Meditation is a focusing practice that suspends the normal stream of thoughts occupying the mind. Usually, the attention is focused on a specific thing, such as the breath or a phrase. Practicing meditation regularly is believed to calm the mind, increase alertness, and bring a person into a state of physical and psychological balance.
In studies, meditation has been shown to help:
- reduce stress
- improve moods
- improve quality of sleep
- reduce fatigue
There are many approaches to meditation. Here are some of the more common ways people meditate:
- Focus on the breath: Keeping the attention on the sensation of the breath as it passes in and out of the nostrils. Sometimes called “mindfulness meditation,” it tries to teach the meditator to be “mindful,” or aware, of the present moment without judging or reacting.
- Focus on the body: Feeling the sensations throughout the body, such as pain, warmth, or tension
- Focus on a word or phrase: Repeating a word or phrase, sometimes called a “mantra,” to keep the mind free of distracting thoughts
While many people sit still to meditate, it’s possible to use the above techniques while lying down, standing, or walking.
What to Expect During Meditation
Meditation usually begins with finding a position that’s comfortable for you. Most people choose to close their eyes to reduce any visual distractions. Once you’re in position, you’ll focus your attention on the area of your choosing — the breath, a mantra, or another area of focus. During your session, you will be working to bring your awareness back to your area of focus whenever you find your mind wandering.
Tips for beginning meditation:
- Look for a quiet location. If you’re beginning a meditation practice, a quiet place with minimal distractions is ideal.
- Make sure your posture is comfortable. If you are sitting or standing, make sure you are in a comfortable position.
- Keep an open attitude. It is very common to become distracted while meditating, so try not to judge yourself when your mind wanders — just gently return your attention to the focus. Observe and accept the thoughts that come and go.
- Try to avoid positions that make you sleepy. When meditating in a sitting position, some people feel as though they are falling asleep. If this is a problem for you, try to meditate while standing or walking.
- Allow yourself the time you need. It takes time and dedication to develop a meditation routine. It’s best to begin with small, manageable time increments, such as 5 minutes once or twice a day, and then work up to longer blocks of time. With regular practice, meditation becomes easier and more automatic.