Almost every personal development article you will read, including this one, will tell you that one of the best things you can do for yourself is to meditate. Because it’s true!
There’s a reason that meditation practice increased by almost 10% from 2012–2017 in the US alone.
Meditation is a one-stop-shop when it comes to improving your life. But where to begin? Which meditation should you try? How long should you meditate?
Herein lies the problem. When something as powerful as meditation starts going mainstream, there is an overwhelming amount of experts offering advice. It’s confusing! So many articles will contradict each other and it’s hard to know what the right meditation formula is.
Here’s the thing, everybody is different and each person will resonate with one formula more than the next. This is true of pretty much everything. It’s why we have different formulas of medication for the same diseases.
So what do we do with that? Let’s break it down.
Benefits of Meditation
First of all, it’s important to really understand the benefits that meditation brings to every person if they make it a habit. Yes, every person can enjoy these benefits.
Focus and concentration
According to Business Insider, Silicon Valley is on the meditation train because of the well-known focus and concentration benefits. One study they cite points to the fact that meditation alleviates stress and anxiety, which helps concentration levels.
It’s seen as so important that many startups and social media giants like Twitter offer meditation spaces. Meditation apps and gadgets are all the rage with venture capitalists looking to profit from the next big thing.
Productivity blogs list it as one of the most important things you can do to start your day. There is a theme here.
Mental health, grief and trauma management
When my husband died suddenly on February 27, 2016, my world was shattered. The pain was unbearable and everything was tainted by that torturous yearning that only grief can bring.
After a couple of months enduring this, I started to meditate in an effort to comfort myself and possibly even connect with some part of my husband, whether that be his memory, energy he left behind, anything. I would have taken anything.
The thing is that when I started meditating, I started to feel a bit more soothed. I was then able to join the world in little bursts. I started to actually laugh again. I connected with other people better.
I can’t tell you how much it helped me. And I know for sure it wasn’t my imagination. Science backs me up.
The U.S. National Institute of Health has extensive information on studies done regarding the health benefits of meditation. They stay current with this research as their findings are continuously strengthened.
Meditation can manage chronic pain, digestive problems, anxiety related issues and countless other conditions. It’s not a miracle.
It doesn’t offer a cure, but as science is also discovering with this kind of research, mindset is everything and meditation changes your mindset towards a more positive and gratitude focused direction. This is the key to improving your health.
Are you seeing the theme?
Patience & compassion
Reducing stress and anxiety can sure make a person more social. Being social and interacting with more people builds empathy.
When you have less anger and less tangling of the synapses in your brain, you see the world more clearly. You have more focus. This all leaves room for patience and compassion.
While all of these reasons listed haven’t been scientifically proven to make us kinder, the increased compassion effect of meditation is something that several studies have shown as outlined by the Greater Good Science Center at Berkeley.
They may not know the direct connections between meditation and kindness yet but it’s not hard to see how all the other benefits come together to nudge us towards a more compassionate way of seeing the world.
Speaking of all the other components coming together; with a decrease in pain, stiffness and other chronic conditions as well as anxiety and depression, is it any wonder that meditation helps you sleep better?
And do you know what having quality sleep does for you? It helps with chronic pain, it alleviates anxiety, it helps you to have more patience, it gives you energy, etc.
That’s right, meditation and sleep combine to become the health and wellness infinity sign for the optimal life we all deserve.
What kind of Meditation Works Best?
We could go on for days about the many different types of meditations you could choose but that would end up being a book and you came here for an article. Therefore, we will focus on the three easiest and most popular forms of meditation.
Mindfulness is, in simple terms, training your mind to focus on the here and now. You do this by focusing on your breath and how it interacts with your body as you clear your mind.
The object of this exercise is that you will eventually become so focused on your breath that it will be easy to let everything else fall away. It takes some practice but has become one of the most popular forms of meditations for a reason.
The short video below from NCCIH with Dr. Amishi Jha goes into more detail and gives you a very good briefing on mindful practice.
This is a lovely meditation where you sit and breath deeply. With each breath, breathe in as you accept love and kindness from the universe and breathe out as you send out love and kindness to the universe.
That’s the basics. There are a lot of resources out there to find out more but as you might notice, we are fond of science-based practitioners. You might also hear this meditation referred to as metta meditation.
Body Scan Meditation
This is similar to mindfulness as you want to focus on your breath but you also want to scan through your body one limb at a time with each breath. Most people have already done some form of this at some point in their lives.
Lying down or sitting comfortably, close your eyes and focus on each part of your body for around 30 seconds each. Usually, you start with focusing on your toes and progressively work your way up the body.
The wonderful thing about this meditation is the tingle that you feel as you concentrate on each part of the body. Relaxation takes over and it’s like being at a spa.
This meditation, in particular, is often recommended for chronic pain.
How Long Should You Meditate is Not the Focus
There is one common theme in every study. The longer you keep up the habit, the better the effects. Looking at it like this, it makes more sense to focus on creating the habit as opposed to how long you should be doing it.
In short, any amount of meditation time is good for you and has benefits.
To start, you should be focused more on building the habit. As with any habit, think small. Can you start with one minute a day? Try it.
Google has a great new feature that can help. Type “breathing exercise” into Google right now. Seriously, try it. Do you see that great little breathing ball? It only lasts a minute. Breath with the expanding dot and see how much calmer you feel.
Can you do another minute? Go ahead, try to do another minute. Keep going until you feel like you’ve hit your wall.
For some people that might be just the one minute in the beginning. That’s okay! Starting the habit is the most important part. That’s why it should feel easy and good.
Berkeley’s Greater Good in Action also provides a five-minute mindful breathing exercise among many other free meditations. It’s another great free resource to help you get started.
Once you get going and start feeling how even a few minutes a day can help, you can start to make achievable goals like aiming for ten minutes a day. You might just be surprised at how addictive it becomes if you allow yourself to start small.
Allan Lokos, a high profile meditation teacher from New York once said, “Your actions are your only true belongings.” This is a profound truth that many discover through the euphoria of meditation.
Once you let go of everything and allow yourself to just be, you are truly free in both mind and body. Whether it be concentrating on your breath, going into a trance with chanting or any other myriad of ways to meditate; stress, chronic health conditions, fear, they all melt away.
Trying out different meditations and/or breathing exercises is a good way to see which one works best for you. Start small and build up. Don’t discount any amount of time. The benefits you feel will tell you when you get it right.
Take the leap. Give it a try and find out, how long should you meditate?