15 January 2019
Here at Colony we have a weekly lunchtime meditation class with Skotti. This is to promote wellbeing and help people to relax more during the work day. Meditation has amazing benefits, and research at Harvard University shows that it can help with depression, chronic pain, and anxiety. Great! So how can you get started?
What is meditation?
Some people feel uncertain around the idea of meditation, despite “mindfulness” being very popular these days. The idea of mindfulness can sometimes be confusing. Do I become more aware of my thoughts? What’s the point, anyway? I’d rather spend my time watching Netflix!
Feeling uncertain stops many people from enjoying the benefits of meditation, maybe because they’re told to focus so much on mindfulness.
Being too much in your mind (thinking too much) causes problems. We develop a habit of overthinking and anxiety. This means we ignore important signs from our bodies to take care of ourselves. We also disconnect from our emotions.
Meditation is more about your body than your mind. The idea behind meditation is to become more grounded in your body, and become more in tune with its messages. Meditation uses this principle to help people feel better generally, and so does yoga.
Now for some science
Meditation often uses breathing as a way to become grounded in your body. Becoming grounded means your attention is on your physical body, instead of your thoughts.
Focusing on your breath is something you can consciously control, but it’s also unconscious. It’s a connection between your body and your mind.
Breathing in turns on your sympathetic nervous system, giving your body more energy. Breathing out turns on your parasympathetic nervous system, which relaxes your body.
A very simple technique for calming down when you feel stressed or tense is to breathe out for longer than you breathe in. Try it for ten breaths.
Now for the meditation! Pick a time when you can be alone and won’t be disturbed. Make sure your phone notifications are turned to silent.
- Set an alarm for half an hour (or pick a length of time that feels comfortable for you).
- Sit down comfortably with your back supported.
- Play relaxing music with no words – try the Spotify playlist called “Deep Focus” – or pick a meditation music video on YouTube.
- Close your eyes and focus on your breath, which is somewhere around your throat. Your mind will wander and that’s normal. Keep bringing it back to your breath.
- After a while when you feel a bit more relaxed, move your attention to the part of your body that feels the most tense. Notice that body part.
- Keep your attention in that part of your body, bringing it back when your mind wanders.
- When you’ve had enough, move your attention to another part.
- Keep repeating this process of noticing tension in your body until the timer is up.
Extra tip: If you can, notice which thoughts arise when you put your attention in each part of your body. That particular place of tension is connected with certain thoughts. Notice this fact and find it interesting, but don’t judge yourself.
Even if you feel as though you have failed at meditation, any attempt to meditate still has benefits. You’re still doing good even if your mind wanders all over the place. That’s part of the process.
‘To meditate does not mean to fight with a problem. To meditate means to observe.’
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Keep practicing and make time for yourself.
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