You might associate meditation with ancient religions, or as something a bit too ‘hippy’. However, fitting in a few minutes of simple meditation into your day could really help you to focus and think clearly. Some users find it gives them mental energy to concentrate on what they need to do. Giving yourself a bit of ‘me time’ can also let you relax and unwind.
Recent research suggests regular meditation helps to protect brain connections and reduce age-related brain degeneration. Another study has also linked meditation with reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol. High levels of this hormone have been linked to negative effects on the body, such as blood sugar imbalance and weight gain.
We asked Amisha Bhavsar, a meditation teacher with over 10 years’ experience, for some advice on getting started.
How do I meditate?
- Breathe slowly and deeply, thinking about the air flowing in and out.
- Relax all the muscles in your body in turn. Start with your feet, legs, and tummy muscles. Then your shoulders, and neck. Finish with the muscles in your face and scalp.
- Picture a relaxing scene. In your mind, walk on a deserted beach, travel in a hot-air balloon, or swim through a deep blue ocean – or remember a time and a place when you were at your most relaxed. Enjoy the scene you have created.
- Use the scene to move your mind away from what’s happening around you -away from any nagging thoughts and emotions.
- After a while bring yourself back by thinking about your surroundings. Then wiggle your toes, and begin to gently flex the muscles in your hands, feet, arms and legs.
Amisha recommends spending 5-10 minutes meditating first thing in the morning. This helps you start your day with a positive outlook. Meditation at the end of the day is helpful too for restful sleep. Also try to meditate for 30 seconds to a minute, a couple of times during the day.
You can meditate at your desk without it eating into your work time. Use moments like when your computer takes a while to boot up; or you’ve been put on hold on the phone; or when you wait for the kettle to boil. If you take public transport you could meditate as you travel into and out of work. This will give you the head space to start and leave work with a clear mind. Remember to meditate at the weekend too – like everything, practice makes perfect.
Keep your eyes open; this allows you to meditate anytime, anywhere. It also means you stay awake and alert, with no temptation to nod off. Noise can be a challenge when you’re trying to switch off. Try using headphones to listen to soothing music, while blocking out external noise.
Meditation is about directing the flow of your thoughts - not stopping them. Don’t worry if your mind wanders onto other things. Just keep bringing your thoughts back to that relaxing scene. Make meditation something you enjoy, rather than something you need to remember to do every day.
Did You Know?
Meditation is thought to develop the connections between brain areas, letting the brain process information quicker.
We are grateful for the expertise provided by Amisha Bhavsar at Inner Space, a meditation and personal development centre in Central London.
- Kurth F, Cherbuin N, Luders E. Promising Links between Meditation and Reduced (Brain) Aging: An Attempt to Bridge Some Gaps between the Alleged Fountain of Youth and the Youth of the Field. Front Psychol. 2017 May 30;8:860. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00860. eCollection 2017.
- Rosenkranz MA, Lutz A, Perlman DM, et al. Reduced stress and inflammatory responsiveness in experienced meditators compared to a matched healthy control group. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2016 Jun; 68: 117–125. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2016.02.013
- Can Stress Cause Weight Gain? WebMD. Accessed 17 April 2020. https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/stress-weight-gain#1.