Simple Ways to Better Health: Learn to meditate

For centuries people have used the ancient discipline of meditation to help bring calm and wisdom and in the past 30 years there has been an increase in people taking up meditation for its health benefits.


Numerous studies have found that people who medicate regularly see their doctors less and spend fewer days in hospital. One study by the Department of Complementary Medicine at the University of Exeter found that people with asthma that were taught to meditate showed distinct improvement after four months.


Increasingly meditation is also being used as an effective way to ease pain. In a study of 90 patients published in the Journal of Behaviour Medicine, 39 took drugs to ease pain. After meditation 17 of them saw a significant improvement in pain and were able to use fewer drugs.


Meditation may also have a part to play in the treatment of infertility. One study taught relaxation to one group of infertile couples and compared with a similar group of infertile couples who did not learn deep relaxation.  The couples who learned to relax experienced less distress and were more likely to get pregnant.


Psychologists who use meditation with their patients have found that it can help reduce tension, anxiety and stress-related problems such as insomnia and high blood pressure. Meditation helps people to distance themselves from the stress in their daily lives and helps them look at any conflict with better understanding.


Meditation can ease physical complaints such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS), tension headaches and other common health problems, including irritable bowel syndrome and high blood pressure. The other health benefits of meditation include more energy, improved memory, faster reaction and a happier outlook on life. This is because meditation gives people a psychological buffer so that life’s hectic pace doesn’t knock them out. Practicing meditation is like taking a vacation once or twice a day. When you nurture yourself, you gain tremendous spin-off benefits.


Getting started with meditation:


Getting started with meditation is not difficult but you will need patience and quiet time to practise. The true benefits build over time so you need to stick with it.


Choose a time in your day to dedicate to meditation; early in the morning or just before bed are ideal. Create a meditation space in the corner of your bedroom away from noise or disturbance. Burning a few drops of an essential oil can boost concentration – rose oil instils a sense of peace, while frankincense is good for heightening awareness.


To begin, sit upright on a cushion or on the floor or on a chair. Let your body relax, with your eyes closed or simply focus on the floor in front of you. Your body should feel alert and attentive. Consciously relax your body, releasing any tension and then take a few deep breaths. Start to become aware of your breathing. Don’t force it; just observe it as it flows in and out. Feel your abdomen fall and rise. Gradually you should find that your breathing automatically begins to slow. Continue to follow your breathing. If your attention starts to wander gently bring your thoughts back to your breath. Follow the rising and falling of your abdomen. Try and sit like this for at least five minutes. As you become more experienced you can build up to 20 minutes.


Don’t jump up straight afterwards. Bring yourself slowly back to normal consciousness. Start to become aware of the room around you. Feel your body on the chair or floor. Hear the noises around you.


If you find it really hard to clear your mind, try one of these strategies: slowly count from one to 10 in your head, keeping your attention on the number. If you feel your attention wondering, simply start again at number one. Or choose a special place like a garden or beach and imagine the scene and all the sights, smells and sounds in that place.  You can also use some relaxing music if that helps to stop your mind wandering.  Some people find it easier to focus on a candle. 


Studies on meditation have found that it can lower cholesterol and, reduce high blood pressure, reduce the stress hormone and ease emotional pain and anxiety. It can even slow down the ageing process – one study found that after five years of meditating regularly, the brains of the meditators were functioning as if they were 12 years younger.

Comments are closed.