughts, all while regulating your breath.
Pretty simple, right?
The most important meditation “how to” is to find a relatively quiet spot, one free of as many distractions as possible, where you can be alone for a few minutes to clear your mind. Then sit comfortably, focus on deep, cleansing breaths, and be in the moment. Simply put, meditation is the mindful acceptance of how you fit within your surroundings and letting go as you try to control your mind. That last part may seem backwards, but it’s important to free your mind without letting it wander.
It may be helpful for you to recite a soothing mantra under your breath to help guide your mind away from stressors. Picture a peaceful object or place. Think about what you are most grateful for. Kindly reflect back on your day or week. Contemplate something you can do for someone else. Or, you may just want close your eyes and focus on deep breaths in and out.
Regular meditation is helpful to bring awareness to unnecessary states of worry and allow you to cultivate attention, confront resistance, and see your experience from a different point of view. With practice, daily worries can lose their impact. You’ll be shocked how you are able to shift a stressful mindset.
To take up a practice, or even to just experiment on the importance of meditation, start slowly. Build as you are better able to control your mind. Start with just 5 to 10 minutes a day for a few days to a week, assess how this works for you, and make adjustments as needed. You’ll be well on your way to take control of some of life’s most stressful situations.
For additional ideas on how to manage stress, take a look at our Stress Management Slideshow: 8 Ways to Decompress on Ask the Scientists or peruse one of our previous blog posts on mindfulness.