Meditation is more than just a simple way to relax, it has actually been scientifically proven to have positive effects on the brain which allows us to process information more easily, make clearer decisions, and have less fears and worries. A recent study at The University of Massachusetts found that participants in the study who meditated regularly showed a shift in their brain activity. The activity in the brains of those who meditated moved from the amygdala and right frontal cortex to the left frontal cortex. This is important because the amygdala is the part of the brain where fears develop and are processed and the right frontal cortex is the part of the brain where stress is processed. The left frontal cortex is the calm part of the brain, so having all of your stresses, depressive thoughts, fears and worries move to the calmest part of the brain allows you to become calmer and happier than if you were not meditating regularly, and the study proved this to be true with follow up assessments of the participants.

Meditation can also help reduce depression and anxiety, help deal with substance abuse and addictions, reduce obsessive thoughts, heal grief, increase energy and immune system functioning, increase your overall feeling of safety and comfort, improve your sense of empathy, improve communication and relationships with loved ones, improve self-esteem, self-worth and overall confidence and much, much more.

So now that you know the science behind meditation and what it can do for you, take the next few minutes to learn how to do the most basic form of meditation. Then, set aside a few quiet moments to try it out for yourself.

There are many different types of meditation, but the one generally recommended for beginners is called Mindfulness Meditation. The purpose of it is to calm and still the mind. Like most of us, you probably have a million thoughts racing through your head and wonder how on Earth you would ever have just a few minutes where you could just make them all stop. With Mindfulness Meditation it is possible! While meditating you focus on your breathing and just let the thoughts float by as if they were clouds. You simply acknowledge that they have floated into your awareness and let them go. It is important not to label them at first or continue with any inner dialog about each thought. As you progress with your meditation over the next few sessions and get comfortable with it you can begin to label each thought by just saying to yourself “thinking” or labeling the emotion you feel that was triggered by the thought that is floating by, like “anger,” “fear,” “sadness,” “anxiety,” and so on.

Here are the steps for your first meditation session:

  • Find a quiet peaceful space where you will not be disturbed by your children, your spouse, your pet, the phone.. anything, for at least 10 minutes for your first attempt. Over time you should try to increase this to 30 minutes.
  • Next you must be seated properly. You can either sit in a chair with your back straight, your feet firmly on the floor and your hands resting in your lap. Or you can sit cross legged on the floor or a cushion. Either way be sure you are sitting up right and not slouching- the idea is to be awake and aware, not sleepy.
  • You can either close your eyes or focus on a spot on the floor a couple of feet ahead of you. It helps some people to set a candle in this line of vision and focus on the flame.
  • Now begin to concentrate on your breathing. It is best to do deep belly breaths, so instead of your chest rising and falling as you breath your belly will be expanding and contracting. Breath as slow as you comfortably can without putting too much effort into controlling the breath.
  • Continue to focus on your breathing, paying attention to every part of the sensation; from feeling the air pass through your nostrils to the completion of the exhale.
  • Simply note any thoughts that arise (and they will!) as you let each one pass like a cloud. Any time you start losing focus by beginning inner dialog or developing  worry, fear, anxiety, anger or other feeling, go back to focusing on each breath and those feelings and the thought will subside.

Don’t worry if you don’t do too well on your first try, even people who have been meditating for years had a rough start or still have days when their meditation doesn’t go as well as they had hoped. Just pick it back up again the next day, and try it again! It will be worth it!