Meditation has been around for hundreds of years, and while most of us understand what it entails, the power of meditation cannot truly be experienced until it is practiced regularly and with intention.
Philosopher and neuroscientist Sam Harris explains meditation as a technique for breaking the spell of distraction, if only for a few moments. “The goal is to awaken from our trance of discursive thinking—and from the habit of ceaselessly grasping at the pleasant and recoiling from the unpleasant—so that we can enjoy a mind that is undisturbed by worry, merely open like the sky, and effortlessly aware of the flow of experience in the present.”
This journey to mindfulness is, however, not the same for everyone. This is because our entire existence is experienced through our minds – and no two minds are alike. So, while some are able to ease into meditation quite naturally, others can find it frustrating and in some cases, rather boring at first. Regardless of your experience, meditation has been proven to have positive effects on one’s mental, emotional, and even physical health:
- Studies have shown that meditation helps the brain focus on the present which can help improve your concentration for other tasks in life. "Research shows we can actually train our attention and our meta-awareness, and that this is a learnable skill," says Richard Davidson, PhD.
- When we are more present we are also spending less time worried about the future or feeling “stuck” in the past. By focusing on the now we are able to reduce feelings of anxiety and, studies have shown, reduced symptoms of depression, including trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, and low mood.
- By practicing meditation, you are encouraged to slow down and look inwards, as well as focus your attention on the positives and finding comfort with where you are at. This sense of acceptance without judgment helps to build self-esteem.
- Furthermore, meditation or mindfulness can help to reduce cortisol which allows for more feelings of relaxation and lower feelings of stress.
- Meditation can even help individuals who live with chronic pain. “It's not going to be a cure all for everything and it won't necessarily make the pain go away," Davidson says. "We can recognize that the pain is there, but we don't get ensnared by it in the same way.”
Finding a technique that works for you can take a bit of trial and error. If you are new to meditation or are looking into new ways of practicing, we suggest experimenting with a couple apps and discovering what works best. Here are some suggestions:
- Headspace helps you create life-changing habits through its science-backed meditation and mindfulness tools.
- Waking Up combines meditation and mindfulness techniques with practical wisdom and works as a guide to unlocking the mind and learning how to meditate. It also contains many useful conversations with like-minded individuals.
- Calm is rated as one of the best apps to use for meditation, sleep, and relaxation – which is good news for the team whose mission it is to make the world a happier and healthier place.
Wherever you are in your journey, remember to be kind to yourself and always try to remain open to the journey because once you start, your perspective on life can dramatically alter, which is an incredibly powerful experience no matter how you go about it.