When was the last time you sat alone with your thoughts?
If that prospect sounds terrifying to you, you’re not alone. Many people are intimidated by the thought of sitting silent and still for even 5-10 minutes. In our fast-paced world, we have become accustomed to multitasking and constant distractions. It’s no wonder then, that when we finally do stop, our emotions and anxieties bubble to the surface.
However uncomfortable it may seem, meditation is a process of observation and acceptance, and over time it has been shown to decrease anxiety and improve overall health. Because of this, an increasing number of Americans are giving it a try. About 14 percent of Americans have practiced meditation at least once in the past year, a 10 percent increase from 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Meditation has been shown to be particularly beneficial in the workplace. In fact, industry leaders such as Google have started offering mindfulness and meditation resources to their employees. Studies have found that even 5 minutes of meditation or deep breathing a day can reduce workplace-related stress and improve productivity.
If you would like to add a little mindfulness to your workday, start with these seven easy tips.
- Start small. Experienced meditators can meditate for hours at a time, but if you are new to the practice, start with just a few minutes. Even two minutes a day can help you adjust to the idea of sitting with your emotions and thoughts.
- Get comfortable. To maximize your meditation experience, make sure you are seated comfortably (or even laying down) in a place with minimal distractions. If you have the opportunity to meditate outside, you may find it increases your sense of calm and relaxation.
- Don’t get caught up in the “how.” Trying to meditate “correctly” can produce feelings of stress and anxiety. If you are a beginning meditor, don’t worry about doing it the “right” way. Instead focus on consistency and try to build the habit in your life.
- Don’t try to clear your mind. There is a common misconception that meditation means having no thoughts. Instead, the practice is about noticing and accepting thoughts, emotions and sensations as they arise without lingering on them.
- Start with a body scan. A body scan—or bringing awareness to each part of the body and noticing sensation there—is an easy way to start a meditation and get into the practice of noticing and accepting.
- Accept everything. Meditation is about simply being and observing. There is nothing to change. If you notice certain thoughts, emotions, or bodily sensations arising during your meditation, practice accepting them without trying to change them.
- Try a mantra. A mantra is a sound, word or phrase that is repeated silently in one’s head throughout a meditation. Choosing a mantra and returning to it as you feel your thoughts wander can be a way to practice being present.
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