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How Can Meditation Improve My Well-being?

Millions of people all around the world practice meditation; in fact, Time Magazine highlights that 9.9% of Americans practice meditation, compared to 8% in 2002. Meditation is an ancient practice that originated in China and India. The goal of meditation is to connect with our essential nature – many people find daily living difficult because they get in their own way of happiness and peace. Meditation is meant to help connect this gap by helping us grow over time.

If you’ve ever practiced meditation, however, it can be particularly difficult at first – many people find it challenging to sit quietly with one’s own thoughts and to focus attention on something as simple as the breath. Although challenging at first, the practice is well worth it: several benefits have been documented from practicing meditation, such as reduced stress, improved concentration, increased self-awareness, increased happiness, aided immune system health, and more. At any age, meditation can be beneficial. For example, a 2016 study published in the journal Mindfulness found that of 134 mildly stressed, 50-85-year-old individuals, meditation improved many of them; in fact, it reduced many individuals’ negative affect (tendency to view or react to things negatively) and stress, contributing to their ultimate well-being.

Another study published in 2015 sought to explore health benefits of meditation; researchers analyzed many studies on meditation to find common themes, and results of their analysis indicated strong evidence for reduced rumination, worry, and cognitive and emotional reactivity,  as well as enhanced mindfulness, which had a great impact on participant health outcomes. All in all, meditation is a gift that can difficult to navigate at first, but is well worth continued effort and practice.

Start by closing your eyes for 5 minutes. Sit comfortably if you can, and inhale through your nose, exhale out through your mouth. Take note of the way your body feels right now, sitting down with your feet on the floor, or with you back against a pillow. Savor the feeling of being grounded – of simply being. Start to gently focus in on your heartbeat, and pay close attention as if you are fascinated with how it works. Anytime your mind starts to wonder, gently bring your awareness back to your heart beat. After 5 minutes, open your eyes. Continue practicing this as often as you like, and slowly increase your time meditating as you get more comfortable with it.

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