Meditation Matters: Start a Meditation Practice

Meditation changes the actual structure of your brain for the better. Learn how to incorporate this ancient practice into your daily routine.

As meditation increases in popularity, its list of verifiable physical and emotional benefits continues to grow. A report from the 2017 National Health Interview Survey revealed that its use by adults in the U.S.  tripled between 2012 and 2017, from 4.1 percent to 14.2 percent.

Meditation is a safe, affordable, and easily accessible practice that can help relieve anxiety, depression, and insomnia and actually changes the biological structure of your brain by increasing gray matter, cortical thickness in areas related to focus, and volume in areas related to emotional regulation. Change your thinking and your life by introducing a regular meditation practice into your daily routine.

Meditation has a positive impact on overall health and wellness of individuals.
Meditation is increasing in popularity due to its verifiable benefits.

What is meditation

Meditation comes in many different forms but generally shares the same four elements: a quiet location, a comfortable but supported posture, focused attention, and an attitude of non-attachment.

Although the act of sitting quietly and free of thoughts seems simple in theory, it can actually be quite a challenge in our busy lives, which are full of distractions and notifications that are constantly vying for our attention.

Meditation is a practice; like any new exercise or activity, it requires repetition and dedication for it to be incorporated into our lives.

So, how do you get started?

Yoga class: Attending a yoga studio or class is often the perfect baby step towards starting a meditation practice. Although yoga is not meditation in and of itself, it serves as a form of moving meditation and is a great introduction to the practice.

Yoga and meditation have similar roots and effects.
Yoga class is often an easy introduction to the practice of meditation.

There is usually a focus on breath and on clearing your mind from distractions, and class often starts or ends with something similar to a mini guided meditation. If you’re not interested in the physical activity of yoga, check with your local yoga studio to see if they offer workshops or if they have any resources to help you start a practice

An app: Although it seems counterintuitive, technology is an amazing resource for learning meditation. Whether it’s a YouTube video or an app like Headspace or Calm, there is a wide variety of guided meditations or tools to help get you started. Dedicate time each day to creating a quiet and comfortable space and find a meditation resource that can help make this healthy habit a part of your regular routine.

Apps and YouTube videos are excellent tools to start a meditation practice.
Apps are an easy, affordable, and accessible tool to start a meditation practice.

On your own: The actual steps involved with meditation are easy; it’s committing to the practice that can be difficult. You can teach yourself meditation, though, free of any investment other than time. You may eventually want to experiment with adding aromatherapy or a meditation cushion but none of that is required to begin. Start with these three easy steps:

  • Commit to spending ten minutes a day for thirty days in a row to create some accountability for yourself. You’re more likely to be successful if you attach that time to something you already do daily; like practice meditation after your morning coffee or before brushing your teeth at bedtime. Set a timer.
  • Assume a comfortable position that allows you to maintain good posture for the duration of your practice. You may want to start with a wall behind you for support. Cross your legs, rest the top of your hands gently on your thighs, draw your spine up and allow your shoulder blades to drop down your back, gently tuck your chin so that your head drops, and rest your eyes.
  • Breathe all the way in, filling your lungs, and pausing at the top of your inhale before exhaling fully. Concentrate on the cadence of your breathing and the sensations associated with each breath. If you find your mind wandering, don’t become frustrated or overly attached to those thoughts – simply refocus your awareness on your breath.
As with all things, meditation is a practice that must be repeated with patience to become proficient.
Learning to sit quietly with yourself is a rewarding challenge.

The act of simply sitting with yourself should be as easy as it gets, but it’s often excruciatingly difficult. Making the time and continuing to try even – or especially – if you don’t feel like it are the key elements of a successful mindfulness practice. Experiment with different tools and techniques to incorporate this ancient therapeutic practice into your hectic modern life and enjoy the many biological and emotional benefits of a regular meditation practice.

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