According to several studies, 20 minutes of meditation a day for 45-60 days can have measurable effects on the brain—from better focus and more productivity to less anxiety.
Everyone reacts differently, however, so it is important to try longer or shorter sessions to see what works for you. If you are new to meditation, start with 5 minutes a day, then gradually increase to 10 minutes, then 15 minutes, then longer over the course of several weeks.
When it comes to meditation, consistency is key. So whether you are doing 10-20 minutes a day—or even if you only have 5 minutes—try to commit to doing it daily for at least 2 months to reap the benefits.
What are different types of meditation?
Meditation is the practice of deliberately analyzing your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations in a state of observance and acceptance.
There are many ways to meditate, and because it is such a personal practice, you can customize it to suit you. Techniques that have heavily researched in scientific studies include:
- Focused attention or mindful meditation: Involves concentrating on a specific thing, such as your breathing, a sensation in your body, or an object outside of you. The goal of this type of meditation is to focus intensely on one point and bring your attention back to it when your mind wanders.
- Open-monitoring meditation: Involves paying attention to everything that is going on around you and simply noticing everything without reacting.
How should I start meditating?
If you are a beginner, learning how to meditate can be intimidating. While there are a variety of different techniques out there, avoid getting bogged down by the details.
Here a few simple steps to get started:
- Sit in a comfortable position: Find a quiet place to sit in a position that is relaxed but upright.
- Concentrate on your breathing: Close your eyes and slow your breathing by taking long, deep breaths.
- Repeat an uplifting word or phrase: For about 3-4 minutes, silently repeat an uplifting word or phrase such as “re-lax” or “Aum.”
- Move into a state of quiet: Keep taking deep breaths as you move into a state of quiet, receptive observation, noting any thoughts or feelings that arise.
- Imagine yourself surrounded by light: Imagine yourself surrounded by a sphere of white light for a few minutes.
- Visualize your goals: End your session by spending 1-2 minutes visualizing your goals or imagining having already achieved them.
If any of these steps feel awkward to you at first, simply concentrate on improving one session at a time. Don’t expect to have a completely clear mind or feel completely at peace overnight. Meditation is a daily practice that may take time to master, but the benefits are worth it.
8 benefits of meditation
Although there is still much to learn about the potential benefits of meditation, the practice has proven to be an effective tool for reducing stress, improving attention, and increasing self-awareness:
- Reduces stress: Mindful meditation can give you a sense of calm, balance, and peace that can improve your emotional and mental health.
- Reduces anxiety: Meditation may help loosen the connections of specific neural pathways, meaning it helps you not react as strongly to sensations that normally cause heightened fear or anxiety. As a result, when you are confronted with upsetting sensations, you can approach them more rationally.
- Improves focus: Because meditation involves focusing your attention on something and being aware of when and how your mind wanders, it can help you improve your focus. Focused attention is similar to a muscle that must be strengthened through exercise.
- Improves memory: Meditation has been linked to improved rapid memory recall, among other things. Researchers discovered that people who practiced mindful meditation were able to adjust brain waves that screen distractions that could interfere with memory and productivity.
- Boosts creativity: Researchers at Leiden University in the Netherlands concluded that those who practiced open-monitoring meditation performed better on tasks that required them to generate new ideas.
- Promotes compassion: Studies have found that people who meditate regularly have higher levels of empathy and compassion. Part of this is due to activity in the amygdala—the part of the brain responsible for processing emotional stimuli.
- Enhances brain function: Meditation has been linked to increased gray matter levels in the hippocampus and frontal lobes of the brain. More gray matter can result in more positive emotions and long-lasting emotional stability. Meditation also reduces the effects of aging on gray matter and decline of cognitive functioning.
- Helps with psychosomatic diseases: Regular meditation helps with diseases that flare up in response to stress, such as hypertension, diabetes, migraines, and asthma.
How Long Does Meditation Take to Work? https://mindworks.org/blog/how-long-does-meditation-take-to-work/
Meditation: Process and effects: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4895748/
The Poyour of Meditation: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=1&contentid=2509
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