With roughly 40M Americans suffering from some type of anxiety disorder, it is no wonder that the practice of meditation and mindfulness is becoming more mainstream. It is estimated that 9-10% of the U.S. population meditates regularly to reduce stress and become more present in their daily lives.
I recently visited the Deer Park Monastery in Escondido, Ca for a Day of Mindfulness. The Monastery was founded by Buddhist monk and poet Thicht Nhat Hahn. Nestled in the mountains of North Eastern San Diego, it is a sanctuary for Buddhist monks and nuns, but also welcomes visitors. Programs include daily or weekly retreats. On my most recent visit, Deer Park hosted 120 individuals. According to members, the amount of visitors has visibly grown since 2016. Many looking for answers on how to balance the stress and problems of everyday life.
Harvard Neurologist Sara Lazar studied the affects of meditation and mindfulness through brain scans and found that meditating can literally change your brain. Her study showed that daily meditation can cause changes in the brain after just eight weeks. Here are some other ways meditation can be beneficial in your daily life.
- According to research, just 25 minutes of meditation may make everyday tasks feel less stressful.
- Meditation can make you a nicer person. In one study, individuals who had a regular meditation practice showed more empathy and laughed more.
- Meditation can boost memory and concentration by helping cut back on distracting thoughts.
- Meditation is a creativity booster. By quieting the mind, you can stimulate ideas, solutions, and make room for those moments of clarity. Think Oprah’s a-ha moment.
- Scientist have suggested meditation could be cure for insomnia. Learning to quiet the mind can benefit you at bedtime. Using the same techniques practiced during meditation, it can help you fall asleep and stay asleep.
“Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is a wonderful moment.” Thicht Nhat Hanh
Tips to help you succeed
- Find a comfortable and quiet place in your home. Make this your Meditation space. You can decorate it with candles, healing crystals, and essential oils. Keep some items that help calm and center you.
- Pick a time to meditate each day. Consistency will help you stay committed to your practice.
- Start out small. Start with 5 minutes of meditation each day. Then add on 5 minutes each week.
- If your mind starts to wander, focus on your breathe. You can either visualize the color green as you breathe in and out or you can repeat ‘I am breathing in, I am breathing out’, silently.
- Download an app. I recommend the Meditation Studio or Headspace. Both offer a variety of meditations and customizable lengths of time.
- If you need more help, find a meditation group or teacher.
Remember that like every other habit you pick up, it take practice and consistency to see progress. As you begin your practice, do not get discouraged if you find yourself distracted or miss a day. Just keep showing up for yourself, stay positive, and don’t forget to breathe!
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