Updated: Aug 16
When you hear the word "meditation," what's your reaction? Are you regular meditator by now, or are you one who silently groans to yourself, thinking it's something you've tried but you can't seem to focus for even one minute?!
If the idea of meditation currently makes you cringe, you're not alone. We've been there. Meditation can seem mystic or unapproachable, especially if you've never done it before. And even as a beginner, it can be overwhelming to sit in stillness for a while and calm the mind.
Why, then, is meditating worth trying again?
Friends, meditation is not just for ancient monks who left civilization and dedicated their lives to serving God. Meditation is, indeed, and ancient practice that worked for centuries. But get this – it has since been thoroughly studied and research shows it has incredible mental health benefits for people living and working today. People like you!
What is meditation?
The English word "meditation" comes from the Latin "meditatio" and a verb "meditari,'"which means "to think, contemplate, devise, ponder."
Meditation often involves actively focusing your attention on the present moment, a word or phrase, or a guided set of visualizations.
People practiced meditation anciently to deepen their understanding of themselves and their connection with the divine. Now, people meditate specifically to calm their minds and separate themselves from their thoughts – and to disconnect momentarily from the craziness that is modern-day living.
We are busy people. Things don't always (or often don't) go our way. We are bombarded with new information through social media, podcasts, news, TV, and more. Overload and burnout are real.
Meditation can greatly benefit physical and mental health, and it has been shown to increase the dominance of the rest and digest response in the body, and keep the body in homeostasis. Put more simply? Meditation helps the body relax so it can perform its proper functions.
Many studies such as this one show that meditation can lead to lower blood pressure and resting heart rate. And it can help the lungs and heart deliver oxygen to working muscles more efficiently. As a result, overall well-being of the body improves. Not to mention the fact that meditation can help combat stress and anxiety.
If that wasn't convincing enough, here are even more things meditation can improve:
interoception, or the ability to tune in to your body-mind signals
ability to stay present
Meditation might also be helpful if you have a medical condition that is worsened by stress. At PLUNJ, we are big proponents of meditation! Sauna bathing and cold water immersion coupled with meditation and reflection is one of our favorite activities because it has helped us and many of our members deal with major stressors.
Okay, you have me convinced...so how do I try it?
Meditation doesn't have to be complicated. You can take 1-5 minutes if you're pressed for time. Here are some simple methods you can try ASAP! (even if you're driving, so long as you don't close your eyes😆):
Guided meditation. Also known as guided visualization, in this form of meditation you visualize calming places or situations. There are several apps that provide guided meditations, such as Calm, The Mindfulness App, Headspace, Insight Timer, and many more.
Breath: Simply pay attention to your breathing: inhale and exhale without judgement, just notice. Alternately, you can try a breathing technique. Wim Hof has many.
Mantra meditation. Repeat a word, thought, or phrase to yourself to focus your thinking.
Mindfulness meditation. Get comfortable and tune in to what's happening now. Actively notice what's going on around you, and how you feel inside and out. This is a great way to engage your senses of sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell. Allow your thoughts and feelings to be without judgement. Heed the advice of Ted Lasso, and "be curious, not judgmental."
Walking meditation: As you walk, notice how each of your feet feel as they make contact with the ground. Pay attention to the rest of your body from your feet up your legs to your torso and all the way to the top of your head. Notice your surroundings. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell/taste/feel?
Meditating with others
One recent study investigated the impact of environment on meditation by examining participants meditating in three different environments: group practice, nature practice, and solitary practice. They measured a group of rookie meditators' state of mindfulness and perceived social connection. And do you know what they found? Those who felt most mindful and connected socially while meditating were the ones meditating in a group.
We have loved hosting our Community River Plunge each month with group breathing/meditation/yoga classes to provide that socially enriching environment.
Also, during PLUNJ's Silent Sessions, we encourage patrons to remain quiet to cultivate a chill environment for mindfulness, and reflection. The goal is a killer meditation experience for everyone, as well as a sense of connectedness!
Meditation can be a powerful practice to improve your mental and physical health and overall well-being. You can do it anytime, wherever you are, for as short or long as you like. Next time you're at PLUNJ, try adding a meditation while in the sauna or cold plunge and see if you notice anything different!
Hanley, A. W., Dehili, V., Krzanowski, D., Barou, D., Lecy, N., & Garland, E. L. (2022). Effects of Video-Guided Group vs. Solitary Meditation on Mindfulness and Social Connectivity: A Pilot Study. Clinical Social Work Journal, 50(3), 316–324. https://doi-org.ezproxy.uvu.edu/10.1007/s10615-021-00812-0
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2021). Meditation: A simple, fast way to reduce stress. Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/meditation/in-depth/meditation/art-20045858#:~:text=Meditation%20can%20give%20you%20a,centered%20and%20keep%20inner%20peace.
Solanki, A., & Saiyad, S. (2020). Comparative Study Of Effect Of Mediation On Autonomic Nervous System In Healthy Meditators And Non Meditators. National Journal of Integrated Research in Medicine, 11(1), 11–15.