Analyses of hundreds of scientific studies suggest that meditation has real mood-lifting effects, and recent USA-based research study has even gone so far as to show that meditation is better for you than a vacation.
Conducted at a Southern California resort over six days, 94 female participants checked in and were divided into groups either joining a meditation programme or simply enjoying a holiday.
By the end, all women showed significant improvements on their initial stress and depression scores. But, a one-month follow-up showed that while these benefits were enduring for the meditators, the vacationers had gone back to baseline.
Here are our top meditation tips:
Ways to meditate anywhere
If you thought meditation was reserved for leafy retreats and special classes, think again! There are plenty of ways to practice at home, at work, or even on the train – who would have thought that making your way to work could be the perfect time to relax?
Choose a mantra
Decide what positive change you want to affect in your life and choose a word or phrase that you will repeat out loud or in your head to affirm it. For example, to improve self-esteem repeat “I am enough”.
This works to suppress other thoughts and distractions, and to keep you focused. It allows the meaning of your mantra to seep into your consciousness. Shifting your negative thinking patterns to positive ones will, in turn, affect changes in your outward behaviour.
Picture a pretty place
Finding it difficult to still your mind? Visualise a picturesque setting. Whether it be a solitary mountain or far-flung island, this simple technique can wash away stress and help restore your energy.
Listen to music
Although some people like to meditate in silence, it can be intimidating for first-timers. Whether you’re at home or stuck in traffic, playing ambient music can help to induce a state of relaxation. Slow, wordless music is best to calm your thoughts.
The Google Play and iTunes online stores have loads of free meditation and soundtrack apps. We particularly like Omvana (free for iOS/Apple and Android), which gives you access to meditation sounds and music, as well as guided sessions with meditation experts.
Colouring can be calming; it allows you to switch off from your worries and become involved in the moment as you choose colours and follow the lines of intricate images and patterns. “It occupies the same parts of the brain that stops anxiety-related mental imagery happening,” says psychologist and neuroscientist Dr Joel Pearson.
This is a trend that shows no sign of abating as adult colouring-in books continue to fly off bookstore shelves. We love Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Colouring Book by Johanna Basford, R223 from Exclusive Books
Buy a miniature Zen garden
If you don’t feel too creative, try raking through the sand of a miniature Zen garden. Creating patterns around randomly clustered stones and simply playing has much the same relaxing effect on the mind artistic pastimes.
Wantitall.co.za has several ranging in price from R772 to R1 507, all including a booklet, sand tray, rake and rocks. They’re the perfect size to set up at your desk for when you need a few minutes of calm.