As we are presented with the positive effects of gratitude or have even picked up a pen and paper and began to put our ideas into the universe, we can also bring forth other means of mental practices.
Sharing what you are grateful for is one way to bring us to the present moment and allow us to gain mental clarity, however other options available can be incredibly beneficial. Some of these include yoga, stretching and grounding for the body, but for the mind, we can turn to and begin to focus on meditation.
What is Meditation?
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) states that meditation is “a mind and body practice that has a long history of use for increasing calmness and physical relaxation, improving psychological balance, coping with illness, and enhancing overall health and well-being. Mind and body practices focus on the interactions among the brain, mind, body, and behavior.” (1)
Often those who struggle to show gratitude are not able to live in the present moment, slow down their thoughts, or are unable to experience a connection between their mind and body.
When we practice meditation, we are essentially teaching ourselves to slow down outside thoughts, feelings and circumstances that create negativity in our lives.
When we can push and see past this negativity, we bring in a positive light into all aspects of our life, bringing us better energy, mood, focus and to better handle our emotions.
As a practice that has been potentially used for thousands of years, we are now looking at hundreds of different techniques. When it’s already a difficult thought in trying to slow down our minds to complete stillness, figuring out how to do it is a question we often ask.
While it will always be your personal preference in which meditation technique works best for you, let us guide you through it.
Guided or Unguided Meditation?
To keep it simple, the name really speaks for itself. A guided meditation means that you have a teacher or app guide you through the process, an unguided meditation means you meditate alone, in silence, without any outside disturbances.
Deciding which option better suits you will be your first step in beginning meditation. If you are unsure of which one to choose, you can really decide on how easy it is for you to slow your mind down. If you are someone who is able to control their thoughts, an unguided meditation may work perfectly for you. You will be able to simply sit, relax your body and calm your mind. For those that aren’t able to slow themselves down, a guided mediation will be your best option.
In a guided meditation, the teacher or app will be able to explain to you the various feelings or thoughts you may have, will help you follow some basic meditation steps and may even help you bring these techniques into your everyday life.
Types of Meditation
- Calming meditation: Calming the mind and working to develop better concentration. You will be generally focusing on a specific thing like breathing, a word or sound, an object or a part of your body. Focusing on these things allows you to return to them if you seem to lose focus while practicing meditation.
- Insightful meditation: Wanting to develop a specific intention which could be thoughtfulness, compassion or even prolonging concentration. You will be acknowledging your thoughts and any feelings in your body with acceptance. Moving any negative thoughts or feelings away if need be.
- Concentration meditation: Focusing on prolonged amounts of concentration and teaches to focus on the mind. You will be allowing thoughts and feelings to arise, acknowledging them, then moving them to the side to return on your focus. This too can have specific things you can focus on to help keep concentration stable.
- Heart-centred meditation: Not only relaxing your mind, thoughts and feelings but giving more focus to your heart. Instead of focusing on a certain object or visualization, you will be focusing on your heart and the energy you possess in your chest.
- Mindfulness meditation: Solely focusing on any negative thoughts or feelings that arise in your mind. You will be allowing these thoughts or feelings to move through your mind without judgment, and work to release them to continue to a calmer state.
- Tai chi or Qigong: If you are not someone who can simply sit still, utilizing a moving mediation may be perfect for you. Tai Chi or Qigong uses both physical exercise and breathing to create a focus and connection between your body and mind.
- Transcendental meditation: Using a mantra which you continuously repeat in your mind. You can choose a phrase, word or sound to repeat to yourself and allow you to stay focused. This technique aids in quieting down thoughts and is one of the more well-known techniques because of this. (2)
How to Start Your Meditation Practice
The great thing about meditation is it's not about what equipment you have, but is based on your time and dedication. Remember, apps are always available to help guide you through the meditation process, but here are some steps to get you on your way to productive meditation.
- Take some time during your day to step away from any commitments or people and try to step into a peaceful place. If there is any nature around you, choose to mediate here. You can surround your meditation spot with plants and flowers, candles, incense or anything that will aid you in feeling relaxed.
- Sit comfortably on the ground with a straight back. You can always use a chair if you prefer.
- Close your eyes and use one of the following techniques above to find your focus. As stated previously, it can be an object, mantra, sound, idea, or even your own breathing.
- Take slow and deep breathes and work to relax your whole body and mind. Make sure to unclench your jaw, relax your shoulders and relax the muscles around your eyes as we often carry tension there.
- Work to keep your mind focused and remember that if you lose focus with your thoughts, move back to what you were initially focusing on.
- Work to do this for around 10 minutes a day, preferably at the same time every day. If this is not doable, you can always work to do 5 minutes in one part of your day and 5 minutes in the other.
With science giving us all the insight we need to understand that meditation really is amazing for our physical and mental health (including aiding in pain, blood pressure, IBS, ulcerative colitis, anxiety, depression, insomnia, smoking cessation plus more (3), we really shouldn’t be sidestepping such a huge potential healer.
As long as we can remember this is a process and something that takes time and patience, the outcome will be overwhelmingly positive and you’ll wonder why you never started doing this sooner.