Whether you’re a meditation novice or a seasoned guru, you can never stop learning about this ancient practice. Meditation is a very personal experience which takes you on a journey into your heart and mind, and what works for you will be unique to who you are. So, let go of your expectations, open your mind and let’s explore some of key meditation styles.
Mindful breathing can help give you a focus during times of stress and improve your ability to regulate your emotions. In fact, an experiment revealed that people who completed a short breathing exercise reported less negative emotion when shown pictures with negative images, compared with those who didn’t2.
How to do it: Simply focus on your breath as you inhale and exhale. It might help to start with an over-exaggerated breath, by breathing in and out to the count of three both times. Then, tune in to the natural flow of your breath and notice it as you continue to inhale and exhale.
When you feel stressed, it’s not uncommon to carry that stress in your body, in the form of tension, knots of shallow breathing. By performing a regular body scan meditation, you can learn where you are carrying stress and how to support the release of it.
How to do it: Get comfortable and slowly move from your head down each part of your body, noticing how you feel in each area. If you notice any uncomfortable sensations, focus on that area, and visualize the tension leaving your body.
Visualisation is the practice of creating a picture in your mind of the best possible outcome for something, before it’s happened. It helps ease performance anxiety through familiarity and helps set your mind on the path of positivity. In one study, dancers were able to increase their jumping height simply by looking at imagery and imagining their body “as a spring”5.
How to do it: Think about the event you want to work on (for example, a big presentation you have coming up), take time to sit down and imagine the presentation in action. Picture yourself speaking clearly and confidently. Imagine your audience, listening, and engaged. Take note of what people are wearing, what you can smell, and what you can hear – as if you are actually there.
Just as you build up physical strength through exercise, mediation can help you build up inner strength, enhancing resilience, confidence, purpose and positivity. Strengthening your inner resources has huge benefits for your overall life7, in particular for during times of challenge.
How to do it: Perform your usual meditation and, while you do, repeat a series of mantras that focus on the specific character trait (or traits) that you want to strengthen. A few suggestions are, “I can handle anything life throws at me”, “I am connected to everything and everyone” or “Today, I choose peace”.
As well as calming and relaxing you, mediation can also revitalise you. Take a break from your busy day and recharge your mind, so you’re re-energised to carry on with purpose and love.
How to do it: Stop your body and confirm that you’re not going to do anything for the next few minutes. Let your mind wind down and close your eyes to shut out external distractions. Focus on your breathing and repeat a self-love mantra that you find meaningful – something like, “I am well, I am safe, I am loved.” Right before you complete your meditation, take a moment to recognize that you have everything you need. Feel gratitude for all the good things that you have and celebrate that you are alive. Now gently come out of the meditation, take a moment to rest and carry on with your day.