World Meditation Day: the benefits and the alternatives
It’s World Meditation Day! For over 3,000 years, meditation has been practised to find a spiritual connection in oneness. Today, thousands of studies reveal the benefits of how meditation can positively impact our mental and physical health.
To help you start or continue your meditation journey, we talk to WISE Employment Consultant and experienced Yoga and Meditation Teacher Lucy Hockham. Lucy explains what meditation is, the benefits, how to do it and alternative mindful activities that don’t involve sitting down.
What is it?
Meditation is all about bringing ourselves into the present moment. We are often living in the past or future, which can be stressful on the body. Being mindful of these moments and noticing how we are feeling can have several positive benefits.
Meditation helps us reduce the amount of cortisol the body releases. Cortisol is the stress hormone that can disturb our sleep, make our brain foggy and leave us feeling anxious. Slowing down the breath and the body through meditation is proven to reduce our cortisol count. This helps us focus better, stress less, sleep deeply, and become more grateful and self-aware.
Read more about the benefits of meditation here.
World Meditation Day – How to meditate
Ready to start meditating? Lucy has recorded a guided meditation. Before you begin, read Lucy’s steps below on how to meditate. These rules are not set, so you’re encouraged to make the practice your own.
- Find a comfortable place where you’re not likely to be disturbed. You can include music or smells.
- Commit to a set time. Set a timer or start a guided practice.
- Find your meditation position – option to be seated, lying down or have your legs up against a wall. Aim for a grounded feeling through the lower half of the body, and an opening of the chest in the top half.
- Close down the eyes or softly focus your gaze on something in front of you.
- Start noticing your breath. Breathe through the nose and start to lengthen out your inhales or exhales.
- Mentally check in on how you’re feeling. Try a visualisation or a body scan.
- When you finish meditating, move slowly with gentle movements. You’re coming out of your parasympathetic nervous systems (your rest and digest state), so the body needs time to process.
- Journal your experience or write down what you are grateful for today.
Want to know more? Lucy answers some common questions about meditation.
Question: I find it hard to meditate because I don’t like sitting down – what else is there?
Answer: Meditation doesn’t have to be in a seated or lying position. It’s about recognising where your body is and how you’re feeling in the present moment. See our list of mindful alternatives below.
Question: What if I find it too hard to focus?
Answer: Just like anything, meditation takes practice. Some find it hard at first, so consistency is key. As humans, the job of our mind is to think. It’s natural for the mind to wander, and coming back takes time.
Question: Is meditation accessible?
Answer: As meditation has recently become a trend in the western world, it might seem un-accessible due to how it is potrayed on Instagram. However, there are plenty of free apps and resources available. Check out our list below.
Question: Can meditating make anxiety worse?
Answer: If meditating doesn’t feel good for you – don’t do it. Seek professional advice and an experienced teacher if it is something you would like to continue to explore.
Question: How do I make it a habit?
Answer: Find a way to make your practice personal, in a way that makes you happy to show up every day. Create a beautiful space for yourself that you like being in. You can even say hello to this space before you begin.
Sitting down and focusing on the breath can be challenging, so it’s important to find mindful activities that feel right for you. Some ideas to get started include:
- Walking whilst noticing what is going on around you. What colours do you see? What do you hear?
- Stopping at any point of the day to notice five things around you. This can be while watching television, brushing your teeth or even on the train. In these moments, ask yourself what you see, smell, hear, feel and taste.
- Find activities that involve switching off from your phone. This can include surfing, swimming, yoga, dancing and tai chi.
The key is to find an activity that allows you to focus on the current moment.
Free resources available to you
- Smiling Minds is an Australian not-for-profit who are on a mission to “help every mind thrive”. Their mindfulness app is free, includes several guided meditations, themed challenges and a mood tracker.
- Headspace is also free to download. The app includes a 10-day beginner’s course that takes you through meditation essentials, along with several other themed meditations. Accessing some of their meditations (like Harry Style’s recording) require a paid subscription.
- Youtube is a great tool to access free guided meditations that range anywhere between two minutes to an hour.