Written by Brisbane Counselling Centre Psychologist, Natascha Madden.
With the hectic pace of our lives, a never ending to do list and the pressures of our current world, people seem to be becoming more stressed and anxious. There is a part of our brain that is focused heavily on interpreting and identifying threats in our world. This section of our brain triggers off the fight or flight response, telling us there is a threat, when often it isn’t true. This was a great way to live when once upon a time we lived in a jungle with many dangerous threats to our lives. It’s not so handy now. This is where meditation comes in handy.
What is meditation?
Meditation is a deep state of calm and awareness. It is a technique for resting the mind and attaining a state of consciousness that is totally separate from the normal waking state. Whilst meditating, the mind is clear, relaxed and inwardly focused. You might be wondering: how do I control thoughts during meditation? Meditation is not about stopping your thoughts, more so about acknowledging them and coming back to focus.
What are the benefits of meditation for my body?
Meditating for just ten minutes every day engages the relaxation response in our brain which brings us out of the fight or flight response. Hormones are released and brain signals occur when meditating that makes everything slow down internally, including our heart rate and blood pressure. This helps us to focus more, improves our concentration, increases our motivation, helps our mood and our sleep just to name a few of the benefits. Meditating has also been found to decrease our risk of cardiovascular disease and anxiety, improve our relationships and increase productivity.
How often should I meditate?
Daily meditation, if only for 10 minutes, has been found to be more beneficial than meditating once a week for a larger amount of time. Even 40 minutes for example, for most of us, is unrealistic to fit into our busy schedules. Consistency with meditation is definitely one of the keys to experiencing greater physical and psychological benefits.
Are meditation apps worth it?
There are many apps available that may help you to get started with meditation. It is recommended you sit up, rather than lie down and closing your eyes is beneficial. Some examples of apps you could try are “Smiling Mind” and “Calm“, both of which are free. “Headspace” is another helpful app that provides 10 free, ten minute sessions, following which is an annual subscription.
Can I self meditate?
Alternatively, something else you could try is sitting in a comfortable position, closing your eyes and shifting your attention to your breath. Notice what it is like for the air to travel in and out of your body. You could then observe what sensations are coming up for you, what images are in your mind, what feelings you are having and what thoughts are presenting themselves. Doing this for two minutes and building up over time to ten minutes is a brilliant step in the right direction to taking better care of your physical and psychological health.
Article by Natascha Madden