It is World Mental Health Day on 10 October. Take this opportunity to rest your body and train your brain with meditation for better mental resilience and to destress and create a positive mindset.
Meditation is to the mind what exercise is to the body. Although there are many forms of meditation, it primarily involves the practice of mindfulness, where you focus your mind on a particular object, thought or activity to achieve a mentally clear and calm state, and to become aware of and observe your thoughts, feelings and mental state.
People who meditate experience a variety of health and wellness benefits, including improved stress tolerance, less anxiety and depression, better mental clarity, concentration, focus, calmness, and emotional positivity.
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How to meditate
Step 1: Choose a quiet, calm, peaceful environment with no external distractions and where no one will interrupt you. Sit in a comfortable position on the floor, your bed, on a cushion, or on a chair or bench, or lie flat on the ground. Rest your hands comfortably on your lap, on each knee or next to you on the ground, with palms facing up if you are lying down.
Step 2: Close your eyes and turn your awareness inward.
Step 3: Start slowing your breathing in a deliberate, intentional way. Inhale slowly for three counts, and exhale for another three counts. Keep this breathing pattern and only focus on breathing in and out deeply.
Step 4: Notice where your mind starts to wander to as you try to focus on your breathing. Your mind will continuously wander throughout your session, and you will feel like you cannot control it – this is normal, especially for beginners. Meditation allows us to slow down enough to realise and notice where our mind wanders. The key is not to try to fight it, but to merely recognise and acknowledge that your mind drifts, then bring your concentration and awareness back to your breathing. Instead of focusing on your breath, you can also repeat a mantra or word, or visualise an object. Every time your mind drifts, merely refocus on your mantra or object for the entirety of your practice.
Step 5: Continue with the process for between 2-20 minutes, depending on your proficiency and ability to maintain focus. However, longer is often better, at least at first.End your meditation session with a few deep breaths and a smile.
The key to mastering the practice of meditation is consistency. Try to meditate at the same time every day. Early mornings before everyone else gets up and the house gets too busy is ideal as this also creates mental clarity and calmness for the day ahead.
Otherwise, use whatever uninterrupted time you have available during the course of your day, like a midday recharge over lunch, or just before going to bed at night.
Some days will be easier than others. As long as you return to the practice, you will improve and become healthier, happier, more focused, less anxious and more at peace.
Written by Mariska du Plessis