An expert shares her tips and tricks on how to finally Zen out.
You don’t have to practice yoga, hoard crystals, or sip green juice to know that meditation provides a myriad of benefits for our minds and bodies. Studies show that it reduces stress, boosts productivity, enhances creativity, improves your memory, and helps you sleep better. Mindfulness meditation can even physically change the structure of your brain, according to a study at Massachusetts General Hospital.
“Meditation is like exercise,” says Laurie Wang, co-founder of Uplift, a Boston-based company that offers group meditation classes. “The brain is a muscle we can exercise just like the rest of our body.” But in a world of constant distractions, it can be hard to find a few moments to Zen out. But take a deep breath, and follow Wang’s tips and tricks on how to finally feel the ohm.
To me, mindfulness meditation is about living in the present moment, bringing my full attention to whatever it is that I am doing. It means cultivating a sense of clarity, calm, and centeredness that helps me be more productive at work and stay more connected with those around me.
Start with as short a session as you can manage, and work your way up. Meditating right when you wake up, before bed, or just after work also helps make sure we don’t forget to carve out time.
Try attending a guided meditation class. It’s a great way to learn the basics, get comfortable with meditation, and find others who are interested in meditation. There are also several apps that cater to beginners.
It is totally normal for your mind to wander. When you notice that it has, just note where it has wandered, and then gently bring your attention back to your breath. Mindfulness is not about pushing away thoughts, but instead observing and accepting the thoughts that come. Each time we bring our attention back to our breath, we are flexing that muscle and training our attention.
There is not one way to meditate correctly. But, if you bring awareness to your breath and body, notice when you get distracted, and try not to judge your thoughts and sensations, you are on the right path.
Commit to taking just one mindful breath a day. If you can do that, it will start to become a habit, and you will want to meditate more. Having a meditation buddy or whole community of meditators is a great way to stay accountable and share your progress.
Like exercise, meditation will get easier the more you do it—though challenging days are sure to pop up. You can chart your progress by keeping track of each experience in a journal or app (there are even some meditation apps tied to wearable technology that monitor brain waves) or having weekly sessions with a friend or instructor.
We can bring mindfulness to any activity, by giving our full attention in the present moment. When eating a meal, concentrate on the taste and texture of the food. When talking with a friend, devote your whole attention to that person and truly listen. As Thích Nhất Hạnh, a great Vietnamese monk, once said, “While washing the dishes, one should only be washing the dishes.”
I am very excited that mindfulness meditation is now reaching an inflection point, as more and more people realize its benefits. Soon mindfulness will be as ubiquitous as physical exercise—a “no-brainer” (no pun intended!) for those who wish to be their best, healthiest selves.