Federated Health Charities’ mission is to improve the health and quality of life of all Ontarians by supporting 21 different health charities providing critical services to those experiencing, or affected by, illness. We believe education and prevention are key parts of supporting the health of our communities so our weekly Health Hint series strives to provide tangible and easy to implement hints and tips on how to maintain your health, prevent disease, and enjoy increased quality of life. Check out our latest Health Hint on how to get started with meditation. We hope you find it helpful. If you would like to join our efforts to support the health of Ontario please consider a donation to Federated Health Charities.
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a lot of changes to how we live, work, and take care of our families. This has been a time of great disruption, that has led to more and more Canadians experiencing anxiety. Caregivers can find themselves in the position of forgetting to take care of themselves.
Meditation can be a great tool to combat anxious feelings, check in with yourself, and develop ways to cope during a stressful time in the world.
Meditation originated as a spiritual practice to develop understanding and awareness, for religious contemplation. Many religions have their own meditation practices and techniques, from the whirling of the Sufi dervishes to the Buddhist practice of sitting meditation. Meditation has become very popular as part of everyday wellness. The movements, mantras, and purpose of meditation can be used to achieve a moment of calmness in a busy day, and regular practice has been linked to many benefits for your body and health.
It’s important to remember that meditation is not one size fits all – there are many different kinds of meditative practices and techniques, and some might work better for you than others. Meditation is a practice: doing it regularly can help you become aware of your body and your emotions, and help combat feelings of anxiety and depression.
Potential Benefits of Meditation
Meditation can be used for many different reasons, whether for religious awareness or simply to make time in your day for yourself. With regular practice, meditation and mindfulness can have many benefits, including:
- Physical relaxation
- Decreased stress and anxiety
- Increased calmness
- Decreased insomnia
There are different types of meditation, including yoga, mindfulness, mantra meditation and tai chi. Mindfulness has become a focus in neuroscience research in the past two decades, and is linked to many physical and mental health benefits. Mindfulness meditation originally stemmed in Buddhist traditions, and has become more and more popular since the 1990s.
Getting Started at Home
There are many different types of meditation – sitting still, through movement, chanting a mantra… the key is to do what works for you, and not to force a technique that doesn’t. If you are new to meditation, or looking to change things up as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, here are some steps you can take from home:
Choose a space:
- Set up an area for yourself at home for meditation. It doesn’t have to be fancy (unless you want it to be), just a space that makes you feel calm and quiet.
- It’s important to choose a space that is separate from where you sleep and work – this is how you can flip the switch from your busy everyday tasks to getting ready for a meditation session.
Try guided classes and sessions that you can follow along with, such as:
Try a virtual meditation class!
If you enjoy white noise and background music, try using soundscapes during your meditation sessions:
If you enjoy podcasts, try one designed for mindfulness and meditation, such as:
- Wake me up
- The Rubin Museum: Mindfulness Meditation Podcast
- Mindfulness for Beginners
- Mindfulness in Minutes
- Meditation Minis
- Radio Headspace
Focus on your breathing:
- A simple meditation technique is to breathe in for six counts, and then out for six counts. And repeat. While you breathe in and out slowly and purposefully, pay attention to the way your body is feeling in that moment. This will help you become aware of yourself and your emotional and physical state.
Don’t worry about “emptying the mind”. Meditation comes in many different forms and has many different techniques – as long as what you’re doing works for you, you’re doing it right.
And remember – a meditation session can be as long or as short as you want or need it to be. Becoming present in your body for even five minutes a day can help you to feel more centred and able to deal with feelings of stress and anxiety. The key is practice: whether for five minutes every day, or an hour once a week – or more, or less – making meditation a habit in your everyday life can lead to great physical and emotional benefits.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our latest Health Hint!
Written by Sebastin Noor
NOTE: This article is intended to provide general health tips based on available research. You should consult with a health care professional for specific medical and dietary instructions that are right for you.
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Nierenberg, Amelia. (2020, June 22). How to Start Meditating. The New York Times. www.nytimes.com/2020/06/22/at-home/how-to-start-meditating.html.
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Tang, Y., Hölzel, B., & Posner, M. (2015). The neuroscience of mindfulness meditation. Nature Reviews. Neuroscience, 16(4), 213–225.