Many Americans feel that they spend all of their time at work, running errands, or doing chores. In fact, it seems like our free time has completely disappeared! During the free time that we do have, it seems like we spend thinking about the various obligations and concerns weighing on us rather than enjoying the time off. Does this sound familiar?
While we can’t change your workplace or your schedule, it’s possible that that regular meditation may help manage your time better and enjoy your repose. Meditation has gotten a bad rap since the 60s, with many thinking of it as a hippy hobby rather than a legitimate option for the stressed out and tired. An explosion of recent research has shown that meditation can help us in unbelievable ways! On a physical level, meditation:
- Lowers high blood pressure
- Lowers blood lactate levels, reducing anxiety attacks
- Decreases any tension-related pain, such as tension headaches, ulcers, insomnia, muscle and joint problems
- Decreases pain perception in general, even in beginners
- Increases serotonin production that improves mood and behavior.
- Improves the immune system
- Improves neuroplasticity, or the ability for the brain to adapt and change
In addition to having physical benefits, there are many mental benefits of meditation as well, such as:
- Decreased anxiety
- Improved emotional stability
- Increased creativity
- Increased happiness
- Down regulation of fear
How can you start?
There are many different schools of meditation, so learning how to start can be confusing. We recommend starting with Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction meditation. This type was started by Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1979 and is used in medical centers, hospitals, and clinics around the world. This method has been tested extensively and has shown incredible benefits to those who practice it.
Mindfulness meditation uses techniques called breath awareness and body scan. Breath awareness is as simple as it sounds—you focus your attention on the inhalation and exhalation, excluding other thoughts. Body scan is a process of focused attention on the physical body starting at the toes and working your way up with heightened awareness and the potential for release or relaxation of tension. The practitioner may be seated, laying down, or walking depending on the focus of practice. The point isn’t to force the mind into focusing, but rather recognizing and letting go of thoughts apart from the chosen focus. Below are some resources about beginning meditation, check them out and give it a try!