The Happiness Class: Meditation
You will learn to pay close attention to your thoughts and to achieve a heightened state of awareness. The end result is a greater sense of peace, clarity and focus.
What Is It?
If you’re a newcomer to meditation, you could be forgiven for dismissing it as something that’s simply not for you. After all, the stereotypical image of New Age hippies sitting cross-legged in the Om position is not exactly for everyone. However, with the advent of apps like Headspace and Calm, millions of people are becoming switched on to the very real benefits of this ancient practice.
The primary goal of meditation is to learn how to better control our own state of mind. We’ve all experienced times when we’ve felt anxious, sad, isolated or nervous. Often, these feelings can be overwhelming - as if we have no control of them. Meditation is a way to remedy this. You will learn to pay close attention to your thoughts and to achieve a heightened state of awareness. The end result is a greater sense of peace, clarity and focus.
What Are The Benefits?
The science of meditation is well established, and there are hundreds of studies which show the benefits of the practice for both your mental and physical health. These benefits include more restful sleep, reduced levels of stress and anxiety, greater ability to concentrate, improved social relationships and an enhanced sense of self-awareness. Those who practise meditation find it easier to enjoy each moment rather than getting lost in spiralling thoughts.
How Do I Do It?
The practice itself is deceptively simple, requiring no equipment and no more than five or ten minutes of your time each day. The main objective is to become fully engaged in the here and now, to learn to merely observe your thoughts rather than getting lost in them.
Start by sitting in a comfortable position with your spine upright. Close your eyes and bring your attention to your breath. Begin to notice the sensations in your body as you experience them. The weight of your hands, the feeling of your back against the chair, the sensation of breathing. When you find your attention wandering, calmly and without judgement bring your attention back to your breath.
At first, you may be surprised at how difficult this is. You will inevitably get lost in a fog of thoughts, some of them about past events, some of them about future events. Meditation is about bringing your attention only to the present. The more you do it, the better you become - it really is like a mental version of going to the gym!
Where Can I Learn More?
Headspace and Calm are fantastic apps which enable you to track your meditation progress. They provide guided meditations and offer encouragement in the form of streaks and reminders. Alternatively, YouTube has a wide range of guided meditations that you can incorporate into your day.