In today’s technology laden world it seems as if our minds are destined to move a mile a minute. There are few moments out of the day that are ever dedicated to peaceful, quiet reflection. Instead, we tend to wake up and check our text messages and emails as we rush to get ready and hurry off to work. Our careers often keep us glued to a computer and the moment the work day is finished we check in on social media and head home to catch up on our favorite television programs. Of course, the office is never more than a click away, so we often spend part of our evenings catching up on work week tasks. A second of down time? You might as well check out that newest app you downloaded on your phone.
With so much to distract us, it is no wonder that our minds never stop racing, our attention spans are shrinking, and our stress levels are rising. These daily distractions have become so much a part of our lives that it can be difficult to take a step back and simply breathe. Yet when it comes to our mental health that might be exactly what we need to do.
Studies have shown that meditation can help combat everything from insomnia to back pain1. It can help decrease social anxiety, aggression, and depression2, 3. Medical imaging has even provided evidence showing that meditation promotes physiological changes in structure and function of the brain4. Although serious meditators enjoy lengthy meditation sessions, beginners are encouraged to start with just five minutes a day and work up to whatever length of meditation is comfortable. We recommend aiming for about twenty minutes.
Getting started is easy. Simply dress in comfortable clothing with your shoes off, and find a relatively quiet, peaceful location. Stretch slightly to loosen up and then begin by sitting in a comfortable position with your chest, head, and shoulders lifted and your weight balanced and supported by your spine. Arms should be relaxed and hands can either be placed loosely at your sides, or resting on your legs. Close your eyes, or allow them to remain open and unfocused. Next, simply focus on your breathing. Do not attempt to alter your breathing in any way, simply be aware of your breath as it moves in and out of your body.
Once you feel confident with this basic meditation technique you can extend the length of your practice or explore other meditation methods. If this basic exercise proves to be too much, simply begin by taking several calming breaths each day (we recommend doing so first thing in the morning and again before bed).
This process is less about perfection and more about allowing your body and mind to step away from the busyness of the day. Life can be fast paced and overwhelming and technology offers few breaks from all of the madness. It is important to give your mind a break and allow yourself a few quiet minutes each day. Wellness is about more than just exercise and nutrition. It is about mental and spiritual health as well. So take a step back, turn everything off, and just breathe.
Michalsen A, Kunz N, Jeitler M, et al. Effectiveness of focused meditation for patients with chronic low back pain—A randomized controlled clinical trial.Complement Ther Med. 2016;26:79-84.
Gong H, Ni C, Liu Y, et al. Mindfulness meditation for insomnia: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.J Psychosom Res. 2016;89:1-6.
Yoo Y, Lee D, Lee I, et al. The effects of mind subtraction meditation on depression, social anxiety, aggression, and salivary cortisol levels of elementary school children in south korea.J Pediatr Nurs. 2016;31(3):e185-e197.
Annells S, Kho K, Bridge P. Meditate don’t medicate: How medical imaging evidence supports the role of meditation in the treatment of depression.Radiography. 2016;22(1):e54-e58.