Meditation 101: What is Meditation and Why is it Helpful?

Does it feel like your mind is always moving a mile a minute? Do you have trouble living mindfully? Do you wish you had more time to slow down and appreciate the little things in life? If you answered yes to any of these, you might be an excellent candidate for daily meditation.

Keep reading to learn more about meditation and how it can make a difference in your daily life!

What is meditation?

When most people think of meditation, they think of someone sitting with their legs crossed, thumb and index fingers touching, and chanting om mantra. While that is what meditation may look like for some, meditation is very flexible and may look a hundred different ways for a hundred different people.

Meditation is defined as the practice of using a technique (whether focusing on one thing or simply practicing mindfulness) to train your attention and awareness. The goal of meditation is to achieve a clear, stable, and emotionally calm state of mind.

You’ll hear the word “mindfulness” a lot in discussions of meditation. Mindfulness is defined as the ability to present and focused on whatever is going on at the moment. That would be nice, no?

Why is meditation helpful?

It may not be immediately apparent why sitting still and training your focus and awareness would have any benefits or change anything within us at all. Our brains are complex and often enigmatic, so it is fascinating to learn why meditation is so powerful and effective.

The comparison is often made between meditation and exercising a new muscle. It’s going to be uncomfortable at first, but with practice, you develop capabilities you didn’t have before, capabilities you might not have known you could have.

You might sometimes feel like you’re at the mercy of your thoughts and feelings. Stress, anxiety, fear, anger, and sadness can feel like powerful beasts over which you have no power. Meditation does not get rid of these thoughts and emotions, but it does allow you to observe them with a greater sense of perspective, allowing you to understand them and let them pass.

How do you meditate?

Meditation is a lot like yoga, but still. Most meditation practices involve sitting still in a quiet place, calming the mind, and focusing on your breathing. This can be done wherever or whenever you want. 

When you try meditation for the first time, don’t feel discouraged if your mind is running and jumping from “I need to do laundry” to “I wonder if it’s going to rain” to “That news story earlier was sad” to “What am I going to make for dinner?” It’s only natural that your mind will feel more cluttered than normal when you give yourself space to be alone with your mind.

The key is to keep practicing. When your mind drifts, acknowledge the thought that popped into your head like it’s a cloud passing through your mind. Let it pass, then bring your focus back to your breathing. Like any muscle, your brain will become used to being mindful, and it will get easier and easier over time.

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