Find your inner calm

In today’s fast-paced, multitasking world, most people are trying to get their brains to do more. But growing evidence points to the benefits of training your brain to slow down.

Slow down to rev up results

The practice of mindfulness meditation, which focuses on the nonjudgmental observation of one’s breath, physical presence, and thoughts, is rapidly gaining mainstream popularity — and for good reason. Meditation has been linked with stress reduction, improved concentration, lowered blood pressure, better quality sleep, more creative thinking, a stronger immune system, increased confidence, chronic pain management, and more.

What’s on your mind?

Your brain is likely in a constant state of overdrive, attending to the task at hand, but also thinking ahead — making mental shopping lists, planning dinner, preparing for an upcoming meeting, trying to figure out when you can fit in a visit to the gym!

Your mission when meditating is to give your brain a break and focus on the present moment. Listen to your breath. Notice the pressure of the chair or floor beneath your body. Feel the temperature of the air around you. Be still, both physically and mentally. As you calm your mind, you’ll discover a sense of peace that can have lasting effects throughout your day — and your life!

Start clearing your mind

Follow these steps to try out mindfulness meditation for yourself:

  1. Set a timer for 2–5 minutes. Sit in a comfortable position in a quiet place.
  2. Close your eyes. Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose. Allow yourself to fully exhale.
  3. Notice the sensation of your breathing as it fills your lungs and then empties again. Try to focus only on your presence in that moment.
  4. When you notice your thoughts drifting, refocus on your breath. Pay attention to how you feel physically and emotionally. Observe these sensations without judgment, allowing them to change and fade away.
  5. If you have to refocus back to the present a lot, don’t get frustrated — congratulate yourself on being mindful of your thoughts!

Here are some tips to help you get the most from your meditation practice:

  • Do it every day. Try to meditate daily, preferably more than once, even if just for a few minutes at a time.
  • Experiment. Explore different types of meditation until you find one that works for you.
  • Be patient. Don’t worry that you’re not doing it right if you don’t feel different immediately; training your brain takes time.
  • Mutter a mantra. If you find it hard to focus on your breathing, consider repeating a mantra — a sound, word, or phrase — as is used in transcendental meditation.
  • Guide yourself. With guided meditation, you imagine yourself in a peaceful place, like the beach, to help you relax.
  • Strike a pose. Yoga is considered by many to be a form of meditation — and could be a good option if sitting still isn’t for you.
  • Get help. A wide variety of meditation apps are available for smartphones, or you can take a class — ask around at local health clubs, community centers, libraries, or hospitals.

Sources: webmd.com, livestrong.com, meditationscience.weebly.com, The New York Times (“Meditation for a Good Night’s Sleep,” February 23, 2015; “Think Less, Think Better,” June 17, 2016; “How Meditation Changes the Brain and Body,” February 18, 2016)