If you haven’t heard about it by now, mental health has become one of the most talked about subjects in recent years. While the media has mostly focused on mental health in the military community, it’s extremely important to understand that it goes beyond the military. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has reported that every year, about one in five adults (that’s more than 40 million Americans) experience a diagnosable condition like depression or anxiety. Similar to how exercise affects our muscle strength, cardiovascular health, and blood pressure, meditation for mental health assists in improving our memory, empathy, and sense of self. That’s why meditating is a great way to maintaining a healthy mind, body, and soul.
The Benefits of Meditation
Meditation is no longer considered by mainstream society as some “hippy-dippy” practice. It’s more than just an easy way to relieve stress, it’s also been shown through numerous cases to help ease mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. Even some clinicians are trying to use it as a course of treatment before resorting to medication. In a study published in Biological Psychiatry that studied 35 unemployed men and women experiencing stress from job hunting, researchers found major changes to the brain on scans done after three days of meditation. There was more activity in the portions of the brain dedicated to processing stress, focus, and calmness. Furthermore, four months after the study, blood tests revealed that subjects showed lower levels of a vital marker of inflammation. Meditating impacts your body in the way that it deals with stress, which is why it’s effective in treating mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and PTSD. While it may not cure you completely of all ailments, it’s a good supplement to medication. Even if you don’t deal with mental health conditions, years of research has discovered many physical health benefits of mindful meditation. These benefits include an improved immune system, lower blood pressure, and better sleep. As mentioned before, it’s also been linked to improved concentration and focus, and less emotional reactivity.
Meditation Techniques + Tips
Here are a few simple techniques to get you started on this healthy habit:
- Breathing Meditation – One of the oldest techniques in the book, it simply consists of watching your breath and giving your mind something to focus on in a relaxed way. Start by getting yourself into a comfy position, close your eyes, and observe the sensations of breathing. Don’t try to control your breathing, just let it happen naturally and pay attention to how it feels as you inhale through your nose, down into your lungs, and exhale out through your mouth. Focus on this for at least five minutes. If your mind wanders, this is normal. Just bring your attention back to breathing and continue.
- Mindfulness Meditation – This technique gets you in tune with the sensations within your body, which in turn allow you to be fully present in the moment. Begin by focusing on your breath, then allow yourself to become aware of other bodily sensations. Avoid analyzing or judging anything you experience or any thoughts that pass through your mind – just simply observe.
- Mantra Meditation – It’s basically the same as the previous techniques, except with this one you’re going to incorporate a sacred word or meaningful phrase. By repeating the word or short affirmations, you can bring mind to a state of focused tranquility. Repeat the mantra aloud or silently.
-Find a quiet, calm space for your meditation where you can be completely alone.
-Determine a specific time of day for this and follow through with it daily to maximize the benefits.
-Decide whether you want to meditate sitting on a pillow on the floor or in a straight-back position on a bed, chair, or sofa.
-You don’t have to dedicate a lot of time to this – starting with three minutes and gradually adding a minute each week is a good way to start.
While we understand the importance of maintaining good physical health, it is just as important to maintain good mental health. It’s hard to do your best when your mind is cloudy. Incorporating this simple, yet healthy habit into your daily routine is just one of the first steps in becoming the best you!