World Meditation Day: Boost Mental Health with Mindful Moments
On May 21, people around the globe will stop what they’re doing to sit or walk in silence, pay attention to their breath, or repeat a mantra or affirmation. The reason? May 21 is World Meditation Day.
What Meditation Is – And What It Isn’t
You may have tried meditation before and called it quits because you couldn’t “stop your thoughts.” As it turns out, the goal of meditation isn’t to empty your mind! In its original form, meditation was a spiritual practice to help expand understanding of the sacred. In its modern secular state, meditation focuses less on the mystical. Instead, the focus is on “training” your mind to observe your thoughts openly and without judgment. Doing so can remove some of the stresses and emotions associated with your thinking, allowing you to see more clearly when thought patterns aren’t doing you any good and learn to let them go rather than get caught up in them.
Benefits of Meditation
The benefits of meditation are wide-ranging and become stronger the more consistently you practice. During a meditation session, you may experience a sense of peace or tranquility or find creative ideas or solutions occurring to you. But the boons of meditation don’t end when your session ends! Meditation can have long-term benefits for your mental, emotional, and even physical health. Just a few of meditation’s benefits include:
- Reduced stress and increased emotional and mental resilience to stressful situations and difficult emotions
- Increased self-awareness and self-confidence
- Living in the present rather than worrying about the past or the future
- Increased patience and tolerance and less anger, impatience, and resentment
- Lower resting heart rate and blood pressure
- Better quality sleep
Some research even suggests that meditation, in combination with medication and other prescribed treatments, can help people manage a range of physical health conditions, including:
- Chronic pain
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Insomnia and other sleep problems
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Tension headaches
Of course, always talk to your doctor before trying any new treatment, including meditation!
Finally, one of the most significant benefits of meditation is its accessibility. Meditation is simple, inexpensive, requires no special equipment, and you can practice anywhere. And you don’t need to devote hours of your life to the practice – as little as five minutes a day can start to boost your mental and emotional health!
Types of Meditation
Meditation is also incredibly versatile – essentially, any activity that allows you to relax and distance yourself from the typical “chatter” in your mind is a meditative activity! Some of the most common forms of meditation include:
- Mindfulness meditation. This practice focuses on building increased awareness and acceptance of the present moment. It involves observing “anchors” like the flow of your breath, the sounds around you, and your thoughts and emotions without becoming attached to them. When you get distracted by thoughts (and you will!), you shift your attention back to your anchor and begin again. Mindfulness meditation can be a silent practice.
- Guided meditation. This practice involves guided imagery or visualizations to present relaxing or inspiring scenes. As the name suggests, it involves spoken words to guide you through the visualization.
- Mantra meditation. This practice involves silent repetition of a word or phrase, typically one you find inspiring or calming. This repetition helps anchor your mind to distance yourself from your thoughts.
- Qi gong, Tai chi, and yoga. These practices involve physical movement, breathing exercises, and meditation to help you focus on the present moment.
- Walking meditation. Another form of moving meditation, this practice involves slow, deliberate walking over a short distance. Walking meditators break down the unconscious steps involved in walking – lifting one foot, moving it forward, placing the heel on the ground, shifting the weight onto the forward leg – and observe each one; this encourages a present-moment awareness. You can do the same with everyday activities, such as showering, washing dishes, or making the bed.
Ways to Celebrate World Meditation Day
Even if you’ve never been a meditator, World Meditation Day is a great time to give this powerful practice a shot. You can check out one of the many meditation and mindfulness apps out there, such as Headspace, Calm, or Insight Timer; start your 31-day meditation challenge throughout May; find a meditation group in your area; try a new yoga class; or even sit in silence for five minutes to start and end your day by focusing on your breathing.
Remember, every tiny bit adds significant benefits when it comes to meditation!