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Health Benefits of Meditation and Tips on How to Meditate

What images come to mind when you hear the word “meditation?” Perhaps a daily activity that you’ve been quietly practicing for years? An Eastern religious practice? Or a new age fad with cross-legged hippies in an incense-filled room, chanting mantras in strange language?

Photo credit: Hartwig HKD via Flickr

Photo credit: Hartwig HKD via Flickr

So What is Meditation?

Putting any preconceived notions aside, meditation is nothing more than focusing your mind on the present and being fully aware of your deepest thoughts. Being mindful means making a conscious effort to pay attention to your inner self and notice where you are right now, rather than fixating on the past or worrying about the future.

Types of Meditation

These are some of the most popular types of meditation practices:

  • Guided meditation
  • Mantra meditation
  • Visualization
  • Prayer meditation
  • Walking meditation
Photo credit: Pablo Fernández via Flickr

Photo credit: Pablo Fernández via Flickr

Common Benefits of Meditation

  • Improved mental focus
  • Ability to cope with pain
  • Reduced stress better sleep
  • Balanced emotions and hormones
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduced anxiety and depression

How to Meditate

To get started, you’ll need to find a quiet place where you can take your mind away from the events of the day. This can be under a tree, beside a river, or even in a spare bedroom.

Some people like to place an object in front of them as they meditate, such as a candle, incense stick, or memento that has personal significance. Visual objects can help you refocus when your mind starts to wander. If you have trouble getting started, you can begin your practice by reading spiritual writings and reflecting on their meanings or jotting down your thoughts in a journal to clear your mind of the clutter.

You can try several meditation postures, such as sitting, standing, walking, or lying down. Slowly breathe in and out until you develop a natural rhythm. Focus on each individual part of your body from head to toe, noticing pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral sensations in each area. One by one, try to release stressful feelings in the mind and body.

Meditation Tips

  • Listen to relaxing music or nature sounds to quiet your mind
  • Take slow, deep breaths
  • Focus on one thought at a time so you don’t become overwhelmed
  • Don’t ignore or suppress thoughts as they arise; simply acknowledge them and move on
  • Start with five minutes per day and increase gradually over time
Photo credit: Alice Popkorn via Flickr

Photo credit: Alice Popkorn via Flickr

Meditating at Home

Plenty of alternative medicine, yoga, and wellness centers offer meditation classes, but you don’t have to take a formal class to experience the benefits of meditating. Although you may benefit from a guided group experience, you can also learn guided meditation exercises on your own in the comfort of your home. Meditation helps people of all ages, backgrounds, and religions find inner and outer peace.

Sure, you can meditate without sitting cross-legged among rows of candles in a darkly-lit room. However, some people prefer to meditate by simply taking a shower to wash off the negative energies and anxieties from the day. Others find meditative peace by going for walks or runs to burn off their negative energies and sort through their thoughts. Artists often view their creations as a form of meditation that takes them to a place of peace and higher thinking.

But no matter which method you choose, meditation holds great potential for improving both mental and physical health. So why not give it a try and see how it works for you?

What’s been your experience with meditation? Share with us in the comments below!

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