Meditation | Be Better Challenge

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MeditateMeditation: Gaining Clarity One Breath at a Time

by Renee Sellers

As active members of society, we are increasingly pressured to keep up with the fast-paced world in which we live. We all have different natural inclination when we are stressed, but a healthy responds is to take long, deep breaths in order to relax. Although it can be difficult for many people to sit still in order to become less stressed, centering the mind can create mental clarity, and allow us to relax and perform with better efficiency. Meditation is just like taking those initial deep breaths, and if we do it frequently, then our bodies will be more focused and clear throughout the entire day, not just at times of anxiety.

This weeks Be Better goal is to take a least 5 minutes per day to sit down comfortably and focus on your breathing. In the long run meditation is a sort of spring-cleaning of the brain, allowing us to look at life with a fresh, clean perspective!

Psychologists are looking at meditation as a healthier and more natural technique than using medication to treat anxiety. Our "fight and flight" response, which detects and responds to threats, can become oversensitive, fogging up our ability to focus on what is going on in the moment. Meditating reduces the speed at which our brains trigger emotions such as anger or fear, resulting in a more practical and calmer stress response. Focusing on the breath through meditation can help us be more in the present moment.

Meditating and focusing on the breath not only changes the way we handle our emotions, but also causes physical changes in our brain. Psychology Today magazine found that meditation can increase gray matter in the hippocampus, which controls learning and memory, while decreasing the initiator of the alarm system in the amygdala. Overall, meditation can help with temporary relaxation and centering, while also controlling emotional threat responses.

-       Pick a specific room in your home to meditate. Make sure it is not the same room where you do work, exercise, or sleep. Place candles and other spiritual paraphernalia in the room to help you feel at ease.
-       Meditate early in the morning. Without a doubt, early morning is an ideal
time to practice: it is quieter, your mind is not filled with the usual clutter, and there is less chance you will be disturbed. Make it a habit to get up half an hour earlier to meditate
-       Start with the breath. Breathing deep slows the heart rate, relaxes the muscles, focuses the mind and is an ideal way to begin practice
-       Feel your body parts. A great practice for beginning meditators is to take notice of the body when a meditative state starts to take hold. Once the mind quiets, put all your attention to the feet and then slowly move your way up the body (include your internal organs). This is very healthy and an indicator that you are on the right path.
-       Do NOT Stress. This may be the most important tip for beginners, and the hardest to implement. No matter what happens during your meditation practice, do not stress about it. This includes being nervous before meditating and angry afterwards. Meditation is what it is, and just do the best you can at the time.

Also if you still feel lost on how to start, we recommend using guided meditations. You can find guided meditation online or smart phone apps. Two free iPhone app that has great reviews is Simply Being-Guided Meditation and Insight Timer.

Good luck Be Better.