Many of us deal with Anxiety and overthinking, there is no set way to handle these thoughts, feelings, and the inherent behaviours we produce in response but many cultures, individuals, and schools of thought often look to meditation in addition to other techniques to improve our quality of life and experiences with mental health.
Meditation can take many forms; we often have been socialised to believe that meditation can only be sitting crossed legged changing OM (many of us cannot even sit crossed leg) so the feeling is ultimately “I can’t do this.” Your mind is telling you have failed before you have even begun!
The Merriam Webster meaning of meditation includes “concentration for the purpose of reaching a heightened spiritual awareness.” I like to think of meditation as bringing awareness to the present moment. The purpose is to slow down, create space because often with anxiety and overthinking we are not in the present, we are attempting to be in the future and of course the future is unknown and that can create fear which exacerbates mental and often physical stress. How can we slow this down….Meditation.
If we agree that meditation can take many forms and the true purpose is to bring awareness to the present moment then what we need to create this and how we do this can be individual and personal (doesn’t have to involve you shaving your head and taking a vow of silence to move to Tibet-Although you’re most welcome to if that’s your vibe!). Outlined are some ways that you can practice meditation, with practice being key. Repetition helps our brain navigate the world and forming habits take time (especially good ones!) Practice makes progress! Always be mindful with practices included that only do what you can manage, do not over exert yourself and always check with your Dr first before changing your health plan if you have conditions!
Breathwork-This is conventionally known as bringing awareness to the state of your breathing to improve mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health. By bringing full awareness to your breathing in and out your mental space is taken up by this and limits acute stress responses and increases respiratory function. Breathwork can also activate the parasympathetic nervous system which is what helps us connect to our bodies by practicing slow deep breaths. Have you ever paused and noticed how increased your heart rate is or how shallow your breathing is? Regular practices like box breathing decrease fight or flight responses and reduce blood pressure telling your body to relax! It is a conscious practice it helps you get out of your head and into the present! Start small 5 minutes per day or take a 2-minute respite from your desk to focus on your breath!
Dance-Don’t panic! This is not a suggestion to sign up for Strictly come dancing! Movement regardless of flow or how it looks, requires us to be present with our bodies! When listening to music (whatever your preference) there are many types of dance from all over the world and varying the cultures, we access the somatosensory cortex in the brain which can help us experience ourselves more deeply and help regulate and process emotions. Dancing is a form of meditation expanded to notice without judgement. The key is to move your body freely in flow with the music, anyone can dance; all abilities, ages, skill ability and as this is a practice of meditation the only true goal here is to be present with your body and the music, that’s it! Different vibrations and sound frequencies evoke different things in us, and dancing can be a form of release…have you ever had a kitchen party when the music is up high, and you stop washing up to dance?! Try it, it feels good when you are just presently dancing, focusing on nothing else!
Singing-But of course singing would follow dancing. Again, you do not have to be Aretha Franklin or Adele but singing by activating the vocal cords and concentrating on lyrics brings us to full attention of getting the words right! The vibrational act alone is positive and who doesn’t love Car Karaoke?? When you are busying focusing your attention on the lyrics that come next or reaching that high note, you’re fully present, your brain cannot focus on remembering the bill you have yet to pay AND what pitch to sing R.E.S.P.E.C.T in. So sing it loud and sing it proud as a way to bring you back to the now!
Tantra- Bare with me….Tantra can be about the present moment and connection, clearing thoughts! So how could I not include this as a type of meditation? Stimulating the release of happy hormones such as serotonin and oxytocin through mindful practices, including but not limited to; touch, eye gazing, witnessing and emotional connection. Tantra is all about the here and now and if you are partnered and try tantric sex practices then it’s like a 2 for 1 really! “Tantra holistically is freedom from mental constructs… an orgasm of the whole being” (Oshu 2015) that sounds pretty enlightening and meditative to me!
Of course, meditation can also be lying crossed flat with your spine in alignment or sitting in a crossed legged position. You can practice this in silence, or you can use music; vibrational hertz to align with different chakras (energy centres in the body) or you can use classical music, an app like Calm or Headspace, YouTube or you can make your own mantras for repetition or chanting. Meditation can take many forms and sometimes trying them all helps find what works best for you. The aim is to be present, to release stress and tension from the mind and body and increase mental health and emotion regulation…Happy Practicing!