health benefits of meditation and mindfulness
Healthy Living

How Meditation Can Help You Lower Your Anxiety and Stress Levels

Jul 6 2020
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Does the current COVID-19 pandemic have you feeling on edge? Between disruptions to our normal routines as well as constant uncertainty, this period of time has been one of stress and anxiety for many individuals.

If you can relate to these feelings, there may be an activity that can help you ease your mind: meditation. Meditation and mindfulness are more than just hot topics. Learn how they can help you!

The origins of meditation

In a world full of health and wellness trends, meditation is experiencing somewhat of a revival. While no one knows exactly when meditating originated, its earliest references date back to 5th century Hindu scriptures. Meditation as we know it today began around 5,000 years ago.

So why the spike in popularity? The act of meditating started spreading into Western society in the 1960s, when professors and researchers began understandings its many health benefits. Prior to this, meditation was used more widely as a religious practice.

Fast forward to today’s technology-obsessed culture, and it seems more people than ever are calling on meditation. Between mindfulness apps, boutique meditation studios and expensive retreats, meditation is now a billion-dollar industry.

What exactly is meditation?

There are no parameters for what counts as meditation and what doesn’t. The two most important things are that you remain physically still and that you focus on your breath. You don’t have to be in a fancy studio to get your Om on — your favorite corner of the couch, a quiet space outdoors, or your bed are great options. We recommend avoiding bright lights and making sure the temperature is neither too hot nor too cold.

While meditating is the act of being still, mindfulness is the extension of that practice into your everyday life. So while unfortunately eating a pizza doesn’t count as meditation, your ability to slow down and enjoy each bite does count as mindfulness. Meditating often leads to increased mindfulness, which results in benefits such as eating less, better emotional reactivity, and increased relationship satisfaction.

Tips to start meditating

If you’ve been thinking about meditating but aren’t sure where to start, use these tips to quiet your mind and forget about your to-do list:

  1. Schedule it: Choose a 15- or 30-minute block to devote to meditation each week. Commit to it just like you would anything else in your schedule.
  2. Experiment: Your meditation practice doesn’t need to mirror anyone else’s. Find what works for you by experimenting with different sounds, scents and visuals. If your mind starts to wander, try a guided meditation on an app, such as Headspace.
  3. Unplug: Turn your phone and other screens off so you’re not tempted to check in. If you’re using an app, simply place your phone on the other side of the room so you’re not tempted to reach for it.
  4. Start small: Meditating is called a practice for a reason. Beginning with even just a few quiet moments is a start. To achieve deeper benefits, you’ll want to work yourself up to increments of at least 15 minutes.
  5. Focus on your breath: One of the best ways to quiet internal chatter is finding a point of focus. We recommend concentrating on your breath for 100 reps.

Practicing yoga, monitoring sleep, and maintaining a balanced diet are great complements to meditating.

Need to talk to someone about any mental health concerns? Learn more about the behavioral health services offered at Mercy Health. 


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