You can practice meditation anywhere, indoors or outdoors. You can do it sitting up or lying down. There’s no membership required, no special certification needed, and it’s free. You only have to pay attention.
But for some people, practicing meditation is easier said than done. You have a lousy attention span, you say. Your mind races. You can’t get comfortable. Your leg goes numb. Your back hurts. You get sleepy. You can only do it for, like, two minutes max, you admit sheepishly.
All of which makes meditation just right for you, and for all of us.
The ancient mind and body practice continues to inspire more Americans than ever to roll out their yoga mats for better mental health and quality of life – especially in these stressful times of COVID-19.
“Meditation has been scientifically proven to reduce stress by lowering cortisol, the hormone that fuels our ‘flight-or-fight’ instinct,” says Cheryl Schlichte, a project manager with Healthy Lee. “Research also suggests meditation reduces inflammation associated with some chronic diseases, as well as provide benefits for managing cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and chronic pain.”
And unlike the Buddha, you don’t have to sit under a Bodhi tree for 49 straight days to reap these healthful benefits, either.
“Meditation can involve just a short ‘brain break’,” says Dr. Darren Morton, an internationally recognized researcher and educator who develops evidence-based approaches for promoting health and happiness, including The Lift Project offered by Healthy Lee. “Even just pausing for a few moments and taking a few deep breaths can be a form of meditation.”
Remember, meditation doesn’t require you to be perfect. It just requires, like everything else in life, that you start.
If you find our seven steps too daunting, Schlichte suggests the STOP Method, a short practice you can weave into your day.
You don’t have to leave the digital-age behind to meditate, either. In fact, some digital meditation tools can have a place in your practice. “Guided meditations are a fantastic way to get started,” Schlichte says. “Smart phone apps like Insight Timer can help ‘guide’ us through 1, 2 or 5-minute meditations. The soothing voices on these apps can bring us back to the moment whenever our thoughts wander.”
Can I meditate in a chair or lying down instead of sitting cross-legged on the floor? You can meditate in any position, Dr. Morton says. Even walking can be a form of meditation if you give your attention to one thing while you do it. Schlichte adds that being comfortable is key when you begin your practice.
I’m restless while meditating. What should I do? Just let the thoughts come; that’s natural. Notice them and then bring your awareness back to the breath, Schlichte says.
I keep falling asleep while I meditate! This may be because you are tired. If so, getting a good night’s sleep is another great thing you can do for your health and wellbeing. Then, when you’re feeling more energetic, try again. “It takes practice to find out what you like best, so keep experimenting and don’t give up,” Schlichte says. “The benefits far outweigh the desire to find the ‘groove.’”
What tips can you share for getting kids or other family members to meditate, too? Make it fun and until the little ones adjust, keep it shorter in the beginning.