THE DOs AND DON’Ts OF MEDITATION

Meditation has been around virtually forever. Since the shamans of the hunter-gatherer cultures, meditation has been practiced by humans looking to improve their lives. Most commonly known as a relaxation technique, Meditation has now been touted for its abilities to not only help with stress management and general happiness, but to help manage back pain and get a better handle on certain hypoglycemia symptoms. The best part is, meditation is easy to do and even a beginner—even you!—can quickly learn how to meditate. Below are five “do’s” and five “don’t’s” that will help get you started on your meditative journey.

DO focus on your breathing. Something as simple as breathing “manually” can help to relax you and “empty” your mind. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Breathe in slowly, to the count of ten, hold it; then breathe out slowly, to the count of ten, and repeat. Many of us are “shallow” breathers and don’t get enough oxygen into our system throughout the course of the day, leaving us feeling run-down by the end of the day—often when we haven’t done a whole lot! Focusing on your breathing, taking in deep “healing” breaths, not only helps to relax you and get you into “meditation mode” but can eventually help to train your lungs to breathe “better” even when you’re not meditating.

DO stretch beforehand. It’s recommended to keep your posture straight, whether kneeling on the floor or sitting in a chair, when meditating. Unfortunately, most of us prefer to “slump” and attempting to sit up straight can be uncomfortable or even painful. Stretching beforehand doesn’t need to be extensive: rolling your head/neck from side-to-side or rocking on your haunches can help loosen you up.

DO have a mantra. It doesn’t have to be out loud and it doesn’t have to be “ohmmmmm.” Repeating a phrase to yourself such as “I am relaxed” works just as well. Focusing on your mantra, your one positive thought or phrase that you repeat to yourself either out loud or in your mind, can keep other un-wanted, un-relaxing thoughts from seeping into your consciousness.

DO use music. Many of us don’t have the luxury of living alone, or have trouble “blocking out” outside noises; and music can help with this, giving you a more enjoyable meditation experience. Using music—preferably something relaxing—either with or without headphones can help you feel like you’re in a different, less stressful (and noisy!) environment.

DO smile! Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist teacher, teaches his pupils to smile while meditating, believing that looking happy and relaxed is the first step toward actually being happy and relaxed. Science backs this up with research stating that smiling relaxes your facial muscles and your nervous system reacts in a way that mimics feeling real joy.

DON’T meditate in bed. Unless you have no other choice (i.e. you’re bed-ridden for some reason), attempting to meditate in bed isn’t a good idea: you don’t want to be like the character Lindsay on Arrested Development and end up taking a “two hour long angry nap” instead of successfully meditating and cleansing yourself of that anger. Sitting in a chair or on the floor (use a pillow if it’s too hard) will not only keep you from falling asleep, but also help to encourage good posture. Of course, you should be comfortable: just don’t get too comfortable!

DON’T think you have to be fashionable. No matter what the advertisements tell you, you do not need special “meditation clothes.” You don’t need to be fashionable. You’ll want to be comfortable.

DON’T eat a big meal beforehand. Eating a large meal can either make you feel uncomfortable, or worse, make you feel sleepy (remember the “angry nap” scenario from earlier?). Also not recommended before a meditation session: caffeine, alcohol, or any recreational drugs.

DON’T forget to go to the bathroom beforehand. There’s nothing quite like finally settling down to meditate and discovering you need to use the restroom. We won’t go into details on this one. You know what we’re talking about.

DON’T think you can’t find the time. Meditation can fit into your schedule, no matter how busy a person you are. Meditate in the morning or in the afternoon or at night. Meditate on the bus, meditate on your break at work, or meditate while waiting to pick up your children. You might not have much free time, but you do have some. And in those free moments: meditate. Your body and mind will thank you.

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