Do you have the mid-semester blues? Have tests, quizzes and essays got you down? Are you too stressed out eat, breathe or shower? If any of these questions apply to you, listen up! Meditation may be just what you need.
But what Is meditation, exactly?
According to Marie Heller, president of the Meditation Society at Penn State, meditation is “basically just sitting in a dark room…doing nothing but just sitting with your eyes shut and trying to focus on something.”
Sounds pretty simple. How a person chooses to meditate is also dependent on what they want to use meditation for, Heller says. There are many different kinds of meditation that are used for different purposes; Heller herself practices mindful meditation, which involves focusing on the breath and is used to treat those with anxiety.
And how do you meditate?
“Well what you would do,” says Heller, “is begin by sitting cross-legged on a cushion in a dark room, and then you close your eyes, and if you’re doing mindfulness meditation you pick something to focus on.”
Normally, people choose to focus on their breathing and “some people even choose to focus on certain parts of breathing, like the feeling of the rising and falling of their chest when they breathe.” But what you focus up to you and what works best for you personally.
“Normally beginners will meditate for five to ten minutes, which is probably the best amount of time for a beginner,” she says. While you are focusing on breathing, your mind will wander and try to think about things, but the important thing is to always bring your focus back to the breathing.
“And when you’re focusing on breathing, don’t actively think to yourself that you have to be breathing deeply or anything like that, the purpose of the focus on the breathing is to just sort of take things as they come. Sort of watch your thoughts pass and observe that your brain is thinking, and then bring it back to the breath,” she says.
Feeling relaxed yet?
What are the benefits of meditation?
The benefits of meditation vary depending on what you are using meditation for. According to Heller, one big perk of meditation is that after you’ve been doing it for a little while you’re able to apply meditation techniques to times when you aren’t meditating.
This helps people who meditate become less emotionally reactive, because they observe their emotions forming in a detached way, rather than getting caught up in the moment and becoming stressed or upset. More specifically, though, meditation can be particularly helpful before bed or in the morning before you start the day.
“Meditating at night specifically can be really helpful for people who have trouble sleeping,” says Heller. And meditation in the morning is a good way to shut off those stressed out thoughts about how much you have to do that day.
“Instead of thinking ‘oh I have to do x,y, and z today, you get to wake up and just breathe. You don’t have to do anything else,” she adds, “and I think that makes you more peaceful and willing to work with others.”
Before you rip your hair out, or something worse, remember to breathe.
Photo by Sam Florio