We all know that to have a healthy body there are a few things we need to do: exercise regularly, get enough rest and make sure we eat the right food in the right amounts. But what about the mind? New wellness columnist Tom Sullivan explains how the simple art of stillness or meditation can significantly contribute to your success.
Although an ancient practice dating back thousands of years, today we find it hard to go far without some of our most successful people in business, sports, politics and entertainment singing the praises of a daily meditation practice. In fact, meditation has now been scientifically proven to improve many aspects in life, such as:
- Boosting your immune system and decreasing pain and inflammation in the body
- Increasing positive emotions while reducing stress and anxiety
- Increasing your ability to connect socially and your emotional intelligence
- Improving your ability to be introspective and control your thoughts and emotions
- It even increases your grey matter!
If you are reading this and thinking you could do with some, or maybe even all, of the above, you may also be wondering: if sitting and doing nothing does this, why don’t we all just do it? The easy way to answer that is to try it for yourself; it’s actually a bit harder than it sounds.
In a world where everyone is ‘turned on’ through technology, especially in an industry such as ours, we pride ourselves on always being contactable and the ‘24/7’ agent. With this in mind, our habits have begun to move us further away from a less cluttered, simple life to an email, text messaging, tweeting and ‘Facebooking’ culture. That’s why a lot of us can’t even wait for a coffee without being on our phone, let alone consciously sit and do nothing for 10 to 20 minutes (or more).
The good news is that, just like when you first hit the gym after a long winter break and struggle through the first few sessions, it does get easier. Through a regular meditation practice starting at just five minutes a day, you can begin to enjoy the benefits listed above. You might even begin to enjoy the space that a practice can bring. For myself, what I enjoy the most is having space from the constant barrage of thoughts that I experience from when I wake up to when I go back to sleep.
Here’s a starting point for your own practice:
- Sit comfortably with a straight spine and relaxed body. Your bed is not for meditating; you will just fall asleep. Find a place where you won’t be disturbed for the duration, and turn your phone off or on airplane mode.
- After a few deep breaths, begin to follow your breathing from the sensation outside your nose all the way to your lungs, and out again. Repeat this and count each round of breathing (in and out) as one. Count to 10, then just start over again.
- When you lose count and get lost in thought, don’t stress; just go back to one and start again.
- Set a timer for five minutes the first week, then 10 the next and so on. Don’t go onto a longer length of time if you aren’t getting some level of relaxation.
- Think of this like brushing your teeth. It’s something you just do automatically every morning and night – hopefully – so make your practice at the same time each day. The mind makes it easier when it knows what it’s doing and when it’s doing it.
That’s a really quick idea of the practice. I would encourage you to try some group meditation at the beginning to get your enthusiasm up, but most of all, just sit! It won’t take long to start to enjoy the many benefits this practice can bring.