How to Meditate: An Easy and Effective Guide for Beginners
Most of us live busy, over-booked lives controlled by tight schedules, long work days, and family obligations. Personal time falls by the wayside and taking a break can feel impossible! The problem is, we assume “me time” has to be time consuming (an hour at the gym, a trip to the movies) and is therefore unachievable. How about guilt-free self-care that can be accomplished anywhere in just a few minutes? The answer: meditation.
What is meditation?Meditation is all about focus and mindfulness. In focusing your thoughts and bringing stillness to your mind, you promote relaxation, concentration, and patience. Mindfulness is the ability to bring your full attention to the present moment, with complete acceptance, and without judgment of your own thoughts, feelings, and sensations. Ultimately, the goal of meditation is to relax, focus on your natural breath, and free your mind of all extraneous stressors from the outside world.
Why should I meditate?Meditation boasts a number of awesome physical and mental benefits!
- Anxiety and stress reduction: When our bodies are exposed to stress, we enter “fight or flight,” which is that rush you feel when adrenaline and cortisol flood your blood stream. Sustained levels of stress hormones can cause a variety of health problems. Meditation reduces your breathing, heartrate, and blood pressure—allowing for the relaxation response.
- Lower blood pressure: Your body requires less oxygen during meditation, allowing your heart to beat fewer times per minute. Recent studies have shown that meditation practices can lower heart attack and stroke risk by almost 50%!
- Stronger immune system - Research has shown that meditation reduces inflammation, boosts antibodies, and protects against premature aging.
- Pain reduction: Meditation activates certain regions of the brain associated with the self-control of pain, and deactivates the thalamus—a brain region that processes sensory information.
- Less fat and fewer wrinkles: Meditation can reduce the stress hormone cortisol, which is linked to fat gain around the midsection and collagen loss in the skin. Meditation can also promote mindful eating habits. If you slow down, you're more likely to make healthy choices!
- Improved memory, focus, and concentration: A meditation practice will give you the skills to really dial in your attention. Meditation may also have potential age-defying effects! Promising research shows an association between long-term meditation and a reduction in the deterioration of gray matter.
- Creativity: Meditation primes us for idea generation by affecting various parts of the brain. For example, meditation stimulates the neocortex—an area involved in creative thinking and problem solving. Meditators also appear to experience less cognitive rigidity as compared to non-meditators. People who mediate have an easier time keeping an open mind!
Does meditation help people with diabetes?Of course! In people with diabetes, stress can affect blood glucose levels in two ways:
- Stressed individuals are more likely to ignore self care. This could mean drinking alcohol, eating unhealthy food, exercising less, and forgetting to check blood glucose levels.
- Stress hormones directly affect blood glucose levels. In people with type 1 diabetes, mental stress can cause an increase or decrease in blood glucose levels. Mental stress often raises blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Physical stress, such as an accident or injury, causes higher blood glucose levels regardless of the diabetes type.
Ready to get started?Try out 5 minutes of meditation each day for the next week. That's just 35 minutes total! I recommend first thing in the morning, so you can set the stage for the day. :-) Check out our One Drop Guide to Meditation to:
- learn how to enter a seated meditation posture
- follow simple steps to meditation
- understand mantras and think about making your own!