Meditation can be so simple, it can seem complicated. Busy minds often hear the word “meditation” and immediately think, “I could never just sit there and do nothing.” And yet, meditation is one of the most beneficial and inexpensive things you can do to improve your health. The key is knowing which method works best for you.
10 Benefits of Meditation
- Reduces stress, anxiety and depression
- Boosts the immune system
- Relieves chronic pain
- Improves mental focus and clarity
- Prevents emotional eating, drinking and smoking
- Improves memory retention and recall
- Lessens heart and brain problems
- Helps with ADD and ADHD management
- Increases energy
- Helps prevent for premenstrual and menopausal syndrome, arthritis and fibromyalgia
Every night before falling asleep, rather than scrolling through my mental to-do list, I practice a form of meditative breathing called “five-count breathing.” I inhale to a count of five, hold for a count of five, exhale to a count of five, and repeat five or more times. You may also want to try “counting breathing,” in which you inhale and count to one, exhale and count to two, and so on until you reach the number 10 and start again. If you Google “meditative breathing techniques” you will discover several other options and know the trick here is breathing fully (from the belly to the nostrils) and intentionally.
Moving meditation includes a long list of easy exercise modalities. Try walking along Hilton Head’s 12 miles of pristine beaches, taking tai chi classes with John Kozak of Hilton Head Tai Chi, joining a mellow yoga flow class at Jiva Yoga Center or exploring the ancient art of Qigong. If it’s not too much stress on your body, go for a meditative run through a nature preserve like Pinckney Island or do laps at the Island Rec pool.
The true secret to seated meditation is finding a quiet place free of distractions and a comfortable position. Not only do you want to shut off all phones and electronics that buzz, beep or blink, but also put your inquisitive cat outside — and now’s not the time to run your thumping washing machine. Rid yourself of anything that could sabotage your tranquility. As for comfort, don’t feel like you have to sit in the lotus or crossed-legged position — most people experience numbness or tingling after a minute or two in either. Try using a chair or sitting against a wall on a bolster or pillow with your legs extended. Close your eyes and try to focus solely on a single point, like the space between your eyebrows. Let thoughts come in and out like the tide, allowing the mind to wander if need be.
Verbal or Visual
To enhance your seated meditation, you can internally think a word or phrase, called a mantra, or focus on a fixed object or image. I often lead my clients through what I call the “be” meditation by asking them to inhale and think the word “be” and exhale while thinking of one word they want to become. For example, inhale the word “be” and exhale the word “happy.” Visual aids can be anything from a photograph to a burning candle.
Becca Edwards is a wellness professional, freelance writer and owner of b.e.WELL+b.e.CREATIVE (bewellbecreative.com).