What really is meditation? I’ve talked about it a lot this month because meditation/mindfulness practice is something that is directly related to mental health. It’s not just the woo-woo stuff that you probably think of when you think about meditation (although it can be, if that’s what you want). It’s had a bad rep in the past, but meditation is becoming more well-known and practiced these days. It’s also something that everyone can do–it’s actionable and just takes a few minutes of your time every day.
Chances are, you’ve probably practiced some form of meditation or other. If you can stick with it and be consistent, you’ll eventually develop the “muscle” for it and strengthen your mental health in the process.
Meditation takes many forms. Some of the most popular types that you’ll see are:
- Mindfulness meditation
- Movement meditation
- Transcendental meditation
- Spiritual meditation
- Focused meditation
- Mantra meditation
The goal of all of these forms of meditation is the same–to focus your mind for a period of time.
It sounds so simple. And on the one hand, it is. I mean, how can sitting in one place and closing your eyes be difficult at all? But how often do you find yourself able to focus on one thing and not get distracted by something else within seconds? Most of us have a million things to deal with and worry about at any given point in the day. I don’t know about you, but even when I’m not working, you’ll probably find me on my phone distracted by something else.
So what does practicing meditation do for you?
With practice, meditation will allow you to experience and observe your emotions instead of letting your emotions take control of you. For example, if someone does something to piss you off, instead of letting that get to you and impulsively reacting in anger, you can mentally take a pause, recognize that you’re about to get mad, and then hopefully react in a more rational way.
Another metaphor that I’ve heard is that meditation is the difference between you standing outside in a thunderstorm, vs. you standing inside and watching/observing the thunderstorm. A call back to last week–instead of letting your emotions control you, learn to observe them and then react accordingly. Hopefully that gives you an idea of how meditation benefits you and even the people around you.
There are different benefits of meditating. It can help with anxiety and depression. It can make you work more efficiently, become more focused, lower your blood pressure, improve your quality of sleep, increase alertness/clarity, etc. You get it. If you don’t think meditation is for you, you probably just haven’t found what works for you. If you’re the type who can’t sit still, try a walking meditation. Walk in silence (or do a guided one) and focus on your breathing, on the way you place your feet on the ground, etc.
The easiest way to get started is just to do it. Commit to doing 10 minutes a day for 10 days in a row. See if it works for you. Like with everything related to health, you have to be consistent and stick to it to see results and strengthen your mind.