Meditation is nothing new. The word itself comes from the Latin root word meditationem and means to reflect, think over or consider. As long as humans have been rational beings it’s likely that meditation has been a helpful practice.
There is no single way to meditate properly but hundreds of ways to do so. Whether it be in the formal structure of ancient prayers or a free-form style, you can find peace of mind. This article will explore the reasons to meditate, how to do meditation, and how it can support mental wellness.
Meditation sometimes gets a bad rep. Critics will say it’s over-spiritualized or doesn’t actually impact a person enough to be worth the time. Yet study after study says the opposite – meditation is an effective tool that offers real results.
A 2009 study found that meditation improves concentration. Mindfulness meditations were also shown to decrease negative thinking in a 2014 study. A 2018 study found mindfulness meditation was found to decrease work stress and improve overall well-being.
A 2018 study also found meditation to be an effective component of treatment for substance abuse issues.
A 2014 meta-analysis aimed at gathering scientific data regarding the effectiveness of meditation found that it decreased anxiety, depression and pain. Other studies have supported this data, especially when meditation is integrated with regular treatment.
Mediation also has anecdotal benefits. Some will say it clears their mind and sets them up for success throughout the day. Others will praise its relaxation effects. Combined with physical activity (like stretching or walking), meditating offers additional health benefits.
How to meditate
If you’ve never meditated before and are convinced the benefits are worth your time, here are some simple meditation strategies to get your feet wet.
- Find a quiet space
Meditation will be much more fruitful when you’re in a place where you feel comfortable. Find a place where you feel relaxed and there’s minimal background noise. Turn your phone on silent and turn the television off.
As you’re learning how to start meditation you’ll want a quieter space and a good chunk of time- maybe 15 to 30 minutes. As you hone your skills, though, you’ll be able to fit in meditation while you’re waiting at the doctor’s office or on your lunch break.
- Deal with distractions
Eliminate as many distractions in the environment as possible. First, silence your phone and set it where you can’t reach it. Close your eyes if you’ll be adding things to your to-do list as you’re looking around the room. If you have kids, offer them an independent activity to buy you some time.
Even in the calmest setting, you’re still going to face mental distractions. What to make for dinner, the email you forgot to send, what you’re going to wear to that event next week- the list goes on. You can’t prevent thoughts from popping into your mind during meditation, but you can control what you do with them. Acknowledge mental distractions but then let them slip out of your mind.
- Use your body
Meditation should make you feel relaxed, and one of the best ways to unwind is to soothe that stress on your body. Stretching, laying down or even swaying in place can all enhance the experience. Be sure to utilize stretches that undo your day too, like back stretches if you sit all day for work.
- Start with deep breaths
Deep breathing is one of the most commonly practiced meditation strategies. According to the University of Michigan, deep breathing sends signals to the brain that mimic and therefore reinforce a state of relaxation. A few deep breaths can set the stage for a restful meditation.
- Choose a mental activity
This is one of the steps of meditation that has the largest variety of options. When you meditate, it’s helpful to choose a mental exercise. Here are a few to get you started.
- Use a video for a guided meditation, try this for a beginner’s guide on how to do meditation
- Try out positive self-talk. Affirm your strengths and accomplishments
- Use a daily journal prompt
- Reflect at the end of the day
- Set a few goals at the beginning of the day
- Zone in on your bodily sensations
- Paint a mental picture of a place that makes you feel happy
- Imagine yourself with your favorite people and the joyful conversations you might have
Using meditation to support mental well-being
While meditation might seem like a self-care fad, the benefits are worth developing it into a life-long habit. Like other self-care strategies, meditation can support mental wellness and mitigate the symptoms of various disorders. It’s definitely worth incorporating into your treatment.
At Real Recovery Sober Living, mental health professionals cater treatment so that it doesn’t just work but it feels good, too. If you are interested in adding meditation to your treatment routine, your therapist at Real Recovery will support and encourage it as well as give you resources and meditation tips to make it as effective as possible.
Call today at 1-855-363-7325 to get started.