Meditation: The best tool for mental detox
Meditation techniques for daily mental detox
If you want to manage stress effectively and improve your health, consider the scientifically proven practice of meditation. Used for thousands of years, meditation is considered a mind-body complementary medicine and a tool to help cleanse and detox your mind. Just a few minutes of daily meditation can refocus your mind and restore inner peace and a state of calm. Anyone can practice meditation. It's easy, you can practice anywhere, it doesn’t cost anything, and the only piece of special equipment required is you!
Meditating allows you to focus your attention on the present moment and eliminate the abundance of thoughts (about the past and future) weighing on your mind and causing you stress and worry. The process has been shown to enhance emotional and physical well-being. Some research suggests that meditation may help people manage symptoms associated with conditions such as: cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic pain and headaches, digestive disorders, mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression, and sleep disorders.
There are meditation centers and group classes led by trained instructors that you can look into. However, you can also practice meditation on your own. When you meditate, ensure you have a quiet setting, comfortable position, focused attention and relaxed breathing. You can focus your attention on a specific object or image, a mantra, or your breathing. Breathe deeply using your diaphragm to expand your lungs. This helps to slow down your breathing, take in more oxygen, and reduce the use of your neck, shoulder and upper chest muscles. The key to meditation is frequency (daily practice) over quantity—it is far better to meditate a little each day instead of doing so sporadically for longer periods of time.
Here are some simple exercises you can try to help strengthen your meditation practice.
Meditation Exercise #1: Breathe Deeply
Studies have shown that people who suffer from mental illness have a harder time focusing their breathing. In general, many of us are shallow breathers.
Try breathing in through your nose, and out through your mouth, slowly. Make each breath cycle last for about six seconds. When you exhale, release worrisome thoughts from your mind. Focus on your breaths and pay attention to the sounds and movements of your chest. By completing these breathing exercises during times of stress, you will be able to center yourself and return to the moment.
Meditation Exercise: #2: Observe Nature
Observation is key to being in the moment; it’s nearly impossible to be aware of your situation and surroundings if you’re not observing them. You need to shift from naturalistic observation to participant observation. We often don’t appreciative day-to-day moments and seem to live life on autopilot. Learning to see each moment as an individual experience can help us create a more authentic and meaningful life.
Having a focal point to observe can help you build your concentration. Observing our surroundings can help connect us with the beauty of the natural environment, something that is easily missed in the daily grind. Try selecting an item from nature at a park or in your garden and watch it for a minute or two. It could be an insect, animal or a plant. Look at your chosen item and all of its characteristics. You can then unplug and reconnect with what is real.
Meditation Exercise #3: Listen Carefully
Practice focusing on the physical act of hearing instead of listening to the message. You can do this by being aware of the present moment and your surroundings—listen intently by taking in the various sounds you hear. Recognize that noises are mere vibrations. For example, when you listen to music, instead of judging it and using evaluative language like “good” or “bad,” try concentrating on the sounds of the individual instruments. By not getting caught up in the “content” or meaning, you can stay focused in the present moment while still being aware of your surroundings.
You might find that waking up to the chirping of birds—simply staying still and listening to their unique sounds—is another great approach to this exercise. You can experience it on nature walks, too, or during bird-watching hikes. We’re so routinely distracted by our modern world that we miss a lot of what’s happening around us.
Meditation Exercise #4: Visualization and the Ayurvedic Approach
The Eastern ancestral health system of medicine, Ayurveda is based on the idea of balance of the mind-body connection and uses diet, herbal treatments, and yogic breathing, meditation and numerous others techniques to ease our path towards our unique state of balance. Ayurveda truly is a holistic health system. Vata, pitta and kapha are known as the doshas—they are the most foundational Ayurveda concepts. According to the Ayurveda approach, doshas are energetic forces of nature and principles that help us to better understand ourselves and the world we live in. To meditate with these principles in mind, you can use visualization from your home for each dosha type. The Ayurvedic approach suggests that everyone has all of the doshas within, which govern the physical and emotional systems of the body, however, each individual has varying degrees of each of the doshas. This makes each person unique.
Each dosha is associated with elements:
Vata : air and ether
Pitta : fire and water
Kapha : water and earth
The Ayurvedic approach aims to balance excess. So visualization techniques may help bring balance to each of the respective doshas. For example, a high-Vata person, who when out of balance, may experience more anxiety, more dryness and feelings of being ungrounded can focus on warm and slow visualizations to balance the cold/variable qualities of Vata.
For individuals experiencing Pitta in excess— for whom the hot qualities of the fire element may cause more inflammation, irritability, and impatience etc., may find comfort and be soothed with cooling meditations like visualizing walking barefoot in the grass under a moonlit garden.
Kapha in excess; may cause stagnation, lethargy, a general “stuck in the mud” kind of feeling. This individual may need more stimulating, energizing visualizations, such as visualizing a tropical jungle.
Other ideas for visualizations within the different doshas:
Vata: To feel good, this dosha focuses on warmth and slowing down. Try visualizing that you are sunbathing on a warm beach in the summer.
Pitta: To feel good this dosha focuses on cooling images. You can visualize on a majestic waterfall in Hawaii, or that you are surfing the waves ;-).
Kapha: To feel good, this dosha focuses on more stimulation and vibrant colours. You can visualize an Amazonian forest with colourful tropical birds chanting and dancing on the branches, surrounded by gigantic colourful flowers.
Daily meditation, no matter which type you choose, is daily detoxing of the mind and we all need more of that, right?
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