We hear about meditation being a useful tool, especially in this busy world we live in, but so few of us actually take the time to find out what meditation actually is and how to practice it properly in order to reap the benefits.

“Half an hour's meditation each day is essential, except when you are busy. Then a full hour is needed.”

-Saint Francis de Sales

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What Is Meditation?

As I’ve already mentioned, meditation is a term we all hear regularly but that doesn’t mean we are aware of its true definition and place in the world.

Put simply, meditation is a self-practised, proven and effective way to improve your health and energy levels. It boosts your mental and immune health.

A more detailed explanation would be, that meditation is a practice in which an individual uses a technique such as mindfulness, or focusing the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity to train attention and awareness and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state.

Meditation can produce a deep state of relaxation. During meditation, you focus your attention and eliminate thoughts that may be crowding your mind and causing stress.

If stress has you anxious, tense and worried, consider trying meditation. Spending even a few minutes in meditation every day can restore the balance between your body and mind. The meditation process may result in enhanced physical and emotional well-being.

The best part is, that anyone can practice meditation. It's easy to learn and inexpensive, it also doesn't require any special equipment.

Mental Health Matters
As a form of low-impact exercise, yoga has been shown to lower stress hormones in our bodies while simultaneously increasing beneficial brain chemicals, these feel-good chemicals help decrease anxiety and improve mood.- Photo by Scott Broome on Unsplash

How is Meditation Good for The Mind and Body?

Our minds and our bodies are connected.

If we’re unhappy for an extended time, our bodies become weaker and more susceptible to illness.

In the same way, when we’re physically run down, it adversely affects our minds.
With meditation, we can benefit our overall health by training in letting go of negative thoughts and encouraging more positive thinking. This will decrease stress and anxiety and give us a clearer mind. A clear mind leads to more discernment so that we make fewer mistakes and better decisions.

Basically, when you feel good, you want to be more active and more involved with life, friends, and the world around us.

A healthy mind makes us more likely to exercise, eat healthily, and join group activities such as yoga classes, dance classes, fundraising runs/climbs/swims.

Feeling positive makes us want to do things, set goals and accomplish them.
So you see, a healthy mind really does equal a healthy body and by achieving the goals we set, we in turn reinforce those happy feelings.

How Can I Practice Meditation For Free?

The first thing you need to do is decide what kind of meditation you want to practice

Meditation doesn’t have to be a complicated practice, it doesn’t have to be something you need to join a class or spend money on. The objective of meditation is to train your attention and awareness to achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm, stable state of mind and there are many ways we can do this alone and for free!

Below I have made a step by step simple guide to you can practice two of the most common types of meditation for free.

meditation
One of the main reasons people practise meditation is to achieve a sense of calm, peace and balance that benefits both emotional well-being and overall health - Photo by Cole Keister on Unsplash

Walking Meditation

This type of meditation is designed to bring body & mind in sync while we're out & about. If you don't like to sit and meditate, this is a great alternative.

Simply follow each cue for about 30-60 seconds:

  • Body check - As you start to walk, notice how the body feels. Heavy or light, stiff or relaxed? Take a few seconds to become aware of your posture and the way you’re carrying yourself.
  • Observe - Without trying to change the way you’re walking, simply observe your gait. Bring your attention to it. This can sometimes make you feel self-conscious, but that feeling usually passes.
  • Tune in -Tune into what’s going on around you passing cars, other people, window displays, trees, the movement and still of things, or any other sights that come into your awareness field. You’re not thinking about any of these things, though; you’re simply acknowledging what you see.
  • Noting sounds - Notice the sounds that drift in. What can you hear? Again, try to realize any noise but not dwell on it.
  • Familiar smells - Now turn your attention to any smells, whether pleasant or unpleasant. Notice how the mind habitually wants to create a story out of each smell and how it might remind you of somewhere, something, or someone.
  • Physical sensations - Next, make a point of noticing any physical sensations, from how the weather makes you feel to how it feels as the sole of your feet touches the ground. Simply notice, acknowledge, and let go.
  • Movement - After a minute or two, contemplate the sensation of movement in the body: how the arms hang or swing by your side or how the weight steadily shifts from right to left. Observe your stride, your pace, and the rhythm you’ve become accustomed to.
  • Focus on your rhythm - Use that rhythm the soles of the feet touching the ground as your base of awareness, a place you can mentally come back to when the mind wanders off. Repeat this throughout your walk, step by step, block by block, or mile by mile.

(These steps are guidelines, not rules, so adapt them to fit your walk, wherever you go or however long it takes. For example, on a walk that takes 10 minutes, you might use a street-by-street basis)

meditate
Your comfortable place to sit and meditate can be anywhere once it's safe and helps with your focus. People do find that outdoor spaces for meditation help keep focus and when it comes to lowering stress levels - Photo by Donald Giannatti on Unsplash

Sitting in the Moment

Learning how to meditate is a fairly simple process, it’s very much about being in the moment. Most meditations begin by sitting in a quiet place, closing the eyes, calming the mind, and focusing on the breath. But there’s more to meditating than sitting quietly and breathing.

Decide on a time and place that works for you. Research shows that it’s easiest to create a new habit when we do it at the “same time, same place” every day. Just don’t overthink it: The best time to meditate is really whenever you can best prioritize it. And the best place to meditate? Wherever you can be comfortable and minimally distracted.

Decide on an amount of time to meditate. Particularly for beginners, starting with small, manageable amounts of time, for example, 3, 5, or 10-minute at a time is key, so you can build up your practice and find what’s right for you. The most important thing is to decide on an amount of time that is effective, but also feels achievable so you will want to keep up the practice.

And finally, before we start, make sure you’re sitting comfortably. I could give multiple suggestions here but only you know what’s comfortable for you. What I will say is to support your back, a healthy mind needs a healthy body

When we meditate, we are essentially developing our awareness. Let's try and follow each of the steps below for 1-2 minutes:

  • Step 1: Be aware of your body:  Think of this as a little self-check-up how do you feel right now? Start with your head, how does it feel? Is it okay? Do you have a bit of a headache? If you do, maybe you should drink more water? Repeat the cycle for other parts of your body. If yourself a chance to check-in, to connect, to appreciate how much work your mind and body do for you every day.
  • Step 2: Be aware of your thoughts. Do you ever get stuck overthinking? Here’s a chance to notice your thoughts WITHOUT getting roped in by them. Imagine each thought is like a cloud in the sky and you’re the observer. Notice what thoughts are present, “I need to call my mom, I have to go to the grocery store.” Allow each thought to come up, and pass by, without any judgment or attachment.
  • Step 3: Focus on your breath. When your mind wanders, which it will. Come back home to your breath. Your breath is the number one tool to help you stay grounded, connected and focused at the moment. When you focus on your breathing, your heart rate slows down, your mind begins to quiet and your body can relax.
  • Step 4: Open your eyes. When you are ready take a couple of breaths and open your eyes. You will feel a sense of calm, any anxiety or stress from before should have faded.

I really hope you give both of these methods a try before deciding which one will be the best one to help you reduce the effects of everyday stress and anxiety.

Of course, if individual meditation is not for you, you could try guided meditation by taking a course with one of our tutors here at Superprof.ie 

Simply type click the link above and choose one of the many available tutors to start your meditation studies from as little as €10 per session, and most of our tutors offer the first session for free!

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Maureen

Hey, I'm Maur/Mo, I'm a writer from Ireland. I've written a novel and a lot of poetry and fiction. Currently, I work as a content writer at superprof