This is a question near and dear to me right now, having recently returned from a 10 day meditation course. I learned Vipassana meditation, a technique taught by Buddha 25 centuries ago as part of his path to enlightenment.
For 10 solid days, I meditated for more than 10 hours a day. WOW! I was taught a very specific technique to calm the mind by disciplining it to focus on the body. In this way, meditation is mind-body technique, a mindfulness technique.
I find this particular technique of Vipassana meditation very deeply calming for my mind, allowing the space for inner peace. I also had a huge healing of a physical issue in my body, but that’s a topic for another day.
Calming and quieting the mind is such a challenge! Our amazing minds are constantly thinking, thinking, thinking. Going, going, going. It’s no wonder that anxiety starts in the mind.
There are many types of meditation. I took a 3-day Neuroscience training course on dozens of different techniques and research now shows which types of meditation cause specific changes in brain chemistry. Way cool.
But the bottom line is that all types of meditation have the effect of calming the mind. This makes meditation a perfect tool for relief from stress and anxiety.
Benefits: Body, Mind, Spirit, Emotions, Energy
My clients who meditate (meditators call it “sitting”) consistently boast these benefits:
- less anxiety
- more peaceful – more peace of mind
- feeling more grounded and centered
- calmer mind and more focus to better deal with life stressors
- relaxation and clearer thinking make problems become smaller
- less overwhelm
- more happiness (from all of the above!)
Physical benefits of meditation (backed by research) include:
- decreased blood pressure
- lower cholesterol level
- improved sleep
- decreased pain and tension including tension headaches
- less ulcers
- less muscle and joint problems
- increased serotonin production that improves mood
- improved immune system
- increased energy level
Making a New Habit
Like every other technique to reduce stress and anxiety, meditation benefits only come when you actually do it consistently. Like brushing your teeth only helps keep plaque away if you do it regularly.
Meditating regularly literally changes the way your brain works. It’s about changing the habitual way that your mind operates that causes stress and anxiety.
Meditation literally changes your brain waves. The goal is to slow down the brain waves. The more time there is between thoughts, the more peaceful you feel and the more opportunity you have to consciously choose your thoughts and actions (rather than respond out of stress or habitual old patterns).
The time invested in regular meditation practice will actually make you more effective and decisive and more productive with the rest of your time. Not to mention happier! What a great investment.
Why You Can’t “Just Meditate” Without Learning How
Because the brain is so used to being busy and going 100 miles an hour in all different directions, it’s very difficult to just sit down and say “I’ll just meditate now” without learning a specific meditation technique. If you just decide one day to sit quietly and “do nothing,” you will find that your mind wanders nearly every second, and you’ll get easily frustrated and discouraged. So learn a meditation technique and practice that technique.
No multi-tasking is allowed when meditating (that defeats the purpose!). With practice, your mind will eventually slow down. Be patient and know it is normal for the mind to wander. The goal is to slow it down, not turn it off – that’s not realistic.
I teach clients many different mindfulness and meditation techniques, some of which can be done in as little as 30 seconds at a time. Others take 5 or 15 or 20 minutes at a time. Here’s an easy 3 minute meditation. Or you can try 3 guided meditations on my Less Stress Now CD. Just find a technique you like and stick with it. Yes, it’ hard for all of us to start a new habit, but talk to anyone who meditates and you’ll find out that the investment is well worth it.