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Become a meditator

World Meditation Day 21 is a call to take time to clear our minds. I’m currently on day five of the Alicia Keys and Deepak Chopra’s free 21 day Meditation Experience via the Chopra app and aim to get to day 21. Over the last few years, I’ve started other free 21 day experiences offered through Chopra but don’t always finish them, reminding me that meditation is a practice to keep practising.

Research has shown that you can start to benefit from meditation in as little as four days of consistent practice, so I keep signing up. You don’t need lots of time, to sit cross legged or be religious or spiritual to meditate and reap the benefits.

What is meditation?

Simply put, meditation is a set of techniques from various cultural traditions to help increase awareness of your thoughts, feelings and physical sensations. “It is a simple, secular, scientifically validated exercise for your brainsays Dan Harris, author of 10% Happier.

Why meditate?

In general, we probably all know that meditation is beneficial. Specially, here’s why:

Reduces stress and anxiety by targeting the areas of your brain that induce a state of deep relaxation making your heart rate slower and steadier. Negative thoughts and emotions are also reduced. Your mind and body have time to recover from stress responses.

Lowers blood pressure because relaxation increases the production of nitric oxide which causes blood vessels to open up thereby lowering blood pressure.

Improves concentration by helping you focus only on the present and avoid distractions. This in turn helps you be more effective, efficient, productive and even creative.

Increases awareness of the world around you and your place in the universe. This could help your relationships and spiritual development - if that is something you’d like to improve.

Improves sleep quality. Studies have shown that meditating at night helps people with insomnia and sleep disorders.

Helps manage pain. Studies have shown that advanced meditators report feeling less pain than non-meditators because they are better able to reduce the unpleasant feelings of the pain stimulation.

Reduces inflammation which is indicated in all chronic conditions. A 2005 study showed that genes related to inflammation became less active in people practicing mind-body interventions. So, if you have IBS, eczema, asthma, migraines, fibromyalgia, diabetes, heart conditions and menstrual issues for example, mediation can help. Improves immunity. Numerous studies show that regular meditation helps your body produce antibodies to fight off infections. In addition, your immune system is strengthened by the stress lowering effects of meditation.

Reduces addictive cravings whether to drugs, alcohol, food, gambling, shopping etc, meditation can strengthen self -control by detaching you from the craving sensation and also reducing your stress levels.

How to meditate

The good news is that meditating can be done easily, anywhere and usually without any equipment or cost. The harder part is finding the time and dedication to do it regularly. Research shows that you can experience the benefits of meditation in just four days but to maintain these benefits it becomes a lifetime practice. Here’s a few different ways you can easily meditate. Consider which one appeals to you most and try it out for a month.

Breathing meditation

Simple breathing

  • Sit or lie somewhere comfortable and close your eyes.

  • Become aware of your in and out breath.

  • Then start to breathe in a little deeper really filling up your lungs and your abdomen and then really breath out to empty your lungs and abdomen.

  • Repeat several times.

4-7-8 method

  • Sit or lie somewhere comfortable and close your eyes.

  • Breathe out.

  • Breathe in through the nose for 4 seconds.

  • Hold the breath for 7 seconds.

  • Breathe out through the mouth, pursing the lips and making a whoosh sound, for 8 seconds.

  • Repeat the cycle several times.

Mantra or Japa meditation

  • Pick a mantra that resonates with you. It could be Om, Peace, God, Love. See more examples here.

  • Lie down or sit comfortably with your eyes closed and start repeating the mantra to yourself.

  • It helps put a timer on so you know when to finish. Start with a few minutes and build up over time.

Mala bead meditation

A string of Mala beads traditionally has 108 beads. This number is important for many reasons which you can read about here.

  • Lie down or sit comfortably with your eyes closed and your mala beads in hand.

  • Start by holding onto the first bead that is attached to the tassel and breathe in and out. Then move your fingers to the next bead and breathe in and out. You can also repeat a mantra bead by bead.

  • Repeat until you return to the tassel.

Guided meditation

Guided meditations can be easier for beginners or when you are particularly stressed and find it difficult to meditate yourself. There are numerous apps to choose from. Some well-respected ones include: Chopra ; Headspace ; Calm ; Ten Percent Happier ; Buddhify.

Scheduling guide to become a regular meditator

Over to you

Choose your meditation type and schedule and start meditating.

You may want to start of journal of benefits you notice over time.


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