Did you know, the average person has approximately 12,000 thoughts a day? According to the National Science Foundation, if you are a deep thinker, you have closer to 50,000 thoughts in a day. And I think, if you are a mom, the number is likely even higher-probably closer to 60,000 thoughts a day!
As a mom to four daughters, my mind is often on overdrive. I have a constant to-do list running in my mind; anticipating the schedule and demands of family, work, writing and any other obligations I may have.
It can be difficult to quiet one’s mind, especially when you are a mother; there is so much think about.
Several years ago, in a yoga class, I found meditation as a way to quiet my mind and manage the stress in my life. Minutes spent in silence, focusing on my breathing and observing my thoughts not only was relaxing, it also helped me to cope with a busy life.
Meditation has been one of my go-to skills to manage stress. But you don’t just need my recommendation, there is plenty of research highlighting the benefits of meditation.
Research findings show that meditation has the following benefits:
- stalls aging of the brain
- decreases anxiety
- reduces depression
- helps to manage stress more effectively
- improves ability to focus
- increases memory and recall
- increases compassion to self and others
- boosts immune system
- improves creativity
So what exactly is meditation?
Some types of mediation involve sitting in silence, focusing on regulating breathing and repeating a mantra or phrase. Other types of meditation include listening to guided meditation where a narrator is helping you to stay focused and coaching you through the meditation process. Meditation is a practice of setting aside time each day, to go deeper into oneself, listening to the core of what makes you, you.
How to meditate:
- Schedule Meditation. Chose the time of day where you can start a practice ideally without interruptions. If you can, make it the same time each day; this helps you to set up a routine.
- Meditation is a practice. As a beginner, you will not experience the full benefits of meditation right away. Practice and patience with the process are the key to reaping the benefits of meditation.
- Time. You don’t need a lot of time when you first start to meditate. Start with five minutes, and then increase to seven, and then to ten, twenty and thirty minutes.
- Find a Comfortable Position. Meditation can be done sitting, walking, standing or laying down. For beginners, I would recommend, the seated position, whether on a chair, on the floor or a meditation cushion. Some people can lay down to meditate, but for those beginning, I would not recommend, you may fall asleep unless that is your goal.
- Focus on Breathing. I like a three-step part to breathing. First, inhale counting to three, hold your breath counting to three and exhale your breath counting to three. Deep breathing is a great skill to incorporate into every day. Many people who are anxious or stressed, do not take full deep breaths. This process of three-step breathing slows down breathing and helps to regulate breathing as well.
- Close Your Eyes of Focus on an Object. You can either close your eyes or keep your eyes open. If you keep your eyes open, it can be useful to focus on an object.
- Begin to Physically Relax. Some people find it helpful to relax briefly tensing and then releasing each muscle group in the body. While seated, start with the top of your head and neck, tense the muscles lightly and hold for a few seconds, followed by relaxing the muscle group. Moving down from your neck to your shoulders and arms, tense and relax. Continue to tense and relax each large muscle group all the way down to your feet and toes.
- Observe Your Thoughts. It is normal to have thoughts enter your mind when you are in meditation. Instead of focusing on the thoughts, observe them and refocus your attention on your breathing, simply inhaling, holding and exhaling. Notice the activities of your mind racing thoughts, ideas of what you need to do.
- Let go of frustrations, worry, and tension. Visualize positive energy, entering your body.
- Practice Meditation. In addition to setting aside time during your routine for meditation, when you find yourself stressed or busy during the day, take a moment and try to meditate where you are even if for a few minutes. Reconnecting with your breathing and slowing down your mind can be a helpful skill to reduce stress.
If interested in listening to guided meditation, a great resource is The Mindfulness Solution: Everyday Practices for Everyday Problems written by Dr. Ronald Siegel, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Siegel has a website, www.mindfulness-solution.com, with free downloadable guided meditations on a variety of topics including: how to curb cravings, managing pain, coping with sadness, coping with change and a love and kindness meditation.
The great beauty and benefit of meditation is that you can take it anywhere you go. I encourage you to challenge yourself and take a couple of days or perhaps the week to meditate for five minutes. I think you will be encouraged by the benefits you notice in your life.
© Copyright Dr. Claire Nicogossian 2015