Looming deadlines, late nights and countless emails. There are a million things to stress about daily.
When not managed well, stress can eventually lead to negative impacts on your mental well-being and health.
As strange or self-indulgent as it sounds (well to cynics like me anyway), a few minutes of meditation a day could be what you need.
Once considered just for hippies, meditation and mindfulness are now mainstream and increasingly seen as a legitimate way to treat anxiety and depression.
In fact, a recent survey by the Pure Group found that most Singaporeans are aware of a need for mindfulness, with 33% of respondents turning to meditation and yoga to destress.
Of these, more than two thirds felt that meditation and mindfulness exercises helped clear their mind and helped reduce negative thinking.
- Meditation involves intentionally setting aside time to focus on something positively good for yourself. It can involve a lot of techniques or practices to reach this increased level of consciousness.
- Mindfulness is just being aware and can be practiced both informally and formally (when practiced as meditation).
Scientifically-proven benefits of mindfulness and meditation
Mindfulness meditation can help you deal with anxiety or stress.
Mindfulness mediation helps those with anxiety distinguish between a productive problem-solving thought and a nagging worry that has no benefit. These practices alter your reaction to stress or anxiety by training the brain to achieve a sustained focus when negative thinking, emotions or physical sensations intrude.
Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), which incorporates mindfulness exercises into your daily routine, has been used to treat depression and prevent a relapse.
Mindfulness meditation can help regulate your mood and emotions and make you a happier (or just less negative) person.
It trains you to notice and distance negative thoughts and feelings, while helping you understand that you don’t have to act on them. In other words, mindfulness helps you achieve sustained attention that can help you develop positive emotions.
Mindfulness meditation helps you concentrate and stay focused, as well as improve your cognitive ability.
A recent Harvard study found that meditation can train your brain to suppress irrelevant sensations (i.e. distractions like scrolling through Instagram) and regulate the flow of sensory information between your brain regions. The resultant increase in clarity and self-awareness leads to better decision making.
For those consummate couch potatoes out there, the good news is that a recent study has found that engaging in mindful activity can even ‘mimic’ the mental health benefits of exercise – like improved mood and decreased stress levels, without actually having to exercise. Yup, I’m sold.
Now to find out which type of meditation is right for you.
- This meditation practice focuses on site and visual stimulation and involves fixing the gaze on an object (e.g. flame of a candle, tip of thumb etc) for a period of time to develop concentration and to calm the mind.
- Trataka improves focus, memory and visualisation skills, as well as centres the mind in a state of awareness and attention.
- Also known as yogic sleep, Yoga Nidra is a state of conscious deep sleep, where your mind is conscious, but you are lying down with your eyes closed and body relaxed.
- It involves a guided meditation where you will follow specific instructions to focus on different body parts and to relax them. This is particularly helpful to help you relax and gain a sense of clarity.
- This is the practice of breath control through yogic breathing and concentration exercises that lead to a meditative state.
- It is believed that regular practice purifies the body and calms the mind.
- Nada means flow of sound. You will concentrate on sound vibration generated by chanting, singing, mantra repetition or external sound such as singing bowls, tingsha or sacred musical instruments.
- The sound vibration balances and optimises the brain frequency and helps release negative emotions, reduce stress and relax the body.
- This meditation method includes moving the body to the rhythm of sound or breath to bring the mind and body in union to the present moment
- It is a simple way to enter into a meditative state by focusing on your state of mind while engaging in these movements.
Simple meditation practices to start with
A simple 5-10-minute meditation exercise:
(Ideally, this should be done in a purposeful space and time before sleep or upon waking.)
- Find a quiet place away from any distractions.
- Focus your mind by doing any of the following:
- Listen to your breath, focusing on the sensations during inhalation and exhalation
- Fix your gaze and focus on an object with your mind clear
- Silently repeat a positive mantra or resolution to yourself
- Continue the process for 1-2 mins and observe if you’re feeling clarity in your mind or if you’re distracted
- Repeat steps two and three for three to five times and take note of how distracted you are or if you feel calm and still, which means the practice was a success!
If you prefer guided meditation exercises, you can start off with these free meditation apps like Calm, Headspace or Aura or sign up for a free trial class at Pure Yoga.
PS: Pure Yoga has put together a series of interactive maps to showcase hidden spaces of tranquility in the city.
Find out more here or share a space where you find calm amidst the chaos on Facebook with the #PureCities & #PureSingapore by 31 Aug 2018, and you could win a one-year yoga membership at Pure Yoga.