So, you’re stressed, not coping at work or at home, maybe your blood pressure has gone up, and your friend tells you to meditate, it worked for them. Someone at work tells you how much better they are feeling since they started meditating, and suggests you give it a go. You hear about it all the time, but why should you meditate?
Meditation has been documented since the 5th and 6th century BCE, finding its beginnings in Taoism and Buddhism. In the Western world, meditation has been something that used to be for hippies or alternatives, or a form of Christian prayer, but long ago made its way into the mainstream. There’s quite a lot of research to back up claims that meditation is “good for you”, in very specific ways. For example, a small study of teachers in a behavioural school found that meditation reduced stress, depression and burnout (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3951026/). Even more interesting is a long-term study that showed a decrease in blood pressure and mortality for those who meditate – a difference of 30% compared to those who didn’t meditate (journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.4278/0890-1171-14.5.284). Statistics aside, meditation has been linked to increased happiness, improved relationships, increased productivity, better recovery rates after surgery, and so much more. Most importantly, meditation can improve your mental health, not eliminate it, but help you manage your symptoms better.
In that case, why wouldn’t you learn to meditate?
Sometimes we need a prompt to do something that we know that’s good for us. All the diet, exercise, quite smoking, get active campaigns in the world and we still sit on the couch and watch the world go by. Try to find out what is going to motivate you to meditate. Perhaps there's a time of day that works for you, first thing in the morning, lunch time, just before bed. Think about what's convenient, when you are least likely to be interrupted. I set a timer on my phone to remind me to do the things that I know I should but aren’t habit yet, and plan meditation for as soon as I get to my office - but I often get distracted. Post it notes in convenient places can be useful, as is a note in your calendar. Once you make it a habit, the same time every day, you won’t need the prompts, but first you have to want to get started.
How do you start then?
There are loads of apps and websites that can get you started. My current favourite is Smiling Mind, a free Australian app, that gives you a range of meditations, for different lengths of time and various age groups. Breathe helps to just focus your breath, which can be particularly helpful for anxiety. Insight Timer links you to guided meditations, although I'm having a bit of trouble getting my head around that one. Start with a 5-minute meditation, make it a daily thing, always at the same time and see if you can get others involved. If you’re the manager at your workplace, introducing a 10-minute meditation at the start of the work day can see an increase in workplace happiness and productivity, so there's a reason to start!
And then you start to see the benefits. Insights into what you're experiencing, blocks you are trying to work through, feeling calmer, more relaxed about the day ahead. The benefits are what make you keep up with meditation.
If you have any questions on how to get started, or would like to find a local meditation group, just ask me and I'll see what I can find for you.