Meditation has been around for thousands of years but is becoming increasingly popular at a time when all anyone wants is a little peace of mind. In case you’ve become more curious about it, we’ve put together a little guide for you. Read more about its benefits, discover practical tips for beginners and where to take meditation classes in Hong Kong.
What is meditation?
Meditation is a mental exercise which involves relaxation, focus and awareness. It is usually done sitting down with our eyes closed but it can be done in a variety of ways. This practice has been around for millenia.
The origins of meditation aren’t exactly known. The earliest written records regarding meditation come from Hindu tradition dating back to 1500BCE where it is referred to as ‘training of the mind’. That being said, mentions of meditation are also found in Chinese and Japanese history.
What are the benefits of meditation?
On a more immediate level, meditation allows you to process your thoughts and feelings from the day but the benefits of meditation are almost endless. Here are a few of the main ones.
Anxiety and depression
People who suffer from anxiety take every thought they have as the truth, their ‘what ifs’ turn into real threats for them which makes their brain go on high alert. By meditating they’re able to slow down their brains for a little while and relax. Many studies have shown that meditation can improve symptoms of depression and anxiety. Including this literary review which analyzed 18 753 citations and 47 trials with 3515 participants.
Lower blood pressure
A study done at the University of Kentucky suggested that meditating could lower blood pressure in people suffering from hypertension. Some meditation techniques stimulate genes that produce telomerase – an enzyme linked with reduced blood pressure and mortality.
A 2015 study worked on 49 participants suffering from insomnia. The group assigned meditation experienced fewer insomnia symptoms and daytime fatigue. Meditation works in a few ways to promote sleep. It can increase the production of melatonin (the sleep hormone), lower heart rate and blood pressure which all prepare you for sleep.
When we meditate muscle tension and heart rate lowers. Pain is worsened when we are stressed as muscle tension increases and stress hormones put more strain on our joints and muscles. On top of that, focusing on the pain can make it seem much worse. When meditating, we shift our attention onto our breathing and being mindful and away from our bodies and any pain or strain it may be feeling. A study on people suffering from chronic lower back pain revealed that meditation can be used as an effective treatment option.
longer attention span
Many studies have demonstrated the wonders that meditating can do for your attention span and focus. One review in particular showed that meditation may reverse patterns in the brain that contribute to mind-wandering, worrying and poor attention.
How to get started with meditation?
At first, meditating might seem completely foreign to you and the thought of meditating for more than 5 minutes may be daunting and that’s understandable. Start by meditating for just 2 minutes, every day. Once you get used to it, build up gradually.
Keep it simple
Try not to worry too much about the details, the how and the when. If it’s convenient to you, just do it right when you wake up or right before you go to sleep. Try not to focus on having the perfect cushion or the perfect lighting, instead, focus on comfort. Find a position that is comfortable to you and stick with it for the time being, especially if you’re just getting started and meditating for shorter periods of time.
Start your meditation by checking in with yourself, how you’re feeling if there’s any overwhelming emotion, any pain. Checking in with your mind just as well as your body. This can also allow you to draw your attention away from your thoughts and onto yourself.
Simple breathing exercises
Once you’ve ‘scanned’ yourself, focus your attention on your breathing. A simple exercise to begin with is counting your breath: each inhale as one count and each exhale as one count, count up to 10 and start over a few more times. Another simple technique is the 4-7-8 exercise: breathe in through your nose for 4 counts, hold your breath for 7 counts then exhale through your mouth for 8 counts.
Picking a style of meditation
There are many different ways to meditate: using breathing techniques, using phone apps, youtube videos, listening to music, guided meditation or a combination of different ones. If you get easily distracted, it might be a good idea to follow along a guided meditation. These can be found as videos on youtube, as podcasts, lessons or even as apps (such as Headspace or Calm). The practice of yoga incorporates mindfulness and meditation (particularly Hatha Yoga) so this can be a good solution for those who wish to partake in a more active form of meditation.
What to do about intruding thoughts
It is completely normal for your mind to wander, when you feel yourself getting distracted don’t get frustrated. Instead, focus your attention back on your breathing. That being said, the thoughts that arise while you’re meditating can be very insightful into what’s going on in your head. Try to sit with them and see how they make you feel.
Meditation classes in Hong Kong
You really want to get started with meditation but need a little support and structure? Lucky for you, Hong Kong has an abundance of meditation classes that you can choose from, here are a few places you may consider:
We hope this article helped you take a few steps forward in your mindfulness journey. Sign-up to our newsletter to get regular health and wellness information!