Meditation has become a popular wellness practice, and doctors now prescribe it to help their patients improve their health.
Regardless of your age or level of experience, you can benefit from the practice of meditation. Practicing a few minutes each day can bring noticeable benefits to your mental and physical health.
1. Focus on your breathing
If you find that your mind wanders during meditation, it’s easy to gently bring your attention back to your breath. Instead of trying to control your breath, simply notice the natural sensations of your inhale and exhale one at a time.
To begin, sit in a comfortable position. Your feet should be flat on the floor, or you can use a cushion for extra support.
Once you feel ready, focus on the sensation of your breath in every part of your body — chest, throat, nose, belly, etc. Count the number of inhale and exhale, counting one for each breath until you reach ten.
2. Practice self-compassion
If you struggle with a lot of negative thoughts, self-compassion is a great way to turn them around. Instead of thinking that you’re weak, try to see that the thoughts in your head are just temporary visitors who need to stay until you can get a better handle on them.
It’s a skill that you can learn and practice, and it can be especially helpful while you’re meditating. Research suggests that people who are more self-compassionate tend to be happier and healthier.
In addition to reducing stress and anxiety, studies have shown that self-compassion can also lead to more positive relationships. It can help you to feel less tempted to blame others for your mistakes, which will make you more likely to forgive them and find new ways to move forward.
3. Focus on your body
Using the breath as your focus is probably one of the most popular and most successful methods of meditation. It provides you with a point of reference for coming back to each time your mind wanders off.
It’s not uncommon for your mind to start to flit around during meditation and this can be hard to deal with.
If this is happening to you, you can try focusing on your body instead. You can sit in a comfortable position (sitting on the floor or sitting in a chair) and follow the sensation of your breathing.
4. Focus on your thoughts
While meditation isn’t about erasing thoughts, it is about gently returning your attention to your breath when they begin to wander. This is a key part of the practice, and it’s essential for preventing your mind from drifting away.
The more you practice, the better at focusing on your breath you will become. Focusing can be done by noticing one thing at a time, such as an image, object or mantra, or by using relaxed breathing.
Relaxed breathing involves deep, even-paced breathing that uses the diaphragm muscle to expand your lungs. It also slows your breathing, helps you take in more oxygen and reduces the use of shoulder, neck and upper chest muscles so that you breathe more efficiently.
5. Focus on your emotions
When it comes to meditation, you should not try to suppress or control your emotions. Instead, focus on allowing them to be present and accepting the way they make you feel without judgment or anger.
A simple way to do this is to use an anchor, such as breathing in and out, or a word or phrase that you repeat silently, says Christina Dixon, a certified mindfulness instructor at Harvard University.
If your mind begins to wander, gently nudge it back to the anchor. This is a great way to train your brain to quiet the monkey mind and return to a calm state of mind.
Practicing emotion regulation is one of the main reasons why meditation is so effective at reducing stress and anxiety. It helps you learn to cope with strong emotions in a healthy way, without letting them take over and interfere with your everyday life.