We’re all living through a mental health crisis.
In the UK alone, 1 in 4 people struggle with some kind of mental health concern every year. The cause for this spike is a discussion for another day and a difficult one at that. But in the meantime, we can begin to look at ways to deal with these issues and tackle them in our everyday lives.
One method is meditation.
It’s important to note meditation isn’t for everyone. A year into the pandemic, it’s likely you’ve given meditation a try once or twice, either to deal with issues you’ve been struggling with or just out of lockdown boredom. It might not feel like it, but meditation can have an impact, and if you’re concerned about your mental health, it’s something absolutely worth a try.
Here is how meditation can help your mental health and why it works.
Meditation and negative emotion
Negative emotions affect each and every one of us.
Even if we feel content in our home lives, relationships and work situation, there will still be points in the day where we’re overcome by anger, frustration and other negative emotions.
Sometimes, these emotions are important. They can help drive us towards our goals or act as a necessary release. However, too much negativity can cloud your mind and lead you down a dangerous path to a permanently dour mindset.
Studies have shown meditation can make these feelings of negativity easier to deal with, especially if they’re persistent problems affecting your happiness and ability to interact with others.
Meditation helps you focus these negative thoughts and act upon them in a positive way. Rather than letting the anger fester inside of you, meditation offers an extended moment to feel that anger and analyse it, understanding what drew you to that feeling and why it is so overwhelming.
Repeating simple, positive thoughts and phrases can help shift your mindset into a more positive one. Thanks to meditation you can turn yourself from someone who sees the worst in the world into a person that strives to make themselves and it better.
Meditation and stress
Stress is increasingly common, especially amongst young people planning their futures, and the working population.
The problem with trying to relieve chronic stress is that finding the time to do so just makes you more stressed. If you’re taking a moment to relax or treat yourself, you’re only losing more time.
Meditation is a great way to force yourself to take breaks and analyse what exactly is causing you to feel so stressed out.
It gives you a moment to step away from a world of pinging emails and buzzing phones, allowing yourself to be one with your thoughts and analyse what really matters in this world. It might tell you to quit your job or take an extended holiday, but maybe that’s what you need for your long-term health?
As a means of combating stress, meditation has also been shown to improve focus and concentration, making it easier for you to complete tasks and avoid stressful situations such as tight deadlines and late nights working overtime.
Meditation and depression
When you’re struggling with depression and anxiety, it can be hard to find a moment of peace.
You may spend all day lying in bed, but it’s not a relaxing feeling. You’re concerned about your world and how it views you, amongst so many other things. There is no moment of peace when your mind is constantly on the go, pushing self-doubts to the forefront and making you question yourself.
While you might think setting time aside for more time alone with your thoughts would be a bad thing for people struggling with depression to do, it can actually be a beneficial way to relieve yourself of your daily struggles.
If you approach meditation as less of a cure, and more of a moment to let go, it becomes a great solution to feelings of depression and anxiety.
Meditation helps you to re-analyse your thought patterns. Much like stress, you can start to notice the pathways to depression. This provides greater awareness, and can help improve your self-esteem.
Once you cross that bridge, meditation can become an important part of a mental health relief plan, as it has for so many people.
Meditation tips for beginners
It’s not easy to get started with meditation.
You can find yourself fidgeting, wondering if you’re sitting correctly. You might find it difficult to concentrate, peaking out of the corner of your eye or instinctively reaching for your phone.
Whether it’s a simple breathing exercise or something much more full-body, it’s much easier to get something out of meditation if you know some tips to get you started.
Tip 1) Remove all expectations
Meditation has a bit of a bad name.
It’s for hippies. It’s snake oil. “I didn’t feel anything.”
You’ve heard it all.
Forget all of that. Meditation is what you make it and what you’re willing to put in. You might not have an enlightening experience, but you might finally afford yourself the time to reflect on a hurtful moment or address internal damage. There is no right or wrong, only your personal experience.
Meditation isn’t supposed to be a catch-all solution to your problems, so forget what you think you know and embrace the unknown — sometimes chaotic — nature that makes it so special.
Tip 2) Create a designated meditation space
Consistency is often the key to success in meditation. Much like exercise, one or two sessions a month won’t have much of an impact. You have to stick at it.
Having a dedicated space in your home is key to achieving this. It allows you to step away from the rest of your life (particularly in a WFH setting) and focus entirely on your meditation session.
- With plenty of light
- Surrounded by plant life
- Cool and calm
- With enough space to stretch and let your body take over
Not everyone will have this space in their home. So, during the warmer months, move your meditation sessions outdoors and let yourself become one with nature.
Tip 3) Take a moment to wind down and breathe
Once you finish your session, don’t just hop up and carry on with your day.
Take a few extra moments away from your desk or the TV to reflect about your experience. How did the session go? Where did your mind wander? Are you thinking differently?
Meditation won’t change your way of thinking entirely, but if you aren’t at least reflecting on what you did experience, how do you expect to feel anything?
Stop thinking, stop worrying and find the time to meditate.
You might think your busy life is blocking your path to enlightenment, and use that as an excuse to keep looking at the world as a stressful, negative entity you can’t control, but that’s simply not true.
Meditation won’t solve your material issues, there’s no point even suggesting that. But it can help you to rationalise and compartmentalise those concerns. Why do you feel this way? How long have you felt this way? Where are you going next? Give meditation a try and see what answers it offers you.