Relaxation techniques, such as meditation, can help to decrease your risk of developing stress-related diseases and disorders such as heart disease, gastrointestinal issues, depression, ulcers, and headaches.
What is Meditation?
Meditation is a mental exercise which allows you to gain control over your attention so that you can choose what to focus upon rather than being subject to unpredictable environmental circumstances. For example you can focus on a word, a sound, an image, or simply your breath.
Benefits of Meditation
On the body regular meditation helps to reduce heart rate, slow breathing, decrease blood pressure, and increase the body’s ability to cope with stress by creating a more stable autonomic nervous system.
On the mind regular meditation can decrease anxiety, improve sleep, provide headache relief, and contribute to a general state of positive mental health.
How to Meditate?
Meditation is best learned in a relatively quiet, comfortable environment. If you wish you may have soothing music playing (example: ocean waves). Find a comfortable position, either sitting or lying down. Let your muscles relax as best you can, close your eyes, and concentration on your breathing. Next find your focus. You can focus on a word (example: repeat in your mind the word “one” everytime you inhale, and “two” everytime you exhale), a sound (example: the sound of the waves), an image (example: a beautiful sunset), or your breath (example: noticing where the breath comes in and out of your body). Continue to do this for 20 minutes.
When you stop meditating, give your body a chance to become readjusted again. Open your eyes gradually, taking several deep breaths. Slowly start to move the body, then stretch. Take your time to stand to prevent dizziness.
Tips to a Successful Meditation Session
- The best time to meditate is first thing in the morning, before eating, or before bed. Do not meditate after a meal as blood is pooled to the stomach to assist with digestion. This is is counterproductive to relaxation in which we want to increase blood flow to the arms and legs.
- Avoid caffeine and smoking before beginning a meditation session as these are stimulants.
- Don’t rush through it. Relax and enjoy it. Try not to open your eyes, look at your watch/cellphone, plan your day, workout your problems, etc. This time is for you to take care of yourself.