It seems that these days, you can hear about meditation and mindfulness wherever you turn—it’s all over TikTok and Instagram, it’s appearing in books and TV, and there are countless apps that help you in your process. And this is happening not without reason.
There are many reasons why people choose to get into meditation and mindfulness, but since this is a relatively new idea in the western world, most of us need some guidance on the matter. If you’re considering starting these ancient relaxation practices, here are a few things you need to know:
What are meditation and mindfulness?
Meditation and mindfulness are practices that date back thousands of years, with most of the meditative practices being rooted in Eastern culture, religion, and traditions. The term “meditation” is used to describe practices and techniques, such as focusing and mindfulness, to train one’s attention and achieve mental and physical clarity, calm, and stability.
There are various types of meditation, some involving focusing on particular actions like breathing, some focusing on sensations like sound, and some focusing on mantras (repeated words or phrases). Mindfulness is a special type of meditation that aims the focus on the present moment, allowing the practitioner to take it in without judgment.
Today, there are various meditation and mindfulness programs, and many combine practices to achieve the desired effects. Mindfulness even includes cognitive behavioral therapy. Some sessions of meditation and mindfulness practice also include discussions where people can talk about their experiences and learn how to apply their new skills in stressful situations.
Benefits of meditation and mindfulness
According to both studies and people’s anecdotal reports, meditation and mindfulness can help in the battle with anxiety, stress, depression, addiction, and pain management. Many people also find it helpful when trying to improve their weight or sleep. The effects of meditation are hard to measure, but almost all of the results have been interpreted to be positive.
How to practice meditation and mindfulness?
There is no right or wrong way to practice meditation and mindfulness, but most people find it easier to find a quiet place, close their eyes and focus on breathing for a few minutes. Total beginners might benefit from Transcendental Meditation guiding videos with certified instructors. These sessions are personalized and offer a one-on-one way to teach the art of meditation.
Another way to practice meditation is through movement, such as yoga—this is perfect for those who love to focus on their breath. There are also walking meditations. Experts recommend people start small and gradually up their meditation sessions.
How long should I meditate?
Depending on your goal, you can meditate for 5 minutes or 5 hours—there are no set limits to meditation. It’s important to start small and follow your instructor if you have one. If you try to meditate for an hour right away, expect to be discouraged and frustrated, so this should be avoided. A few minutes to relax, a few minutes to meditate and a few minutes to get back to reality are all you need as a beginner. And even if your mind wanders, you can still feel some benefits, so don’t worry about that.
The popularity of these practices
In 2017, there was an extensive survey about the percentage of adults who use meditative practice in any way. The results were very impressive, with numbers tripling between 2012 and 2017 from 4.1 to 14.2 percent. Among children and young adults, the number also grew from 0.6 to 5.4 percent. Today, even some schools offer mindfulness programs and meditation sessions to help students and teachers manage stress, remain calm in conflict situations, control their impulses and improve memory and focus. There’s a definite need for more research on meditation and its effects on people, but so far, the results have been positive.
Pro tips on meditation and mindfulness
Most practitioners have their own little tricks on how to improve their meditation and mindfulness sessions, and here are a few. For instance, many recommend setting a very slow and gentle alarm which will not make you anticipate the sound and ruin your focus. Also, it helps to be in a quiet place with few distractions so you can achieve your natural focus easier. And many people find that they lose their focus on the out-breath. While breathing in is quite pronounced and easy to focus on, the out-breath is where your thoughts can wander, so keep this in mind. It also helps to go easy on yourself and not get frustrated when your mind wanders—try to bring your attention back gently and you will reap more benefits. And finally, if you can’t seem to focus, try counting things like your breath.
Meditation and mindfulness are wonderful practices that can bring peace and happiness into your life and help you deal with everyday issues in a more mature and controlled way. Try having your first session today and see how it makes you feel.