What on earth is Meditation and why should I give a shit?

Images via Black girl in om

I have no doubt that like me you’ve heard meditation and it’s benefits thrown around, it feels almost impossible to hear mental health without soon expecting meditation to follow. But what does it actually mean?  And how will it change my life and make me less stressed? 

According to American Psychologist meditation is the practice of using a technique to train your attention and awareness to achieve mental and emotional clarity. 

It has been a part of many religions for a long time as a clear and healthy mind are believed to lead to enlightenment and self-realisation. 
More recently it has been used in treatments to reduce stress, anxiety, depression and to improve overall well being. The primary aim is to achieve moment to moment non-judgemental awareness of self. 

Some studies have shown that meditative practices cause the brain to increase activity in the prefrontal cortex as opposed to the anterior cingulate cortex which causes a shift from anxiety and depression towards relaxation and emotional balance. 

Via Black girl in om

If you have ever struggled with anxiety, stress or depression it seems like a no brainer, but where do you even begin? YouTube videos of people in pretzelesque positions oming in a perfectly lit room? Essays on achieving enlightenment? Podcasts that leave you even more stressed? For something that should be so easy, figuring it out is definitely tricky. 

As someone who is newly exploring meditation this is what has worked for me so far:

Mantra meditation: 
This is definitely something I recommend to someone who is trying out meditation for the first time. It involves choosing a mantra (word or phrase, usually an affirmation) and repeating it throughout the meditative period. For example, when I started meditating initially I struggled with trying to free my mind entirely of thoughts so I gave myself a mantra which was; ‘balance, contentment and wholeness’. I set a specific time I wanted to meditate for and I repeated this mantra throughout. It was easy having something to focus on rather than being completely silent initially. 

Breath focused meditation:
This is where your meditative practice focuses on your breathing, I was only able to do this without getting too distracted after some time doing mantra meditation. I practise this by carrying out breathing exercises like breathing in for 3 seconds and then breathing out for 4 seconds repeatedly over a set time. This is also easier for me than being completely silent as I find I am able to concentrate because I have something to focus my attention on. 

Loving Kindness Meditation:
This is something I’m trying to wrap my head around but it is the notion that your meditative practice should centre around bringing love and kindness into your life as a way to resolve anger, resentment, stress and other negative emotions. It requires you to set an intention of love and kindness during your practice, how I’ve started practising is using breathe focused meditation with my intention set as love and kindness.  For example, during my practise, I breathe in love for 4 seconds and breathe out anger for 5. You can do this with any emotions you want to feel over any time period. 

Via black girl in om. 

I have found that although it can be a little bit complex at first, it is a very good way to calm my thoughts and relax more. I am still figuring it out myself but I hope this helps you if you are interested.