How to meditate
Meditation is no longer the preserve of hippies or religious groups. More and more people, regardless of their beliefs, are discovering the benefits of finding room for meditation in their busy lives.
Meditation is said to increase our ability to withstand stress, help improve cognitive function, help to relieve and reduce pain, lower blood pressure, increase immunity and help tackle insomnia.
Practising meditation is also credited with helping us get in touch with our feelings and over time it's said to increase how happy and optimistic we feel.
So why not give it a go?
When to meditate
Meditation is a 'conscious' deliberate act and is different from resting or sleeping.
Choose a convenient time to meditate, when for 10 minutes you're unlikely to be distracted by other people or by phone calls, but when you aren't so tired you could fall asleep. Many people find mornings are the best time to meditate, but others may prefer to meditate at the end of a stressful day.
You'll need a way to time yourself, a kitchen timer or timer on your mobile phone is ideal.
Where to meditate
It doesn't really matter where as long as you're likely to be uninterrupted for 10 whole minutes. It's a good idea to create a space to be at for the same time each day.
You don't have to be able to sit cross-legged - a firm chair is ideal. You need to be able to sit comfortably with your hands resting in your lap or on your knees. Keep your feet flat on the ground, your back straight, and your neck relaxed, with your chin slightly tucked in.
How to meditate
Meditation is something you can teach yourself or you may prefer to learn it in classes.
There are a number of styles of meditation and it's important to find the one that suits you. Some people will enjoy following the sound of their breathing, others will like working with a sound or phrase, focusing on a visual image like a candle, or an image in their mind. There is even 'moving meditation' where you concentrate on walking. However you do it, it is important to keep your attention focused. If external thoughts or distractions wander into your mind, let them drift out. The idea is to consciously relax your body and focus your thoughts on one thing for a sustained period.
Here's a basic meditation technique:
- Sit quietly and comfortably.
- Close your eyes.
- Take a few moments to settle into your body. Gently observe your posture, and notice the sensations where your body touches the chair and your feet meet the ground.
- Relax the muscles of your feet and work your way up your body relaxing as you go.
- Focus your attention on your breathing. Don’t make any effort to change it, just observe the rising and falling sensation that it creates in your body.
- Then breathe in deeply and let your breath out. Count your breaths, and say the number of the breath as you let it out: one as you inhale, two as you exhale, three on the next inhalation, and so on, up to 10. Then start again. This gives you something to do with your mind, helping you to avoid distraction.
- Do this for 10 or 20 minutes. You might find you have to work up to 10 minutes, so start by aiming for just a couple of minutes.
- After the timer sounds, spend 20-30 seconds just sitting. You might find yourself inundated with thoughts and plans, or feel calm and focused. Whatever happens is completely fine.
- When you’re ready, slowly open your eyes again.