You might meditate yourself, or have at least heard about it. It's an ancient practice rooted in Eastern cultures but has become popular all over the world in the modern age. But what is meditation and what does it actually do for you? And more importantly, does it work?
Methods for meditation vary by culture, but the most popular form is mindfulness meditation. The aim is simply to focus on the present moment by being aware of what you think and feel without passing judgment.
When you pay attention to your breath, you can be more intentional about it. It's also the best starting point for meditation because it helps calm your mind and body.
Breathing deeply, focus on the sensations around you. Just be aware of what you hear, see (if your eyes are open), and smell without allowing the sensations to make your mind wander. These are all things happening right now, and that's what matters. Guided meditations are also a great tool for learning how to be present.
Remember that meditation requires frequent practice, and don't feel discouraged if it doesn't come naturally right away. It's actually part of the whole process to forgive yourself when your mind inevitably turns to the thoughts you're trying to avoid, and gently guide it back to your breath or current sensory experience.
Meditation has been found to help alleviate mental health struggles like anxiety and depression. Studies have also shown that it reduces overthinking and obsessing over things that don't ultimately matter. That's important because worrying has no impact on a future outcome and it doesn't change the past.
You might call it "letting go." It's a consistent effort to resist the unproductive chatter in your mind that prevents you from enjoying the really good things, no matter how small, that exist in the here and now.
If you think about it, you'll find that you don't naturally dwell on the present and what's happening now. You stress about everything you need to get done by the end of the week, or you think a lot about pain, regret, guilt, and anger about things that have already happened.
These feelings are valid but do nothing to alter reality. Accepting what is and becoming more focused on the present moment is the only way to truly enjoy your life. Sure, nothing is ever perfect and there is always something you could complain about. But actively choosing not to will change everything for the better.
Meditation works because it can actually change your brain chemistry, helping with more than just mental health. Improved concentration and reduction of common stress are just a couple of notable perks.
Take some time today to breathe and be right where you are. You don't ever have to be perfect at it; no one is. Don't give up if you struggle. Start now, and see what meditation can do for you.