Meditation is the practice of focusing your attention on a particular thing— generally something simple like a word or phrase, a candle flame or your breath. In everyday life, your mind is constantly processing a barrage of sensations, visual impressions, emotions and thoughts, and meditation can help you to focus on one thing and switch off from your brain’s ‘clutter’, or at least be less affected by it. Meditation was originally associated with Buddhism, but you don’t have to be a Buddhist, or even religious at all, to practise meditation.
Meditation can help you to understand yourself better and be able to control your reactions to the world around you. When you focus on yourself and your thoughts, you may find you can identify persistent thoughts that cause you problems. Learning to deal with these thoughts by simply observing them and recognising that they are simply thoughts can be helpful in dealing with stress, anxiety and depression.
Many also find that meditating regularly helps them to feel calm, peaceful and balanced.
Mindfulness is living in the present moment and being aware of your body and mind. This may seem obvious, but sometimes we are so bombarded by stimulation that we forget to really pay attention to what’s going on around us.
Learning to be mindful often involves some form of meditation, and meditation usually involves some sort of mindfulness, so the two practices go hand in hand.
Yoga is another complementary practice that can involve meditation and/or mindfulness.
There is more than one way to meditate and different individuals and teachers approach the practise of meditation in different ways.
Some people concentrate more on focusing their eyes on a fixed point, others meditate with their eyes closed. Other types of meditation, such as Loving Kindness Meditation, focus on sending positive thoughts and energy to yourself and other people.
Headspace, an application and website devoted to mindfulness and meditation, has a number of guided meditations available for free download. Whether you are a meditation novice or are practised at meditation, you should be able to find one that’s right for you.