By: Jason Kaefer
Starting off your morning on a good note is vital for a productive day. You may not realize, but your morning habits may hinder your performance at work, your interactions with coworkers and clients, and your feelings toward yourself and others. Meditation has been proven to, in many ways, positively kickstart your day. Health professionals recommend this method to improve focus, decrease anxiousness and overthinking and support happiness.
Today, sustained focus in a world of electronics and flashing news is difficult to find. As a culture, we are moving towards spastic attention spans, multitasking, and leaving behind the old world of prolonged conversation. Studies have suggested that deep meditation, particularly object focus, can increase attention and help us sustain our focus.
Here is the breakdown on meditation and how to incorporate some of it into your life:
1. Stress Reduction Benefits
In high school, we're taught the Pythagorean theorem, DNA polymerase, and the Periodic Table, but never strategies for alleviating stress- the one thing we're sure to encounter often, if not daily, in adulthood. These methods have been practiced for thousands of years, but only now seem to have settled with people as a handy tool. There are studies to back this up. According to Mayo Clinic, meditation helps to gain a new perspective on stressful situations by reducing negative self-talk that contributes to stress while also reducing negative emotions.
Additionally, it helps to gain insight into the present. How often have you been in a conversation but found yourself hardly engaged at all, and allowed your mind to slide around the topics of dinner, an angry spouse, the fact you forgot to let the dog out, etc.?
2. Physical benefits
Beginning your morning with meditation produces a healthy outcome. The effects of meditating has been linked to stress reduction and therefore has a rejuvenating quality on the immune system. Meditating also allows for healthier sleep habits and provides a viable strategy for combating insomnia. Studies have shown that subjects using mindfulness meditation reported an increase in sleep and decrease in time staying awake at night.
3. Psychological Benefit
Those struggling with depression and anxiety would see a positive outcome from using meditation as it works to regulate emotional responses. When experiencing a trigger, either leading a person to become angry, to drink, or isolate, deep breathing and meditation helps develop, over time, the ability to remain calm and seek out alternative ways to approach the issue. This is especially advantageous for those in the midst of anger management.
1. Breath Focus
Find a comfortable place, preferably sitting on a chair, close your eyes, and breath deeply. Now, count your breaths from one to four. Inhale-1 exhale, Inhale-2 exhale and so on. Set a timer for 10 minutes. Every time your attention begins to slip, bring your attention back to your breathing. You'll notice that your mind may wander. The most important part of this practice is bringing your attention back to your breathing, controlling it, disciplining it. Over time, this will become automatic, and you'll find yourself controlling your attention subconsciously and redirecting will feel fluid and natural.
2. Object focus
The same method applies as you focus on an object. Find an object, a ball, a bottle, a child's toy etc. Set your timer for 10 minutes and observe the object. Note the color, the size, the shape, and again, every time your mind tears away, recenter your attention on that object and the details that make-up that object. Try this for a while and see how you feel. Try practicing this exercise first thing in the morning. In fact, many successful people start their mornings off with a mindfulness routine. According to rituals researched and performed by Tim Ferris, by meditating in the morning, you generate discipline in the moments when it hardly matters, so that you may focus intently when it does matter.
Other Meditative Methods with proven mind-body benefits:
Some activities are meditative without requiring time alone with your eyes shut, breathing deeply, focusing intently. Take writing for example, - this craft can be, as Steven King puts it "hypnotic." It is possible to lose yourself in a journal. This method doesn't require that you become a novelist, or even finish a story, but allow your mind to drift away without distraction. Other methods include painting, reading, yoga, stretching, and eating.
When engaging in any of the above topics, try not to think much. Allow yourself to focus on the present. If you're eating, notice the texture and flavor of the food. Take note of the smell as it approaches your mouth. All too often, we eat for fuel, not pleasure, and we lose sight of the beauty of our food.
Meditation will present you with difficulty in the beginning. Remember to allow 5-10 minutes a day and gradually work your way higher and higher until, ideally, you reach 20 minutes a day. The benefits of this practice may change your life!
Featured Image: Robolikesifit
Jason Kaefer lives in San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and son. He's a freelance writer with years of experience in human services. Additionally, he's a mental health case manager, specializing in the use of coping skills to support independence, mindfulness, and happiness to those struggling with mental illness.