Ever been so stressed that you told yourself, I need to start meditating. Well, now’s the time! (And just in time for National Stress Awareness Month 😊)
If you’ve ever thought about beginning a meditation practice before but weren’t sure exactly where to begin, you’re not alone. You may know that meditation is more than just sitting quietly, but you may still be asking yourself, What exactly IS mediation and how can it benefit me?
Understanding what mindfulness meditation is and the benefits that it can provide can help you get your practice started and may make you more likely to stick with it. We’ve answered some questions that we get asked often about meditation to help you get started with your practice:
What is mindfulness meditation?
Mindfulness meditation is an ancient technique of training your mind to become more aware of your own life experience. You will learn to observe the functioning of your mind in a calm and detached manner so you can gain insight into your behavior. You will learn to notice your thoughts without being caught up in them. The goal of this practice is to learn to live and be in a state of awareness without judgment.
How do you meditate?
Four parts comprise a meditation practice: Posture, breath, awareness, and acceptance. A proper seated posture is encouraged as it will help to keep you present and aware rather than relaxed. (Remember, the purpose is to be aware and present, not to relax and drift off to sleep!) The breath allows you to notice the present moment and is a great tool to bring your awareness back into the present if you ever get caught up in your thoughts. Being aware of each moment while in that moment allows you to move towards acceptance of the present moment, whatever it may bring.
What are the benefits?
There are many benefits to a consistent meditation practice, including:
- experiencing positive emotions
- improved ability to focus
- increased life satisfaction
- improved social connection, empathy, and compassion
- greater resilience during hard times
- increased self-control
- decreased anxiety and stress
How do I know which type of meditation practice is “right” for me?
With so many different meditation techniques offered by an expansive list of providers, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. To narrow down which techniques may be best for you, we recommend beginning your meditation research by asking yourself if you want to be guided through your meditation by someone else or if you prefer to be your own guide. If you’re brand new to meditation, Guided Meditation is a great place to begin your practice as it will help you learn which types of meditations you enjoy and benefit from the most. They can also help you learn how to meditate so that you can eventually practice on your own.
Once you determine how you want your meditation led, consider what outcome or benefits you want to obtain from your meditation practice. Do you want a meditation that focuses on making you calmer and at peace, or a meditation that may help you learn more about yourself? If you want to focus on reducing symptoms of stress and feeling calmer, start your search for meditations that encourage you to find calm by focusing on one thing (your breath, a mantra, or a sound). If you want to learn more about yourself, try a practice that involves bringing your awareness to the more nuanced aspects of who you are physically, mentally, and emotionally (Loving Kindness Meditation, Heart Meditation, Trataka Candlelight Meditation). Once you’ve determined how you want to practice and what your want to get out of meditation, you can further your research toward specific types of meditation techniques.
It’s important to note that many meditation techniques may tend to multiple outcomes in the same practice. This is okay! You are not obligated to pick one or the other.
As with most things in life, developing and benefitting from a mediation practice takes time. The more consistent you are with your meditation, the more you will benefit. Just like an exercise routine for your body, a long-term commitment will make the biggest impact on your health and wellness.
Brittany Lambert is a Certified Meditation Instructor (CMI), Certified Personal Trainer, and the General Manager at American Family Fitness Short Pump. She has led groups in meditation practices for 6 years with an emphasis on helping to reduce daily stress and anxiety. She’s also an up-and-coming powerlifter with plans to compete soon! When she’s not managing our Short Pump club or working out, Brittany enjoys time with her fur babies, exploring Richmond, and applying mindfulness practices to all areas of her life.