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Meditation

The Mental Exercise

Original image drawn by author.

What is meditation?

Meditation is a mental exercise in which a person concentrates on the interactions of the brain, mind, body, and behavior among those parts. Meditations vary from one to another. There’s plenty types someone could practice today but all of them typically share the following aspects:

  • An area with little to no distractions.
  • A position/posture one could remain in without moving for a certain amount of time.
  • A need and will for concentration.
  • The importance of having a neutral mindset, a type of thinking in which no positive/negative judgement is taking place.
  • I’ll go in depth on the list above, but first let’s move on with the science of meditation and its effects on human health.

Why is meditation important?

Many meditation experts and enthusiasts often refer to meditation as a “fitness activity” for the mind and treat it as the equivalent to the brain’s version of physical exercise to the body. In essence, meditation is strengthening certain parts of the brain and has alluded to improving one’s mental health in the process. With given time, many predict that meditation will be considered just as important as physical exercise; given both can positively impact someone’s wellbeing.

For those still not convinced that meditation isn’t just a religious practice used by monks in Asian countries, there’s been substantial evidence that meditation has beneficial “side effects” on the mind.

Mindfulness (a specific type of meditation) is said to improve poor mental health and behaviors, helping those with certain mental illness and disorders. Since meditation is a mental activity, it’s no surprise that it improves how the brain functions. From an excerpt of Meditation: In Depth, it states:

“In a small, NCCIH-funded study, 54 adults with chronic insomnia learned mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), a form of MBSR specially adapted to deal with insomnia (mindfulness-based therapy for insomnia, or MBTI), or a self-monitoring program. Both meditation-based programs aided sleep, with MBTI providing a significantly greater reduction in insomnia severity compared with MBSR.”

From this particular section, it presents other instances where those with mental illnesses being significantly affected by this specific meditation exercise. Although it’s been said that meditation can improve someone’s mental illness/disorder, it should be noted that meditation alone isn’t the primary cure or treatment. It’s considered a coping skill.

Speaking of coping skills, meditation can improve your concentration and is often used as a way to aid anxiety sufferers. Being someone with anxiety disorder and concentration issues, I can personally confirm that the above is possible. Through personal experiences, I’ve used certain aspects of different meditation techniques during an anxiety episode.

In a way, I was meditating during these periods of great anxiety. Breath control is one of the biggest problems during anxiety attacks that practicing medication can reduce the inability to breathe. Obviously, it’s easier said than done, and doesn’t put an end to these moments of uncontrolled panic; it does, however, make it more bearable when one has more control over if someone chooses to respond to anxiety instead of reacting. It’s a crucial skill to learn.

After a meditative exercise, I am more capable of focusing than before. It usually heightens my concentration at the time and helps me get harder thinking tasks done.

How does one meditate? Is it hard?

Meditation can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. The reason why it sounds so difficult to other people is due to the fact that humans likes to complicate the simplest of things. In truth, there’s no correct way of meditation and it is pretty straight-forward. In fact, some people probably meditate without realizing they’re doing it; those people are the most successful at it. This is due to the fact that one of the hardest things about meditation is overthinking it, making it easy for those starting out with meditation to become very, very overwhelmed.

It’s common for beginners of meditation to be overwhelmed. Meditation is indeed a skill to be learned and practiced. It’s okay to suck at meditation at first. It’s one of the many things that both meditation and physical exercise have in common: it’s going to take time to master, especially when starting out.

For those stressed out about how to meditate, let’s simplify the process.

  1. Get in a comfortable position.
  2. Start inhaling and exhaling, deeply and slowly.
  3. Close your eyes.
  4. Count to ten/twenty/thirty in your head.
  5. Wash, rinse, and repeat for as many times as needed.

For beginners, a few minutes is enough. It’s not recommended to meditate for any longer. When starting cardio, it’s advised to start out small. With meditation, it’s the same. Meditating for an hour would make anyone overwhelmed for the first time. Repetition is an important process of learning any skill, meditation is no exception.

Additional information and sources on meditation:

How Meditation Benefits CEOs

Meditation Research: What Does Science Tell Us About Meditation

Future of Meditation Research (FOMR)

How to Notice, Shift, and Rewire Your Brain

Guided Meditation:

Headspace

Top 25 Best Meditation Resources: Guided Meditation, Meditation Music, and Meditation Apps

Source material shared from above:

Meditation: In Depth