What can you do right now to better your body and mind?
Let me tell you the solution I use for all my problems, distractions and weaknesses. This school year I strengthened my mentality through the habit of meditation. For years, meditation was an unattainable goal of mine. I am not exactly a calm person. I actively seek a busy schedule, new thoughts and plans constantly flow through my mind, and coffee may be one of my main food groups. Meditation had to be impossible for someone like me, right?
With the help of the Counseling Center and the app Headspace, my meditation practice became routine in no time. It turns out all you really need is a little imagination and the ability to breathe. Now, I meditate ten minutes most mornings, and my body and mind have completely evolved.
Here are ten benefits I’ve experienced since beginning my meditation practice:
- Heightened feelings of independence
- Improved resilience
- Less anxiety
- Increased awareness
- Increase in energy and optimism
- Decreased irrational and hasty thinking
- Improved creativity
- Enhanced focus and efficiency
- Improved stress and distraction management
- Decreased impulsivity and carelessness
Some benefits of meditation occur instantly. For example, focus and energy increase immediately after meditating. In fact, studies have shown that meditation has a greater effect on alertness than either napping or caffeine and a greater effect on pain reduction than morphine. It’s amazing what a clear mind can do for productivity. What could be better for finals week?
The long term benefits are even more rewarding. After a week of meditating every day, my confidence and motivation increased and my work and study ethics improved. Not only did I want to work harder and longer, but I finally had the energy to do so.
Forming a daily habit takes a bit of effort. Luckily, meditation is portable and customizable. Ready to experience the mental, emotional, behavioral and physical benefits of meditation? Check out these tips:
Ten easy tips to start meditating now:
- Practice in the morning. Truthfully, you can meditate at any time of the day, but it’s easier to focus without thoughts weighing on you from a full day. Meditating in the morning sets your day off at a great pace and can enhance focus, memory and productivity. However, if you have trouble sleeping, meditation is a great way to relax before bed. As your practice improves, you’ll find you can include meditation in any environment or activity.
- Find a comfortable, quiet place to begin. If you’re new to meditation, turn off your cell phone, and find a comfortable seat with a supportive backrest. Where can you sit uninterrupted for at least ten minutes? The serenity room on the third floor of the Marshall Center is a wonderful place to practice meditation.
- Set intentions. Why are you meditating? Recognize any stresses, emotions or thoughts, and then let them go.
- Acknowledge outside distractions first. Avoid being irritated or disturbed by noise by recognizing it before starting meditation. The best part about meditation is how portable it is. Once you learn to acknowledge and accept distractions, you can remove yourself mentally from that environment and focus inward.
- Mentally scan your body. Start from your toes to your head. Recognize any pain, discomfort or tension. However, don’t physically adjust your body. Simply acknowledge these feelings and keep breathing.
- Breathe into specific parts of the body. After scanning the body, you can release tension from sore or tender areas by breathing into these areas of discomfort. With each breathe, imagine you are filling each area of discomfort with oxygen.
- Focus on breathing. Once you’re aware of all outward distractions, begin to draw your attention inward by observing the sensations of breathing. Focus on the actions of the shoulders, chest and stomach, and the rise and fall of each inhalation and exhalation.
- Practice strengthening your lungs. Taking long, deep breathes opens your airway, increases the flow of oxygen, and strengthen your diaphragm, which does about 80 percent of the work as your breathe. Begin by taking in a deep breath for one second and releasing that breathe for one second. Increase the count of each inhale and exhale by 1 second up to 10 seconds. This is my favorite exercise during meditation because it helps clear away thoughts and focus your attention inward.
- Allow your thoughts to flow. Don’t feel pressured by incoming thoughts. When thoughts enter your mind, don’t force them out. Instead try and guide your attention back to breathing
- Take a moment. Look back at your original intentions for meditation, and recognize how you feel after meditating. Slowly open your eyes, take a stretch and think about the next steps of your day. Look back on these feelings throughout the day.
Eventually these tips will become natural to your meditation practice, and it will become easier to focus inward and release distractions. The Counseling Center and the Headspace app both offer guided meditation for free. Guided meditation workshops are great for beginners because they offer tips to focus inward and control breathing during meditation without being distracting.
Don’t miss the last Mindfulness Meditation workshop with the Counseling Center today at 2 pm!