Meditation: The practice that could change your life

Close your eyes. Feel your breath entering your nostril, filling up your lungs. Feel your stomach expand. And then feel the air leaving your body. Pay attention to any sensations in your body. Listen to the sounds in your environment.

Ideally, the above created a gap in your stream of thoughts, and helped you become a little more still and present. Congrats, you just did a brief meditation!

What is meditation?

Meditation often gets a very esoteric, woo-woo ring to it, but quite simply defined, it is the practice of finding stillness of mind through focusing your attention on something — it could be your breath, a mantra or even paying attention to your internal mental dialogue. A practice this simple however, can have profound effects on your health, peace of mind and overall well being. There are hundreds of research studies that point to the varied benefits of meditation, and I will expand upon a few in this article. But best of all, it’s free. And all it takes is 10 minutes of your time a day to start to see it’s benefits.

How to meditate?

There are different types of meditation, including mindfulness meditation, transcendental meditation, vipassana meditation among others. Here I’ll outline a simple (but not easy) practice to meditate:

  1. Find a quiet room where you can sit uninterrupted for a while.
  2. Sit on the floor. Set a time limit that is suitable for you, I’d recommend at least 10 minutes if you’re getting started.
  3. Close your eyes. Become aware of your breathing. Feel the air enter your nostrils, your lungs expand and the air leaving your lungs.
  4. Notice when your mind has wandered (as it inevitably will!). Gently bring your attention back to your breath.
  5. When you’re done, gently open your eyes. Observe any sounds in your environment. Become aware of how your body feels. Observe your thoughts and feelings.

Thats it! That’s the practice. As you start to do this practice regularly, you’ll see a vast range of benefits, some of which I’ll outline below.

Benefits of meditation

  • Mental clarity and focus: Meditation involves focusing your mind on the present moment, and as a result increases the grey matter in the regions of your brain responsible for focus on attention¹.
  • Reduction in stress and anxiety: In a 2013 review², researchers analyzed more than 200 studies of mindfulness meditation among healthy people and found meditation to be an effective way to reduce stress.
  • Getting in touch with yourself: Meditation involves, slowing down, and observing your thoughts and feelings, without judgement. This helps you understand yourself on a deeper level, so that you can live a life true to yourself.
  • Health and longevity: Longevity and aging research indicates that long term, chronic stress can accelerate the aging processes in the body. Meditation invokes a relaxation response in our body, which helps reduce stress, and promotes healthier aging³.
  • Sleep: Studies indicate that meditation can invoke a relaxation response in your body, that enables your body to go into a deeper state of rest during sleep, and can cure sleep related problems such as insomnia⁴.
  • Creativity: Meditation helps activate the pre-frontal cortex, which enables creative thinking and divergent problem solving⁵.
  • Increased empathy: Studies indicate that a mindfulness meditation practice can promote prosocial behavior by increasing empathy in people⁶. This is not surprising, because the better your relationship with yourself, the better your relationship is with other people. As you learn to get more in touch with your own thoughts, feelings, desires, fears, hopes and dreams, you’ll be more in tune with other people and their feelings and needs.

Setting up a meditation practice

If you’re completely new to the practice, meditation can be little a challenging, as it requires a focused, consistent practice to really get the benefits. All of modern society is designed to distract us from the present moment, so it’ll take a little practice and patience to get the hang of it. Here’s some great resources to get started:

APPS:

  1. Headspace
  2. Calm
  3. Insight Timer

BOOKS:

  1. 10% Happier by Dan Harris
  2. Stress Less, Accomplish More by Emily Fletcher

BLOGS:

  1. https://mrsmindfulness.com/blog/

Hopefully, this article has inspired you to try and set up a regular meditation practice. I’d love to hear more about your experience with how meditation has impacted your life. Please let me your thoughts in the comments below!

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Vishal Murali

Vishal Murali

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Welcome to my personal blog! I write about books, psychology, spirituality, people and life in general.