In 2015, workplace stress was responsible for $190 billion in the U.S. health care industry. And that number doesn’t take into account all the other types of stress we deal with, such as interpersonal stress, money worries, and family difficulties.
How can meditation help reduce stress? By giving us a better grasp of how to work with situations, a heightened awareness of our emotions. Meditation may boost cognitive flexibility and decreasing emotional reactivity, changes which promote a healthy response to stress.
Stress clearly impacts each of us in all areas of our lives and is the reason many people take up unhealthy habits, such as drinking, smoking, and drugs. We can take a vacation, but the same situations will be there waiting for us when we return.
Life is full of stress because we live in a constantly changing world, and there’s no way to stop that. Many of the things in our lives that cause us stress we can do nothing about—we can’t change some situations, no matter how we might want to.
After a study done in 2015, the American Psychological Association (APA) released the following shocking statistics about stress in America:
- 48% of Americans claim their stress has increased in the last 5 years
- 73% of Americans regularly experience psychological symptoms of stress
- 77% of Americans regularly experience physical symptoms of stress
- 48% of Americans have lost sleep due to stress
- 75% of Americans experienced at least one symptom of stress in the past month
Some stress is healthy for us. It causes us to do our best and to keep going when things look impossible. The times when we overcome stressful obstacles improve our self-confidence and make our lives richer. Our body responds to the stress of potentially dangerous situations to protect us—to help us survive.
This “fight or flight” response is hard-wired into each of our DNA. However, too much stress causes unhealthy amounts of wear and tear on our bodies and minds. Surely there are positive ways to manage stress!
How Stress Works On Our Nervous System
Our automatic nervous system, which determines how our unconscious physiological processes work, is made up of two systems—the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The sympathetic is the one that provides the “fight or flight” instinct. When we are under pressure, it kicks in to help us deal with the situation.
The parasympathetic nervous system keeps the sympathetic system in check. It returns us to a balanced equilibrium. Both of these are important for our well-being.
The problem starts when there are so many overwhelming pressures in our life that our sympathetic system stays on high alert all the time. This doesn’t allow the parasympathetic system a chance to return to a balanced state where we can reflect on and come to terms with changes and relax. So the helpful “fight or flight” response turns into a trap where more and more stress builds up without the “release valve” of equilibrium that helps us manage the stress.
When our fight or flight response is always on alert, we feel totally stressed out. During these times, we often find ourselves making poor decisions that can negatively impact us later, which causes a cycle of even more stress to accumulate. When caught up in this cycle, we frequently overact, which again, makes matters worse.
- Upset stomach
- Changes in appetite
- Muscle tension
- Teeth grinding
- Heart palpitations
- Loss of sex drive
- Heart disease by 40%
- Stroke by 50%
- Heart attack by 25%
How do we get out of the cycle of entanglement in stress? Meditation has been used for centuries to deal with stress and the responses to stressful situations. But how does it help?
How Meditation Manages Stress
In our modern world of perpetual busyness, our sympathetic nervous system is frequently in overdrive. We find ourselves constantly rushing from one activity to another, multitasking and being always available, thanks to our smartphones and the Internet.
Meditation offers us a chance to stop, to take a break from our busy lives. During meditation, we get familiar with how our mind works, we get to reconnect with our bodies and we get to recognize the feelings and thoughts that are causing our stress. These feelings are often related to external events or situations that we find stressful.
When we meditate, we cultivate a new awareness, or mindfulness, which helps us clearly see how our inner self-talk and automatic tendencies of reacting, or overreacting, to certain situations cause us stress. We start to appreciate how much of the stress in our lives we create internally by the way we think about and respond to situations. This new awareness then gives us the opportunity to make changes in how we respond to difficult situations.
So meditation is marvelous. But what about all the preconceived notions a lot of people have about meditation? Many people think meditation is too “out there” for them or that they won’t be able to do it. Let’s bust those myths right now so that you feel more comfortable and confident using meditation to manage your stress.
5 Common Myths about Meditation
To ease the burden of our busy lives, we are all looking for ways to manage our stress. No doubt you have heard of meditation, and may even know someone who practices it, though you may not have tried it yourself.
Many people believe they can’t meditate—that they can’t still their mind long enough to enjoy the benefits it offers. There are many such misconceptions about meditation, but with a bit more information, you too can learn how to easily and naturally utilize meditation to relax.
Empty Mind Meditation – Dangerous or Desirable?
Meditation is often believed to be a way to totally still the mind–to stop thinking altogether. But in truth, meditation practitioners watch the mind. It’s impossible to stop the mind from thinking—that’s what it does. But stopping all of our busyness for a while and being aware of the thoughts that pop up into our heads can tell us a lot about what is causing our stress so that we can more effectively deal with it. This often involves the “self-talk” that is typically negative or limiting.
Meditation As A Religious Practice
While it’s true that meditation grew out of spiritual or religious systems, it in itself is not a religious practice. In fact, the most common forms of meditation, such as watching the sensations of breathing, have no religious associations at all. There is no belief system that you need to buy into and nothing you need to do to practice stopping and resting your constant thinking. Meditation is really about being kinder to yourself by taking time out of your busy life.
Years of Hard Work Meditating For Greater Benefits
Many people assume they must diligently practice hours of meditation for years before they can reap the benefits. But scientific evidence proves that as little as 10 minutes a day of meditation can significantly reduce stress, improve clarity and focus, lower blood pressure and decrease depression and anxiety.
Calm Personalities Are Better Meditators
It’s easy to look at some of the well-known meditation practitioners and assume that you have to be a calm person to have the wherewithal to be successful at meditation. But it’s actually the reverse that is true—people become calmer, more gentle and compassionate by building a meditation practice. There’s no certain personality type that finds it easier to meditate. Everyone can learn to discover a more calming part of themselves by practicing meditation consistently.
Weird Positions and Strange Words For Extra Points?
The myth that you have to sit in uncomfortable positions on the floor while spouting words in a foreign language has been perpetuated by modern media. Yes, there are those who practice certain types of meditation which use mantras (the repeating of a word or phrase, like OM) and who can and do sit on a cushion on the floor for an extended amount of time. But both are totally optional.
The truth is that you can sit anywhere, or even lie down, to meditate. You earn no extra points for being uncomfortable or speaking a string of words you don’t understand. Ask any meditation practitioner, and they will tell you that they meditate while riding the bus to work, in their office chair and after waking in the morning. Meditation is all about relaxing the mind and body, in a way that’s comfortable for you. After all, if you aren’t comfortable, it’s hard to relax and manage your stress.
Ok Then, after all that, what really is meditation?
Now that we’ve established that meditation isn’t necessarily mystical, difficult or only used by those who practice a certain religion, can we define it?
It is simply stopping to check in with yourself. It’s a time of thought-less awareness In the middle of our busy world. Most of us typically live in our heads with thoughts swirling and twirling. We don’t take enough quiet time for ourselves to just rest and recognize how we are truly feeling or to give our minds a break from the clutter and noise.
It’s a way to declutter the mind and to recognize that we are actually alive and breathing at this moment. It can be a time of gratitude and reflection also. In fact, there are many varieties of meditation that you can practice. We’ll talk more about that later.
One reason people have trouble understanding or “doing” meditation is because there is no goal. It’s what Jon Kabat-Zinn, the mastermind behind Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and author of many books on the subject, calls “aimlessness.”
We don’t do anything without an aim or a goal in life. We go to work to make money, work hard to keep our jobs, prepare dinner to feed our families and ourselves, exercise because it makes us healthy and strong. So what can we make of sitting and doing nothing for “no reason,” other than to just be with ourselves at this moment and notice what thoughts, feelings, and sensations come up? It’s challenging because we have no use for those who are aimless in our culture. They are called lazy, good-for-nothings, unambitious, and live on the fringes of society.
So yes, it can be challenging to choose to be still and silent and aimless even for a few minutes. But the exciting thing is that we can start right where we are and there’s no way we can “mess it up!”
How Does Meditation Really Help In My Everyday Life?
Why should you meditate? After all, it may sound boring or pointless. But science has proven again and again over the last 30 years that meditation positively impacts our mental health, physical and emotional. Few things can make the same claim!
Some of the leading causes of illness and death in our culture can be avoided or maintained through the use of simple meditation practice:
- Heart disease
- Heart attack
- High blood pressure
- Mental illnesses and age-related neurodegenerative diseases
Other Benefits of Meditation:
- Improves the quality of sleep
- Strengthens concentration and focus
- Increases brain function
- Boosts immune system
- Regulates metabolism
- Reduces chronic pain
- Elevates pain caused by tense muscles
How Does Meditation Work To Change Your Brain?
Neurologists have proven what thousands of years of yogis and other spiritual guides have said–that consistent meditation practice changes the way we think, react and feel. Using modern technology, scientists can see that consistent meditation practice literally changes pathways in the brain, building new synapses connections that alter our automatic responses to situations, people, feelings and thoughts.
If that weren’t enough, different pathways develop depending on what type of meditation you do. For example, if you practice mindful meditation where you focus on your breath with the intent of bringing your mind back to the breath whenever it strays, concentration pathways in the brain are created and strengthened.
That means that it becomes easier and easier for you to focus on any task, not just during meditation, but in all areas of your life. Or, as another example, if you practice loving-kindness meditation frequently, you easily develop a stronger, more compassionate connection with others–both those you already know and those you just meet or even just hear about (like on the news).
Different parts of our brains coordinate different aspects of our lives. There’s a part of the brain, the hypothalamus, that response to stress and anxiety, for example. There’s a part that responds to emotions and sensations–the amygdala. By using MRI and EEG machines, neuroscientists have shown that those who practice different meditation techniques literally increase the gray matter and have higher activity in those parts of the brain.
So, those who frequently practice mindfulness meditation where they focus on their breath have a higher density of gray matter in the hippocampus. A larger amount of gray matter has been proven to increase the abilities in that area of a person’s life. This means that those who practice mindfulness meditation have a stronger capability to concentrate on all different types of tasks and can more easily regulate their emotions and reactions to various situations.
In numerous medical studies, after only 8 weeks of practicing mindfulness meditation, participants reported more consistent feelings of well-being, found it easier to relax, noticed acting with awareness and practicing non-judging during their daily activities, enjoyed more general happiness and improved their tolerance for stressful situations.
In other words, they didn’t stress out as much, and they felt happier…for no reason. To break it down, meditation positively impacts our emotional and mental health in major ways:
- Relieves anxiety and improves mood
- Reduces the amount of atrophy in the brain, keeping brains, “younger”
- Leads to better decision making by using different parts of the brain that enable more rational and less emotional reactions to stressful situations
- Changes brain structure associated with learning, memory, sense of self, empathy, and stress
- Changes structure of the amygdala, the part of the brain that helps determine how we respond to stress responses
- Improves mood, visual-spatial processing, memory, and cognition
- Reduces risk of reoccurring clinical depression
- Reduces frequency of binge-eating
- Reduces relapses in substance abuse, such as alcohol addiction
Popular Types of Meditation
Meditation truly does amazing things for us! But you might be confused by all the different types of meditation you can choose from. If you Google “meditation,” you can get overwhelmed quickly by all the different styles that are popular.
It’s important to find a meditation technique that is comfortable for you so that you stick with it.
This shortlist can get you started thinking about what types are available and which ones might be right for you.
Since we’ve already mentioned this one, we’ll start here. Mindfulness meditation is the practice of focusing on the breath, simply observing it coming in and going out. There’s no attempt to control the breathing; the breath “breaths itself.” When the mind wanders, as it always does, the thinking is noticed, without judgment, and then the attention is brought back to the breath. Meditators usually focus either on the breath as it moves the abdomen or as it moves through the nostrils. Obviously, this is a very easy meditation practice that can be done by anyone, just about anywhere, anytime.
Guided meditations are just as the name implies—you are guided through the meditation by a person recorded on a CD or MP3 download. Guided meditation is a great way to get started meditating, but even long-time meditators use these to add variety to their meditation practice. There’s never been a better time to use guided meditations because there are loads of apps that offer different types of guided meditations of various lengths.
You might want to listen to a shorter one if you meditate on your lunch break, for example, but do longer ones at home when you have extra time. Many people find it easier to meditate when they have someone guiding them—it’s easier for them to focus on what the voice is telling them to do rather than to sit in pure silence, which makes their mind want to think.
Transcendental Meditation (TM)
When people hear the word “meditation,” a lot of times, this is what image pops into their heads. It’s a meditation type that was prevalent during the 1960s and 1970’s when spiritual experimentation was popular. This type of meditation is done with a certified Transcendental Meditation teacher.
They give you a mantra that resonates with your energy, and then you recite it during each meditation session, which is generally 15-20 minutes, 2 times a day. This form of meditation is good for those who want to delve into spiritual awareness and who want to have a teacher to structure their practice.
Some people prefer to move while they meditate, which is also possible. The movement is usually done very slowly, and the focus is on experiencing the body moving through space and the sensations, thoughts, and feelings that brings up. You can do yoga, tai chi or qigong, for example, which are each considered moving meditation techniques.
You can also do walking meditation in which you walking extremely slowly, focusing on the sensations of the minuscule movements we make when we walk but aren’t aware of. During walking meditation, you may walk in a circle or just around an open area without trying to get to a certain location. You are practicing walking just to walk. Most moving meditation traditions encourage coordinating the breath with the different movements of the body.
Binaural Beats Meditation
This form of meditation uses different sound frequencies and tempos to change brainwaves which control different parts of the brain. As mentioned earlier, different parts of the brain influence different mental states and behaviors. Binaural beats are piped in through headphones as two different sound frequencies are played—one in each ear.
Many people have found this form of meditation extremely helpful, especially beginners and those who want to deepen their meditation practice. The meditator does nothing other than listen; the sound frequencies do all the work to deliver the person to the same metal states they would accomplish by performing other types of meditation, such as mindful meditation. There are many free and paid binaural beats meditations available online for you to try.
Related Questions Asked By Beginning Meditators
You have an idea of what type of meditation you would like to try.
But you still have questions. No problem!
Most people have questions they want to be answered before they start a meditation practice.
Here are the answers to some of the most common questions regarding meditation.
How can I tell if I’m meditating wrong?
Meditation can seem intimidating, and beginning practitioners frequently worry that they will do it wrong. That they won’t know the magical thing to do that will empower them to reap the benefits we’ve just listed for meditation. But there’s good news! You can’t do it wrong!
Meditation is simply the act of coming back over and over again to your breath or another object of your attention. Your mind will think. You will notice your mind is thinking. And you will bring your mind/attention back to your breath. That’s it. There’s no way you can do it wrong!
Of course, there are many different types of meditation techniques and each one comes with guidelines and instructions. But the purpose of each of them is pretty much the same—to stop and rest. They each use an anchor (like your breath, a candle, a mantra) to bring back your attention when it strays.
They are each teaching, in their own way, to check in with your body, emotions and thoughts…to make friends with each part of yourself. You can try different types of meditation techniques until you find one that resonates with you. Or you can simply sit and focus on your breath.
Why does meditation seem boring to me when everyone in Hollywood says it’s fabulous?
Meditation isn’t necessarily mystical. In fact, once a person has started meditating for a short while, they wonder why nothing is happening. It can be disappointing and anti-climactic. And frankly, they wonder sometimes why everyone says it’s so great when it’s actually boring!
Don’t worry if this is your response at first. It’s natural. Think about how little time we in the West sit in silence, doing nothing. Usually, we are asleep when we are in those conditions. The rest of the time we are constantly involved with texting, reading stuff online, watching TV and playing video games.
In fact, we have become a society that expects to be entertained constantly. In meditation, we have none of these distractions. Without distractions, we are left only with our own thoughts, which can be scary, and yes, a little boring. Because we are sitting and doing nothing. When was the last time you did nothing? I bet you can’t remember!
So if you start to feel bored when meditating, know that’s normal, even for long-time meditators! Just watch that feeling; don’t try to push it away or create a story around it (why you are bored). Just let it be there.
When is the best time of day that I should meditate? How long do I need to meditate each day?
The best time to meditate is different for each of us. Some people prefer to do it first thing in the morning, saying that it gets their day started on the right track. Others like to meditate during their lunch break or before bed. It’s really up to you. There’s no wrong or bad time to meditate.
Try different times of the day to see what you like best. You may find that early morning or late evening work best if you have children or a busy household. This will ensure a quiet atmosphere, which makes it easier to concentrate on your breath or whatever anchor you are using.
Remember, neuroscientists have found that even as little as 10-15 minutes of meditation a day provide the health benefits that are leading so many people to try meditation, including less stress build-up and the ability to stay calm in stressful situations.
It’s important to start out with just a few minutes a day and then build up as your concentration levels advance.
Chances are, you will start seeing the positive effects of the practice and will want to meditate for longer periods of time the more you do it. So start out slowly and build up so that you don’t get frustrated and stop practicing.
How do I make time in my busy schedule to meditate on a consistent basis?
Meditation is less about sitting formally on a cushion than it is about stopping, resting and tuning into your body and internal dialogue. That’s good news for all of us because it means that we can practice meditation almost anywhere and almost anytime.
Just like with anything else, if it’s important to you, you will find time to do it. It helps that you don’t need to set aside a long period of time. If you are honest with yourself, you can find time by cutting back on other things you do during downtime, like watching TV or playing video games.
For many people, the prospect of less stress in their lives is something they are willing to make changes for. Giving up 15 minutes of TV watching a night really isn’t that big of a deal compared to the benefits meditation offers!
Many people discover they can make time by:
- Getting up 15 minutes earlier
- Taking time after the kids are in bed
- Hiding away during their lunch break
- Using the “wasted” time on the train, bus or subway going and coming from work
- Stopping their evening downtime 15 minutes early
- Using their coffee breaks
While formal meditation for 10-15 minutes at least once a day will greatly improve your health and well-being, stopping during the day to do a “mini-meditation” is a fabulous way to relieve stress and even keep it from building up. Just taking a few moments to stop, close your eyes and focus on your breathing will go a long way to rejuvenating your body and mind so that you can go back to the tasks that need to be completed more refreshed and energized.
These are some good times to take a mini-meditation break:
- While waiting inline
- While stopped for a train, a red light or in traffic
- While waiting for a program to load on your computer
- Before going into a meeting
- While waiting for the kids at soccer or dance practice
- Before getting up out of bed in the morning
- Anytime at your desk at work
- Before making a phone call or hitting “send” on an email
I find it really hard to focus when meditating. Is it okay to use a meditation app on my phone?
Guided meditation is used by many meditation practitioners to add variety to their practice, so yes, it’s fine. In fact, many people find this type of meditation a great way to start because it is really very relaxing and having someone guiding you helps keep your concentration steady as you are first learning. And with all of the apps and audio downloads available online now, many for free, it’s a great time to be a meditator.
Some people continue to use their favorite guided meditation long after they get comfortable with their practice, while others use it occasionally or not at all after they have been practicing for a while. Again, it’s totally up to you.
You may give silent meditation a try once in a while though. We are inundated with sound (and noise) all day long, and it’s refreshing to sit in silence. While that may take some getting used to, you may find that you enjoy it. In fact, you may end up preferring more silence in your daily life, instead of always having music or the TV playing in the background.
Do I have to sit on a cushion on the floor? I don’t want my roommate/spouse/kids to think I’m weird or weirder than I am.
Meditation has traditionally been done while sitting on a cushion or using a meditation bench, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only way it can be done! You can sit in a chair, lie down, walk or stand and meditate. If you are tired or find yourself getting drowsy when you meditate, you may want to avoid lying down, though.
The most important part of formal meditation is the quality of your awareness, not where or what you sit on. You want to be sitting with your spine straight, comfortable, but alert. You want to be comfortable enough to sit this way for at least 10-15 minutes (or longer if you want) without wiggling around, if possible.
You should find a time when you can be uninterrupted, and if you don’t want everyone to know what you are doing, you may need to close the door and ask for some space. Another great possibility is to wake up a little earlier than the rest of the household. This will give you the privacy you want until you are more comfortable sharing this new practice. It will also ensure a quiet time when you won’t be interrupted.
What should I do if I always fall asleep when I meditate?
Meditation is supposed to be relaxing, but if you find you are always fighting to stay awake, your body may be telling you that you need to get more sleep. Many of us walk around every day sleep-deprived, so consider going to bed earlier to make sure you get the sleep you need to live at your optimal level of health and well-being.
If you have been lying down or sitting, try some standing or moving meditation. Or, maybe you need to find a different part of the day to meditate—one where you are more alert. Some people love to meditate right before bed because it helps them relax and sleep well after a busy day.
But other people find they need to meditate in the morning or afternoon because they get too sleepy to concentrate when meditating at night. Find the position and time to meditate that works best for you, and you should find it easier to stay alert.
It might also be that you are confusing sleepiness with relaxation or boredom. In our hectic world where we are constantly entertained or stimulated by our computers, TVs, Play Stations, and cell phones when we have nothing to hold our attention but just sitting and breathing, our bodies can relax to the point where we think we are sleepy.
Compared to how we spend most of our waking hours, meditation is pretty uneventful. Instead of fighting the feeling of drowsiness, notice it and watch it. You may see it change or you may notice that it’s not sleepiness at all.
What dogma do I have to “buy?” Isn’t meditation regarded as an Eastern religion?
While the first mentions of meditation were used in religions in the East, there is no dogma attached to meditation. In fact, hospitals, companies, and community centers often provide meditation classes that are purely secular. People of all faiths, or none at all, meditate for various reasons.
How do I get my mind to stop thinking during meditation?
The answer to this is simple—you don’t. Your mind thinks…that’s what it is designed to do. The point of meditation is to notice when your mind has gone off somewhere and isn’t focused on the breath or the other object of focus. Don’t beat yourself up because you started thinking about what to have for breakfast or feeling angry when you notice you are suddenly thinking about that mean thing a coworker did yesterday. Just notice it and come back to focus on the breath.
Meditators often call this constant, rapid thinking “monkey mind.” Have you ever watched a monkey? They are constantly moving around here and there with no discernible pattern or reason. That’s how our mind is. And we only really notice this when we stop our daily hustle and bustle. Our mind “has a mind of its own” and goes willy-nilly from one thought to another, oftentimes without any seeming meaning or reason.
That’s okay. That’s what happens to all meditators, even ones with years of practice under their belts. The more you meditate, the less frequently it will happen. It will become more natural to watch the mind. But you will never be able to silence it completely. That’s impossible—until you die.
I don’t think my meditation is progressing as quickly as my spouse’s/friend’s. What can I do to improve faster?
Since we are so competitive in our daily lives, it can be hard to wrap our minds around doing something for no purpose. Remember “aimlessness?” Meditation isn’t a competitive activity. And no one can tell how your meditation is progressing just by watching you meditate. The benefits are internal, which is where meditation happens—on the inside.
Remember, we are mediating to better manage the stress in our lives. And our competitiveness is part of what causes that stress. So noticing when we are feeling competitive and letting go of that is a good start to managing our stress.
I’m high-strung and am constantly on the go. I’d love to manage my stress better, but I don’t have the personality for meditation.
This is more of a statement, but there’s a question in there too. When the topic of meditation comes up, many people react like this. They think that meditation is only for calm people. Those really busy people can’t meditate. But the truth is, anyone can meditate. It’s just the willingness to take the time out to invest in yourself and sit with yourself.
It’s kind of like when an obese person says they can’t exercise, that only thin people can exercise. But exercising is how those people got thin and fit in the first place. People who meditate usually do seem calmer, less easily upset or stressed, but that’s because they have “done the exercise.” All personality types can meditate. The question is, do you really want to better manage your stress? Sometimes we have to get to the place where stress is overwhelming us before we will stop and take the time to do something about it.
I’ve heard about meditation, but isn’t it just a form of trying to escape your problems?
Actually, it’s the exact opposite, though it’s easy to understand why you might feel this way. During meditation, we watch our thoughts, feelings and physical reactions, and often what comes up during meditation are the thoughts and feelings around what we see as a problem in our life. But instead of hiding from these problems, during meditation we turn towards them and consider them with great gentleness and compassion and with a sense of curiosity. If our mind starts blaming or worrying, we bring it back to settle on the breath, the feelings and the physical sensations.
This watching without blame or worry builds self-awareness and opens our minds to new and creative ways to deal with problems. And sometimes, we discover that the issue really isn’t a problem at all—just something we can choose to let go of.
Won’t starting a meditation practice turn me into a wimp? I can’t afford to lose my edge.
No, it won’t make you a wimp or a doormat for the world. But it will naturally develop more compassion within you, both for yourself and for others. It will also help you see new ways of dealing with stress and stressful situations differently so that you don’t have to “have an edge” or be aggressive to handle the circumstances.
All of this happens quite unintentionally—it is just part of the way that meditation literally changes the brain so that it can see new solutions and ways of stopping the robot-like way we tend to react, or overreact, to stressors.
Getting Started Meditating As A Beginner
Join a local meditation class or learn online
There are many places that offer free or low-cost meditation classes. You might find them at a local YMCA, community center, fitness center or community college. You can also find meditation classes advertised on bullet boards at your local health food store, chiropractor’s office or library, and they are frequently listed in local newspapers as well. You will probably see different types of meditation classes offered, so when you see one that looks interesting, but you aren’t sure what to expect, do a little online research, go to the meditation leader’s website or even call them.
Find out what’s happening in Free Meditation Classes Meetup groups around the world and start meeting up with the ones near you HERE…
Individuals who lead meditation classes are very friendly and helpful, and they want people to touch base with them so that they can help make you more comfortable. You might ask them what will be included in the class, how many others are expected, what you should bring with you, how long the sessions will last and what type of meditation techniques will be taught. Take your time and inquire about a few different ones until you find the one that feels comfortable to you. It’s worth the effort!
Use guided meditations to start or enhance your practice
Guided meditations are a great way to start out meditating. In fact, many long-time meditators continue to use guided meditations to enhance their practice. There is a lot of variety available online through meditation websites and apps. There are also online stores where you can purchase from a large variety of guided meditations by instantly downloading them. And since all of these types of guided meditations are portable, you can use them whenever you want, simply by pulling them up on your phone, tablet or computer. This makes meditating anytime, anywhere even easier!
Ask at work if there’s a meditation class
You might be surprised to learn that meditation is becoming so well-recognized as a stress buster that many larger companies are offering their employees meditation classes or rooms in the building set aside specifically for meditation. Even huge companies such as Google, Linkedin and others are taking advantage of the stress-reducing powers of meditation to improve employee satisfaction and productivity.
Ask your HR department if there is any program in place or if they would be open to such a suggestion. Who knows, you might decide to lead a small group yourself at some point! If your company doesn’t offer this, look at your insurance company. Many large insurance companies are offering free or low-cost meditation courses, some online, to help lower their cost of stress-induced medical claims.
Use free and paid meditation apps on your phone or computer
Just the number of free, let alone premium, meditation apps is enough to show you how popular this form of stress relief has become. No matter what type of device you use, you can find quality meditation apps that can help you get started meditating. These range from sounds of bells chiming to guided meditation to nature sounds.
Some even help you commit to the practice by keeping track of how often and for how long you meditate in a week or month and then reward you for your dedicated practice. In our culture where tracking performance is expected, this is a way to start meditating and sticking to it so that you can enjoy the many benefits it offers.
Start slowly, you can start with one minute if needed…
Don’t expect to sit for hours when you first start. In fact, you should try not to expect anything. If all you can manage is sitting for 2 minutes at a time, that’s great! Once you feel ready and able to move that up to 5 minutes, then do it. But there’s no standard amount of time that needs to be reached. Meditation isn’t a practice you are trying to conquer, but rather, a special time where you become friends with your mind and body again.
Use a meditation prop to focus your attention
If you don’t want to go the techie route by downloading guided meditations or using apps, but still want a little help getting started, there are other, more traditional props you can use.
You might like to light a candle, and through half-closed eyes, focus your attention on the flame while meditating. Try this Candle Meditation Step by Step Guide for yourself HERE…
You may want to try a mantra. A mantra is a word or phrase that is said over and over again while meditating. This helps keep the mind focused, and they have been used for centuries. You can recite anything that feels right.
Common ones in the West are your word for “God,” “I Am,” “Shanti” which means peace, “Metta” which means loving-kindness and “Om,” which is the primeval sound of the universe. Or you can use your favorite religious passage, such as the Lord’s Prayer or Hail, Mary.
You may want to try using a mala. A Mala is a set of beads that look similar to a rosary. It is a string of 21, 27 or 108 beads that are used to help you stay focused while meditating. You move around the mala, touching each bead with the breath or with a mantra.
When you have completed a full in and out-breath or have said the mantra holding the first bead, you move to the next one. You do this until you have completed the full circle of beads. Malas have been used for centuries and are a great way to keep your concentration during meditation.
Conclusion – Meditation is a great way to manage stress.
Plus it has many other health benefits, as you have learned. It’s also wonderful because you can do it just about anywhere and it costs nothing. And, it’s simple enough that you can start right away.
It’s been proven effective for stress management through the ages and has now become a scientifically-proven way to keep stress at healthy, manageable levels in our complex world.
- Stress is an epidemic in the West that is slowly killing us
- Stress can be managed naturally and for good by implementing a simple, daily meditation practice
- Anyone can meditate, almost anywhere, anytime
- Meditation rewires our brain to increase feelings of happiness and well-being
- Meditation cultivates a new awareness that gives us the opportunity to make changes in how we respond to difficult situations
- Meditation develops self-awareness so that we can more easily practice non-judging during our daily activities
- Meditation improves our tolerance for stressful situations
- Meditation promotes gratitude
We can start a meditation practice at any time—there are no requirements other than a willingness and desire to manage stress using meditation as a stress management technique.