The Anxiety Sufferer's Guide to Daily Meditation and Mindfulness (and how to get started now)
Meditation has exploded in popularity over the last few years. If you're looking for a natural, accessible, and effective way to lower stress and anxiety and improve overall well-being, meditation is worth a try. You don't need to achieve monk or yogi level status to enjoy meditation's benefits: these three things will set you on the right path.
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Meditation for Anxiety and Stress Relief Has Exploded in Popularity: Here's Why
Practicing meditation can result in significant changes in our brains, behaviors, bodies, stress and anxiety levels.
Meditation has exploded in popularity, due in large part to widespread acceptance of its benefits including lower stress and anxiety levels, and improved well-being, focus, and attention. The number of Americans meditating has more than tripled in recent years. We all know someone that swears by meditation or mindfulness exercises.
Evidence from the last 30 or so years that demonstrates the benefits of meditation. A review of 47 studies involving more than 3500 participants, and a large scale study on meditation concluded that practicing meditation can result in real changes in our brains, behaviors, bodies, stress and anxiety levels.
A lot of people who first try meditation don't stick with it long enough to reap its benefits. It's normal to find meditation exercises hard at first. Finding a time to meditate can also be a challenge sometimes. These 2 things are what throws a lot of people off.
Demystifying the Secrets of Meditation
Making meditation part of your overall approach to well-being doesn't have to be hard.
Think of the word ‘meditation’ as a general term that covers many types of mental training activities, kind of like how the word ‘sports’ covers lots of different athletic activities.
Just like you don't need to be an expert in sports to exercise, you don't need to be an expert in meditation to meditate. But, it’s good to know a little about the different concepts.
A simple way to think about meditation is by breaking it down into two categories: mindfulness and goal-oriented meditation.
Increased mindfulness has been shown to reduce suffering and distress and increase overall well-being.
Mindfulness is about maintaining an awareness of your thoughts and feelings. Practicing mindfulness involves practicing paying attention to your thoughts, feelings, impulses, and sensations without judging them as either good or bad.
Mindfulness is a mental state. Practicing mindfulness meditation helps cultivate the skills to be more mindful. With practice, and over time, we become more tuned into the present moment, more balanced, and less prone to rehashing past thoughts and experiences or thinking and worrying about the future.
Meditation can focus on specific goals, like becoming more compassionate, grateful or loving, for example. Goal-oriented meditation includes methods of creative visualization and also guided meditation. With goal-oriented meditation, the intention is to be aware of and focus on a desired future state.
Compassion-based and emotional practices are powerful ways to develop many beneficial skills like self-acceptance, compassion, general well-being, and lower social stress.
Make Meditation Part of your Daily Routine
The trick to benefiting from meditation is finding a way to carve out a little time in your schedule to practice it regularly.
Some Buddhist monks go into intensive meditation “retreats” where they meditate during all their waking hours. If you're up for it, you can book a vacation in a meditation retreat!
Fortunately, you don't need to achieve "monk-level" meditation to enjoy its benefits. Doing these three things will set you on the right path to your meditation journey:
Start slowly, with a little daily practice
Jump into mediation by practicing simple exercises that provide a bit of guidance and positive reinforcement.
Following a simple daily program is a great way to begin practicing. A daily program provides the right level of structure to ease you into mediation.
There are hundreds of programs to choose from, and we've listed a few of our favorites below. Starting now is the best way to accelerate the benefits of mediation.
What are you waiting for?
Find a quiet place to practice
Don't over complicate things when looking for a place to meditate. You don't need to seek out the perfect peace and tranquility of a mountain top or Buddhist monastery. But, you do want to avoid major distractions like loud noises or family members interrupting you.
A relatively quiet spot where you can sit uninterrupted is ideal. If you're meditating at home, let those know around you that you don't want to be bothered for the period you've set aside (e.g. 15 - 30 minutes).
Also, it's important to be comfortable. What you wear and where you sit are considerations.
If finding a quiet spot is next to impossible, try some noise-canceling headphones like these ones. They're great for meditating and concentrating on your office or school work too.
You can sit anywhere that’s comfortable. Meditation cushions like this one are really popular because they promote good posture and relaxation. Sitting on a meditation cushion may also send a clear "do not disturb" message to your family!
Be patient with yourself
Meditating can be challenging at first.
It's natural for our minds to jump from one thought to another. Most people find "quieting the mind" hard, if not impossible in the beginning. Progress is gradual and requires that you stay with your program, even if you don't initially perceive any benefits.
Even if you find it challenging to settle your mind, it's important to give yourself credit when you see minor shifts in your ability to quiet your mind or see changes to your mood and overall stress levels. Like with everything, change takes time and it’s important to recognize progress.
Give it a try for a minimum of 3 to 4 weeks, especially if the concept is totally new to you.
Start Meditating Now
Along with the exploding popularity of meditation, the options available to anyone who wants to try meditation has also exploded.
The beginner meditator can choose from a ton of options to get started on a guided meditation journey.
Here are a few of our favorites:
Real Happiness.The Power of Meditation: Try this 28-day program from New York Times bestselling author and meditation pioneer, Sharon Saltzberg.
Learn the basics of posture, breathing, and the finer points of calming the mind, distraction, dealing and stress and anxiety. Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation is a complete guide that explains how and why meditation works, provides an extensive selection of FAQs and provides guided meditations to start you on your journey. We much prefer the kindle (or paperback) format of this book, but you can get the audiobook free from Audible if you sign up for their free trial membership.
Everyday Meditation: Be guided by certified meditation expert Ceasar Barajas through 20 days of meditation over the course of four weeks.
Work on breathing, visualization, and mindfulness for energy and stress relief. Start off slowly and build toward the ability to meditate for a full 20 minutes.
This is a perfect introduction for newcomers to meditation, especially those that enjoy audiobooks already.
This audiobook is included part of audible.com's guided wellness collection, and is free for existing audible members and also free with audible's free trial membership (see banner)
Little Book of Mindfulness: Short, 10-minute exercises allow you to take "bite-sized" approach to meditation and mindfulness practice.
If you're not ready to jump into a program, then the Little Book of Mindfulness may be perfect for you. Don't let the small size of the book fool you, author Patrizia Collard, a renowned psychotherapist and mindfulness teacher provide readers with more than 30 short exercises that you can pick and choose from to insert a bit of relaxation into your busy day.
The Kindle edition is available for less than $3.