Riddle Me This: Requires No Exercise…But Produces Similar Benefits?
What requires no physical activity, but provides many of the same benefits as exercise? Here’s one more hint… All of these celebrities do it: Russell Brand, Oprah Winfrey, Paul McCartney, Ellen Degeneres, and Hugh Jackman. Are you wondering what IT is? Drumroll please…the answer is meditation!
Did you freeze up when you saw the word meditation? Don’t feel bad if you did. Take a breath and keep reading. The word meditation gets a bad rap from some, but as of late, it’s been in the news because research has shown meditation is scientifically proven to combat stress and provide other health benefits. It’s no longer just for new-age hippies and granola-loving gurus – meditation is for everyone! Come on, who wouldn’t want to snag some great health benefits without ever leaving the comfort of their couch? And, if the word “meditate” freaks you out, then call it something that you can relate to and feel good about. Call it “me” time or whatever works for you.
Now, before your ego jumps in and tells you that there is no way that YOU can meditate, I urge you to tell your ego to hush up, or better yet, ignore that negative little voice. If you can breathe (and I know you can), then you can absolutely, 100% learn how to meditate. Yes, it will take practice and an open mind, but you can do it if you want to. Meditation in and of itself IS a practice. You just need to be willing to practice, like any other activity you do.
Before I get into the “how,” let me give you the quick and dirty on some of the awesome benefits of meditation. These are pretty freakin’ terrific, and they involve no gym membership or sweating on your part. Keep in mind that this is not a comprehensive list of benefits, which means there’s even more good vibes where these came from!
Benefits of Meditation:
- Reduces Stress
- Boosts Creativity
- Improves Digestion
- Lowers Blood Pressure
- Boosts Immunity
- Increases Focus and Attention
Personally speaking, I like to think of my meditation practice as “plugging in to the Divine.” We all have to charge our smartphones, so why don’t we recharge our minds? We’re all so busy and our minds are flooded every day with thoughts, ideas, worries, you name it! The mind needs time to rest just like our bodies. That’s one easy way to think of meditation – letting your mind find rest.
Now for the important stuff… How do you meditate? The simple answer is to carve out a little time each day and be still. Even 5 minutes is a good start, and then try to work your way up to 15 or 20 minutes as time allows. Get comfy and give it a go – you can soooo do this!
- Find a quiet place
- Sit down
- Close your eyes
- Be still
- Focus on your breath
- When your mind wanders, and it WILL wander, gently refocus and send your attention back to your breath
The “hardest” part of meditation, in my opinion, is learning how to handle the thoughts your ego will throw at you. You might be totally calm and meditating like a full-on zen master, and then, BAM! Ego will start spewing stuff like, “What are you doing?” “You’re not doing this right,” “This is stupid and boring,” “You should stop this nonsense,” “I don’t wanna do this anymore!” And the list goes on and on… I assure you, THESE THOUGHTS ARE COMPLETELY NORMAL. It’s especially normal to have these thoughts when you’re first starting out, so do NOT be discouraged. Allow yourself (without judgment) to have the thoughts, observe how you feel, let the feeling pass, and then refocus back on your breathing. It gets easier the more you practice…I promise.
When I first started meditating, sometimes focusing on the breath wasn’t enough to hold my attention, so I experimented with different techniques. There are plenty of tips/tricks you can try out when getting started. Listen to your intuition to find the best approach for you.
- Try counting your breaths (1..2..3..) and make your exhale slightly longer than your inhale.
- Try keeping your eyes open and focused on a lit candle or some other object to keep yourself centered and in the present moment.
- Try saying a mantra – it can be anything you want. I like to repeat in my mind, “I breathe in love, and exhale all that doesn’t serve me.” But, you might use a simple one-word mantra like “peace” or something else that resonates with you.
- Try visualizing soothing white light cascading over your body as you breathe in and out.
- Try simply observing the sounds you hear around you…your breathing, traffic, the dishwasher, voices, etc.
- Try one of the many meditations available online if you prefer a guided approach.
At the end of the day, there is no “right” way to meditate. You simply need to experiment and make it your own. As I mentioned earlier, even 5 minutes a day is better than nothing. A good model is to try a few minutes of meditation when you get up, and a few minutes before you go to sleep. As you get more comfortable with meditation, trust me, you may find yourself WANTING to meditate for longer periods. This is a completely normal response. Just remember, your inner self speaks to you through your heart, and the only way to “hear” your heart is to listen in silence.
Meditation is something that asks for very little and provides you with so much. Talk about a risk-free trial, folks! I sincerely hope you give meditation a try and see for yourself.
Cost – $0.00
Time Investment – 5 minutes
Skills Required – Breathing
Benefits – LOTS!