Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

How to start meditating (because yes, you really should)

If I had a dollar for every time I have read or been told that I should try meditation I would probably have enough money to build my own tranquility hut. The problem is I wouldn’t use it for years.

After what I started trying this winter break, though, I’m hoping that would change.

It seems like the benefits of simply sitting and clearing one’s mind are ever increasing in number. Aside from just being relaxing, meditation has been shown to improve the immune system, relieve physical pain and improve concentration, self-confidence and self-acceptance.

If you’ve dealt with anxiety or depression before, you’ve probably been told that last one. According to an article by Hannah Braime on these many benefits of meditation, “a key part of meditation revolves around noticing our thoughts without judging them or getting caught up in their stories or meanings. This helps us to develop a different perspective on our internal dialogue, develop a greater understanding of ourselves, and practice noticing our thoughts and feelings without attaching meaning or judgment to them.”

My eyes basically glazed over halfway through reading that paragraph for the first time. For me, hearing how wonderful meditation is has become background noise in the stream of advice that family, friends and therapists have given me over the years to better embrace life.

Most of us know that we should practice self-care more and could do a bit more life embracing, but when we think of meditation we often think of committed, spiritually in-tune people who can sit for an hour and just turn off their minds. So, we dismiss the idea because we “definitely don’t have time and just can’t do that” and carry on with our automatic routines or stressful daily tasks.

The reality is that you can reap the benefits of meditation with just five minutes of deep breathing a day. “The length of your practice isn’t as important as the frequency,” says Braime. “You’re far more likely to experience the many benefits if you meditate for five to 10 minutes a day, 5 days a week than if you squeeze your meditation into a 30-minute session once a week.”

This winter break I told myself to stop zoning out every time I heard sentences like that, and decided to start actually giving myself those five minutes. This time, instead of listening to a guided track on YouTube like I’ve done before, I put on my headphones and chose a calming song that had no lyrics. For the length of that 6-minute song, all I tried to focus on was my breathing.

When the song ended, I felt slightly more relaxed—no magical healing yet—but I found myself actually wanting to do it again. After a few weeks, I even starting looking forward to taking the short breathing break instead of forgetting about it. Sometimes, the song would come on my iPod’s shuffle when I was in the car and would have an automatic relaxing effect on me.

A great thing about meditation that we often forget is that it can be done anywhere. I’ve come across workplace meditation guides, showering meditation guides and even eating meditation guides. Ultimately, it is about letting yourself just breathe and be present wherever you are. It’s about blocking out the daily noise and being with just yourself for a moment. In time, it will teach you to appreciate being alone, taking care of yourself and accepting wherever you are in life.

I truly believe that mindful breathing can bring me all of that, and here I am writing the exact sentences that I would usually ignore. The difference is now I have finally found a method that I can actually commit to. In time, maybe you’ll even see me sitting for an hour in a deep-breathing trance.

I may be getting ahead of myself – I’ll start with just 6 minutes.

Kate Leddy is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected].

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  • J

    J BurbankJan 23, 2015 at 11:53 am

    Nice article and meditation does really work!

  • G

    GlobalParadiseJan 22, 2015 at 1:53 pm

    Music meditations are some of the best ways to illicit the relaxation response and can lead to further exploration into other forms of meditation – from past experiences.