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How to Meditate to Improve Your Mental Health

How to Meditate to Improve Your Mental Health

If you’ve never tried to meditate, it doesn’t take long to give it a go. Along with a step by step introduction to meditation, here a few basic things to know about how to meditate to improve your mental health.

 

How to Meditate

  1. Create a Space: This could be a literal task, such as informing your family that you wish to be left undisturbed for a certain period of time. It could be making a commitment to finding time in your schedule each day—even if it’s only 5 or 10 minutes—to meditate. You could make your first attempt during your next trip into the mountains. You might find it helpful to set a timer, so you don’t have to worry about the duration of the session while you’re meditating. Smartphone apps for meditation provide several useful aids, including the ability to take your meditation space with you wherever you go.
  2. Pick a Technique: There are many ways to meditate. You can follow a guided meditation. You can choose a short mantra to say silently and focus your attention. You can focus on your breathing. You can gaze at a candle. You can listen to your thoughts. If you just don’t know where to start, breathing meditation is one of the most common techniques for both beginners and experts. But there’s no need to overthink it: You can always try different techniques later on.
  3. Establish Posture: You want to be as comfortable as possible without slouching or lounging. Meditation is not the same thing as taking a nap. Sluggishness is not the same as calm. Ideal posture and comfort level may not be possible for some, and that’s okay. Depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions may cause aches, pains, and general discomfort. Posture is usually more important: Simply maintaining good posture is its own treatment for depression, while the physical discomfort may subside during the meditative session.
  4. Give it a Try: Without trying to control it, begin to notice your breath, or other chosen subject. Notice your mind wander and run into the same thoughts that nag you throughout the day. Then bring your focus back to the present moment. Expect this to happen several times. Try to focus on the process rather than whether or not “you’re getting it.” The idea is to achieve a quiet mind, but it’s not uncommon to feel like your mind is more active at the beginning of a session. Instead of dislodging the chaotic thoughts of your everyday mind, the meditation may, at first, simply add its voice to the mix. Eventually, the present awareness will begin to assert itself and the other thoughts will begin to recede.
  5. Patience and Perseverance: If you feel overwhelming emotional or psychological distress, it may be time to consult a licensed mental health professional. But know that there is no need to feel ashamed. You can’t go back and unthink thoughts, so just let them go. Your very first try you may spend the entire session struggling to stay in the present and let your mind wander without running into these thoughts. And, for many, here’s the biggest surprise about meditation: It ain’t easy! Or, at least, it isn’t easy to get really good at. So give it some time, and give it some practice. And while many people notice a difference right away, even the best meditation is unlikely to show dramatic results from a single session.

 

Further Reading

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