Meditation and mindfulness has become a big thing in recent years (remember mindful colouring-in books?) but a lot of people are still unsure of exactly what meditation involves. Don't worry - you don't have to be a yogi to benefit from this relaxing and reinvigorating practice. Meditation is for everyone, and a great thing to incorporate into your self care routine.
So, what is it?
Meditation is different things to different people, and there is a huge range of ways to practice it. For some it is a religious or spiritual activity, while others use it as a way to be more focussed at work, to enjoy a better sleep, or to lessen stress and anxiety.
More and more people are turning to meditation and mindfulness to combat the increasing pressures and anxieties of our daily life. Balancing work, family, hobbies, friends, and everything else on our plate can be overwhelming, and it's important to make time for something that is just for you.
If you want to find more calmness and clarity, beginning a simple meditation practice is a great place to start. When you continuously practice meditation you'll find you become more present and get the most out of your life; you'll deepen your appreciation of those around you; you'll be kinder to yourself; and you'll be more calm even in stressful situations.
Meditation takes many forms, and we recommend taking a class of guided meditation to begin. If there isn't any available to you, try following along with a recording online or in an app. Meditation is like any skill and it takes regular practice to become good at it.
If you do want to try it by yourself first though, follow the below steps for a very simple meditation session focusing on breathing.
Find a quiet place to sit. It doesn't have to be completely silent - in fact learning to embrace every day sounds can be a part of the experience. But you don't want anyone to start chatting to you while you're meditating, so choose a spot where you won't be disturbed.
Sit down with a straight back. Make sure you're comfortable. The stereotype image is sitting cross legged - you can adopt this position if it works for you, but sitting in a chair or in a different pose works as well. The main point is that your body is not slumped over.
Close your eyes and rest your hands on your knees or gently in your lap. You don't need to hold any formal position - just do what feels right for you. Take a deep breath, feeling the air enter your body. Begin to focus on your breathing, allowing yourself to become present and forget any stresses or problems of the day.
Pay attention to your breath as you continue to breath in a natural rhythm, without trying to moderate it at all. You may want to concentrate on the feeling of the air entering and exiting your nose, or the sensation of your chest or tummy rising and falling.
Your mind may wander and start to think about the rest of your day, the book you're reading or what you're going to have for dinner. Don't worry - most people find it difficult to maintain focus in the beginning. Without judging yourself or feeling like you're failing, bring your attention back to your breath.
Continue to breathe and focus on the sensation of breathing. There are no rules for how long you should meditate for, but if you're short on time then 7 or 8 minutes is a great start. As you finish, wiggle your fingers and toes and bring your attention back to the room and to the place you are sitting. Slowly open your eyes.