How quick is quick meditation?
A study by Dr. James E. Stahl and a team of Harvard researchers found that 10 to 15 minutes a day can be enough to achieve the hallmarks of meditation — thoughtless awareness, transformation of the mind and a state of deep peace when the mind is calm and silent – as long as a person is consistent. Meditation may once have been a lofty and unattainable concept, but no longer: the benefits of mindful meditation are well within the grasp of even the biggest workaholics.
Quick meditation is not about emptying the mind or not thinking. It’s actually about paying attention to the physical sensations, thoughts and emotions you feel and seeing them more clearly. By simply accepting these feelings, we can be more in control of what we think, feel and do.
What are the benefits of quick meditation?
The benefits of meditation for the mind and body are many. Formerly the purview of religious leaders and therapists, the benefits of meditation are now attested to by some of the world’s top scientific minds: Dr. Anne Fabiny, former editor of the Harvard Women’s Health Watch, has written in the publication that a few minutes of meditation each day can reduce stress, pain and depression. She cites Burke Lennihan, a nurse who teaches meditation at the Harvard University Centre for Wellness, who says meditation helps physiological problems, like high blood pressure, but also fosters intangibilities like creativity, intuition and self-connection.
Meditation can also increase the blood flow to your brain and increase grey matter, which houses memory, emotions and sensory experiences. Beyond these documented scientific benefits of meditation, anyone who has tried this art is likely to say they feel more energetic, alert and focused after as little as five minutes of mindful meditation.
How to get started with quick meditation
Does that sound overwhelming? It’s really not. But to help you start, we’ve created a beginner’s guide to meditation, based on recommendations by Harvard experts.
Find a space and position
You want to be in a quiet space where you know you can turn off for a few minutes. This could be your bedroom, office or even the car while on your way to work. It is important to be seated in a comfortable position either on a chair or cross-legged. The key is to keep your spine neutral yet straight with an upright posture. This keeps you alert.
Keep your eyes open or closed
This is a personal preference. Closed eyes are generally more popular, but if you feel you can focus better with your eyes open, go ahead. Focus your eyes on a spot on the floor ahead of you and soften your gaze, this means you should look at what appears in front of you without narrowing your focus.
Bring your attention to your breath. The way your breath moves in and out of your body, feel it go in from your nose, through your body and out through your nose again. Simply focusing on your breath for a few minutes is a meditation technique in itself.
Scan your body
Do a mental scan of your body and go over each body part. Feel where you have pent up tension and where you feel loose. We all store stress in different ways and it can be interesting to analyse where exactly you keep all your stress. For some people it may be their shoulders or lower back whereas others may notice their fists or teeth being clenched.
Observe your thoughts
The idea is to keep your mind focused on your breath and body. Let the noises around you float in and out of your ears but do not fixate on any one sound or thought. If you find your mind wandering gently bring it back. This may happen once or 10 times but the key is not to eliminate thinking. Rater, be aware of your mind and bring it back to focusing on your breath.
If you’ve liked this exercise, and are interested in pursuing regular, quick meditation, the easiest way to meditate can be with the help of guided meditations. This is where someone talks you through the entire process of meditation, allowing you to focus on someone’s voice and keep your mind from wandering. Here are a few good options:
- the Headspace app, which will start you off with 10 minutes of meditation for 10 days