3 Health Benefits of Meditation (and How to Actually Do It)
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Most of us aren't taking the time we need to decompress. Or when we do, we just can't relax. If that sounds like you, you may want to give meditation a try. Meditation may sound intimidating-or like something you need a week-long retreat in the mountains to try-but it doesn't have to be. Meditation isn't a one-size-fits-all activity. Need a reason to get started? Meditation is associated with a bevy of health benefits including:
1. Decreased Stress
2. Improved Focus
3. Lower Blood Pressure
Meditation may also help ease anxiety, depression and pain. So how do you get started? Work meditation into your daily routine by finding a style that works for you. Give these different types a try-you just may find a style you like.
How to do it: You'll follow prompts as someone leads you through a meditation session. You can go to an in-person class or listen to recordings through the web or on your phone. Guided meditation can take many forms, so look for recordings focused on your needs.
What it's good for: A beginner practice. This method takes the burden off of you. And having someone else lead you through the meditation can make it easier to stick with it.
How to do it: Deeply focus on a regular activity like walking, cooking, or cleaning. While chopping carrots, for example, concentrate on the texture of the vegetable or the sound your knife makes against the cutting board. Try not to judge or evaluate what you are doing, but instead, simply pay attention to the present moment.
What it's good for: Managing Stress. Practicing mindfulness has been shown to help regulate emotions, focus attention, and improve self-awareness. The Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts has offered an eight-week training program on mindfulness-based stress reduction for over 35 years.
How to do it: Start by sitting or lying down in a private place. Then, choose a mantra-a word that you will repeat to yourself. For this type of meditation, the mantra should be meaningless. Silently repeat your mantra without too much focus or effort.
As the minutes pass, you may find that your mind starts to settle into a deeper place. With practice, "your mind becomes quieter and quieter," says Robert Schneider, M.D., FACC, the dean of Integrative Medicine at Maharishi University in Fairfield, Iowa. "You're not watching anything, you're just being, you're just settled inside. You're transcending the ordinary thinking process to this state of inner silence." Look for an instructor through tm.org.
What it's good for: Inner calm. Much research has been done on the mind-body connection during Transcendental Meditation. Studies suggest this type of meditation can slow breathing rate, reduce stress hormones, and even lower blood pressure.