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  • Writer's pictureSharna Heir

Why You Should Make Meditation A Daily Routine

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Some things in life seem so simple, but can evoke such profound change. Meditation is one of them.

An instant wash of calm and clarity, like you’re floating in the sea without a worry or care in the world, that moment when you’re laying on the beach. A wash of happiness, like the therapeutic sounds the ocean waves make as they gently wash over the shore - you close your eyes and feel the warm sun on your skin, and for that moment not a thing matters.

You can create this feeling, anytime, anywhere. A feeling of contentment is likely how you’ll feel after a meditation session, and that’s for many reasons which we will discuss more below. But if you’re new to meditation, then I really encourage you to give it a go, and feel the amazing benefits.

It can reduce your heart rate, bring back your focus, cause a noticeable decrease in anxiety and stress levels, increase your ability to enjoy the moment - and also just brings with it a wonderful sense of all-round well-being.

When you think of meditation, your mind may project a certain image - perhaps the classic buddha pose, sitting relaxed in a perfect moment of tranquility. This is blissful motion of meditation may feel unattainable for some. I’m here to share the various ways meditation may already be a part of your life in ways you might not have recognised but you can now embrace, as well as talk through some of the more recognised meditation techniques to quiet the busy mind - not to mention avoid illness, which we explore more below.

What You’ll Need for the Perfect Experience

Zen The Simple Art Of Living

This beautifully presented book is great to put you in a relaxed and meditative frame of mind, either before or after your meditation. The book consists of 100 daily practices to put you in zen frame of mind. The author of the book is a leader of a 450 year-old Buddist temple, so the book is full of wisdom.

Zafu Cushion

It’s useful to have a dedicated area to practice meditation, somewhere that you associate with calm. This meditation cushion is perfect, as it’s well made, portable and can be easily stored away. You could pop this cushion in front of a fireplace, or perhaps in your garden on a warm day - or even just in the cosy corner of the room. You could make a wonderful meditation set up, using some of the other items within this list.

Himalayan Salt Lamp

Crafted with Himalayan Rock Salt, the lamp gives off the perfect ambient hue. Salt lamps are ideal for creating a warm relaxed environment, and they also just make you feel a touch closer to nature, evoking calm. They definitely do more than light up a room - and advocates of the lamp say that remove negative toxins from the room, boost your mood and help your sleep.

Tibetan Singing Bowl

This hand hammered Tibetan Singing Bowl is a symbol of tranquility. Crafted in the Himalayas in Nepal, this piece already evokes a unique experience. The soothing sound and vibrations are deeply meditative, and these bowls are used for healing and mindfulness. They are widely used in meditation sessions and workshops due to their transformative effect - and I absolutely love them.

Aromatherapy Oil Diffuser

I like to create my own relaxed space before I begin a meditation, as it really helps with the transition into a calm frame of mind, and this aromatherapy oil diffuser works wonders. Depending on my mood, I’ll opt for a different scent. For mornings, I like to use something uplifting like Eucalyptus, and at night time I love the lavender fragrance. This set is beautiful and great value for money as it comes with a range of oils which you can test to see what suits you most

Neom Sleep Candle

I am absolutely obsessed with this Neom sleep candle which combines 19 essential oils. It fills the room with it’s wonderful fragrance. I often opt for this if I am meditating at nighttime as I like to create the perfect cosy ambiance, with just a little flickering candle light, and the deeply sedative scent of this Neom candle transitions you effortlessly into a relaxed state.

Types of Meditation

Mindfulness Meditation

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This is a brilliant type of meditation to try if you suffer from anxiety, depression or panic attacks. I speak from experience and I have read or heard various medical professionals recommend this technique for management of this. Here’s an article which elaborates further.

Having said that, this is also just an easy and brilliant all-round meditation for a sense of calm before something nerve wracking, or if you’d love a feeling of contentment and a way to ensure you’re always in the moment.

If you’re anything like me, then there may be times where you should be focussing on the present moment but your mind is elsewhere, either stuck in the past, or worrying about something in the future which will likely never happen - and all this internal talk just steals you away the precious moment which we should be invested in. Considering the present is the only moment that is guaranteed, we should be prioritising that.

Mindfulness meditation is practiced by bringing all of your attention to your thoughts, and sensations in the body. It’s about really connecting with yourself and where you are. If I had to describe mindfulness meditation in one word, it would be: observation. You should aim to stay with your thoughts, you follow them. You’re not trying to change where your mind wanders. You follow and internally comment on what you see, what you hear, what you smell, what you feel.

If you feel the sun on your skin, you’d note this. If you hear the rain hitting the window, you’d note this. If you feel your weight on the chair, or smell something cooking, you’d note this - and so on.

The great thing about mindfulness meditation is that it can be practiced from home, in the park, on the bus or in the car - and it brings immediate effects. It’s invisible to others, they wouldn’t know you were meditating.

You’ll find you become incredibly detached from worry, as you are focussed on your senses and the journey you are taking with your mind - and you’ll notice a grounding feeling as you practice and immediately afterwards. This type of exercise for the brain is transformational.

Movement Meditation

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As I mentioned above, there are some types of meditation that may already be a part of your everyday life that you may or may not have noticed. This type of meditation is amazing, because you are sometimes killing two birds with one stone. You may be completing a task such as walking your dog, taking a hike, having a yoga session, mowing the lawn, or trimming the hedge - and you could actually be in a meditative state.

Movement meditation is most beneficial when you are outdoors. Unlike being indoors - being outdoors allows you to use all of your senses which supports you being able to be in the present moment.

A good example of this is hiking, walking or gardening. Anything that involves connecting with nature. During these types of activities you’re often connecting with mother nature - the birds and the bees, the trees and the leaves. The contemplation of nature and how things came to be, and taking the time to absorb the complexities behind creation is so impactful and drastically puts our life into perspective. Suddenly you feel like there’s much bigger forces at play.

Nature demands our attention, and as a result we focus on what’s right in front of us. The swaying trees, the blue sky or the sound of the rain. In that moment you have surrendered to nature. With this type of meditation, your mind is totally free to wander and roam the many things that it may have been putting off, or has been too busy to prioritise. Removing ourselves from distraction, or least placing them on pause, allows our mind to relax, re-configure and think more rationally.

Sometimes by simply taking a walk in the forest at lunchtime, I return with a clear mind, a solution to my problem or my problem has completely diffused.

Do you remember when you were little and the simple moments like playing with your friends in the park, making daisy chains, playing hide and seek, blowing out dandelions and doing cartwheels was just so fun. You’d come home with grass stains and your skin would have a special ‘outdoor’ scent. Remember that feeling of being purely in the moment, with no worries and full enjoyment. That moment is always available to us.

There’s copious amounts of scientifically backed reasons behind why nature positively impacts our well-being and mental health, never mind the physical benefits associated with exercise and moving our bodies. You can find much more scientific data via this pubmed article which discusses the multi-sensory benefits of nature.

Mantra Meditation

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Mantra is a Sanskirt term. ‘Man’ meaning ‘mind’ - and ‘tra’ meaning ‘release’. The best way to think about mantra’s, is a word or phrase that is repeated during a meditation session, as a tool to release your mind. Mantras are widely known in Hindu & Buddhist traditions.

The words spoken during a mantra meditation can be chanted and spoken aloud, whispered, or repeated silently in the mind. This type of meditation exists purely to slow down your mind and thoughts. Whereas the previous meditations allow your mind to engage, with mantra meditation you are actively controlling the pace at which your mind moves which is very therapeutic. It’s important to note that with mantra meditation you aren’t trying to stop your thoughts altogether.

With mantra meditation, it’s a good idea to find a quiet place where you have the least distraction. This could be in your bedroom, or on your sofa, or even on the floor. Sometimes practicing on the floor can be the most grounding. It’s a good idea to decide how long you’d like to mediate for and set a time. You could practice for anywhere between 3-30 minutes, or more! Depending on your preference.

Before you begin, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, tuning into where you may feel tension or anxiety - and try to let go of this. You are setting your foundation for the practice by turning your attention inwards.

Once you’ve settled your mind, you’re ready to begin chanting your phrase until your session is complete. By repeating a particular word or phrase, you are reframing your mind, or preparing it for a task. For example, you may have an upcoming presentation you feel nervous about and you may choose to repeat the phrase ‘I am successful’ or ‘I believe in me’.

You will likely have thoughts arise during the practice, and that’s absolutely fine. All you need to do is acknowledge these, and then bring your attention back to the mantra.

Mantra meditation is very empowering, because you are chanting an affirmation that you’d like to become. There is power in verbalising your aspirations, and growth lies there.

Examples of mantras

When you are selecting your mantra, there’s no set approach. You may have heard simple mantras in the past such as ‘om’ or ‘aum’. Another popular meditation mantra is ‘So Hum’ (meaning ‘I am’ in Sanskirt).

Here’s a few suggestions below, but you are free to create your own, and work with what suits you best:

"I am strong"

"I am enough"

"I manifest happiness"

"I am calm"

"I am fulfilled"

"I am grateful"

"I am fearless"

You can find more inspiration within this brilliant mantra book which is also perfect for beginners.

Guided Meditation

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Guided meditation is one of my favourite types of meditation to practice, and the one I practice most frequently. The great thing about this type of meditation is that you aren't left to your own devices, and you are gently guided through a session by the meditation teacher.

There's plethora of options out there - whether that be 5, 10, 15 minute sessions or even an hour and beyond, which can be really helpful for sleep meditation, creating a restful night of calm, carrying right through to waking up.

This type of meditation is very easy to do from the comfort of your own home, on a park bench, and it is a really good use of time whilst travelling as you can cater the length of the session to match your journey - even if that's just a few train stops.

Examples of guided meditations are 'bodyscans' this is where you visualise each part of your body, turning your focus inwards and trying to identify any tense areas (again, this is a great sleep meditation, as it aids relaxation). Or another might be visualising your breath flowing through your body, visualising beams of light leaving entering your body, whilst you breath out any negative thoughts or feelings. It could even be something as simple as keeping your attention on your breath, counting each inhale and exhale until you reach the count of 10 - and then repeating that process. That's just to give you a rough idea, but there's so many more variations.

The beautiful thing about guided meditation is it's ability to promote quite an instant sense of calm, clarity and focus - which makes it a great style of meditation for anxiety, as the session repeatedly brings you back to the moment - dispelling the feeling of future panic you often get with anxiety.

You can sometimes end the session with a new perspective on the situation, but you also equip your mind with the tools to better manage future stress. Through repetition of this type of meditation, you'll likely start to notice your stress response change and your patience increase.

There’s so many other types of meditation you can explore, including transcendental meditation, visualisation meditation and more - but without making this article too long, I've just included my favourites for now, and the ones which work best for me.

The Best Meditation Apps

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There are so many meditation apps out there, but from my own regular experience I would highly recommend the following:

Headspace - This app is brilliant, and it has a wide variety of meditations to suit your mood, including meditation for sleep, calm, exercise, anxiety, focus and so much more. The sessions are packed full of stress relieving tips, and the unique thing about Headspace is the visuals which accompany some of their meditations, which really help you to understand the science around meditation - and exactly how and why it's so impactful.

Headspace offer a 14 day free trial, after which is costs £49.99 a year - plus they have released a brilliant 8 part meditation series on Netflix called 'Headspace Guide to Mediation' - and they have this great meditation book:

Calm - This app is acked full of guided meditations for anxiety, stress, wellbeing, and it's well known for its sleep stories, spoken by various interesting celebrity guests - they call them bedtime stories for adults. Each day there is a special curated daily meditation which has a different focus, so you don't have to spend lots of time searching for a meditation that you like. T

Calm offer a 7 day free trial, after which it costs £42.99 per year, and they also have this great interactive book which is a great place to start:

The Science Behind Meditation

Meditation is a very interesting subject, as there's lots of health benefits attached to something which we can implement from the comfort of our home - so why aren't we all doing it? Well, it can help to understand a little bit of the science behind meditation, understanding how a mental activity, can have profound affects on someones mental and physical state.

Without getting too technical, one of the main factors of meditation lies within its ability to reduce stress. Stress causes various activity within the body, some of which is said to be bad for our health. Both mental and physical stress cause increased levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. As a result, inflammatory chemicals called cytokines are released - and some say inflammation ignites various physical conditions.

A study conducted on whether Anxiety can damage the brain. 'Anxiety disorders are associated with alterations in fear neurocircuitry such that 'bottom-up' processes in the amygdala which respond to threat are exaggerated, and regulation of these processes by the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and hippocampus is impaired.' They also comment on chronic stress, stating that this also impairs cognitive function. 'Chronic stress exposure similarly alters fear neurocircuitry by enhancing amygdalar functioning while causing structural degeneration in the PFC and hippocampus thereby inhibiting PFC/hippocampus control over the stress response.'

They conclude by suggesting that there is a relationship between stress and illness. 'Pathological anxiety and chronic stress lead to structural degeneration and impaired functioning of the hippocampus and the PFC, which may account for the increased risk of developing neuropsychiatric disorders, including depression and dementia.'

It's clear to see that by managing our stress and anxiety in the first place, we can hopefully alleviate this type of cognitive malfunction, and therefore prevent illness as much as possible.

Benefits of Meditation

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  • Reduction in stress levels, which leads to reduced anxiety.

  • A more positive outlook

  • Greater sense of calm

  • More self-compassion

  • Increased focus awareness

  • Better sleep health

  • Improved patience - and so much more!

Top Tips for getting started

  • Meditation Techniques: It's best not to have any expectations when you sit down to begin your sessions, and just breathe. If you can just stay with your breath, and come back to it each time your mind starts to wander, you're on the right track - and it becomes easier with time.

  • Don’t pressure yourself: It’s best to approach the experience with patience. Your mind will get better at settling into meditation the more it practices. Meditation is a journey and there’s no right or wrong way.

  • Create the perfect environment: Create an environment that excites you, and makes you want to practice. Often we pay to go to classes, but we can create a wonderful atmosphere from home by investing in some of the materials mentioned above.

  • Timing: Find a time that suits you, some people prefer to meditate first thing to get their day off on the right foot, others like to take a mid-afternoon break to re-focus, and some prefer to meditate at night to send them off to a peaceful sleep. Once you find your why, you'll find it easier to dedicate yourself.

  • Consistency is key: The more you practice, the more you'll notice improvements in your day to day life. Meditation ripples out in your life in ways you can't even imagine. The more I practice, the more I want to practice - and I hope the same for you!

If you found this article helpful, then we would love for you to share it with your friends and family if you think they will find it useful, and if you're interested in exploring the subject further - we recommend contacting a meditation teacher, who we're sure can deep dive into this subject even further!

This article is based on personal experiences and scientific data. We don't provide opinion on science, we quote medical professionals and provide the source of the original article.

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