One third of corporate Australia is living with stress and anxiety, up from a fifth a decade earlier. Long-term stress can lead to a variety of mental health issues, including depression.
But there is an easy, free way to start reducing that stress in just a few minutes a day – meditation.
Meditation has been practiced since ancient times and was historically a way that various cultures tried to be closer to their god/s. Today, it’s widely practiced to reduce stress, clear the mind, aid focus and relax.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “when you meditate, you clear away the information overload that builds up every day and contributes to your stress.”
In this increasingly digitised world, work and family are competing for our time with television, social media, emails and so on. Through meditation, you can not only practice reducing stress but also learn to drown out distraction, stay focused and be present.
But how do you fit meditation into a busy schedule? And how do you actually go about starting to meditate. Here are our five quick tips to make meditation a normal part of your daily routine.
- Set aside a specific time of day
Maybe first thing after you wake up (before reaching for the phone and checking emails) or last thing in the evening (to help you clear your mind before bed, leading to a better night’s sleep). Routine is key to starting any new habit.
- Find a quiet place
Somewhere you are not likely to be interrupted or distracted, somewhere you can sit comfortably. You do not need to sit cross-legged on the floor, you can sit on a chair, just avoid situations that are too comfortable – you don’t want to doze off.
- Clear the mind
It’s not always easy, especially if you’re new to meditation, but start by focusing on your breath. In and out. Count as you breathe. One, two, three, four, five. Reset the count each time you notice your mind wandering. See if you can get to 10.
- Scan your body.
Start from the feet and work your way up. Pay attention to how each part of your body feels. Does anything feel tight or tense? Focus on relaxing these areas. Remember to keep breathing.
- Gratitude, reflection, mantra.
There are many options for taking the meditation further. For example, try to think about three things you are grateful for. Let your mind explore these topics. Or, reflect on the day you’ve just had or the previous day, depending on when you choose to meditate. What happened during the day? What lessons did you learn that can be carried through to the next day? Are there any unresolved issues you are holding onto that are causing you stress? How can you let them go?
Meditation likely won’t be easy right away. In this fast-paced world, it can be hard to train the brain to slow down and take a breather. But the above should help you start. If you find you are still struggling to calm the mind, there are many guided meditations online or apps such as Calm that you can follow until you get into the habit.