Can Meditation Help You Stress Less?

Everyone seems to be talking about meditation and mindfulness lately. It’s on talk shows, magazine covers, in yoga studios, even in schools. Everyone from celebrities to the retiree down the street touts the benefits of meditation, and there are even meditation apps and instructional YouTube videos. Why are so many people suddenly seeking out meditation? What’s in it for you and your family? And how do you get started?

What is meditation?
Meditation has been around for centuries, but the ancient practice has gone mainstream. Medical studies show that regular meditators boast the ability to tune out distractions, be more present in the moment, and even lower blood pressure and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Some schools have implemented meditation and have found that it reduces children’s stress and improves academic performance.

There are many different kinds of meditation. Some involve sitting, some involve movement, some include the repetition of a mantra (like “Ommm”), and some include music.

Dispelling the myths
There are some misconceptions about meditation. It’s not a religious practice, though many religions do include an aspect of meditation. And meditation does not mean erasing or blocking all thoughts from your mind. Rather, it’s a way of becoming aware of your thoughts and learning how to let go of the thoughts that cause stress and anxiety. Essentially, meditation teaches you how to be in control of your mind which may lead to a healthy body.

While meditation may look like sitting around daydreaming or doing nothing, in fact, it’s an active process of going deeper into your mind and body and becoming aware of them. As anyone who’s ever tried meditation will agree, this is much easier said than done! That’s why beginners will have the best results getting instruction from experienced teachers.

It’s also important to understand that while meditation has proven health benefits, it’s not meant to be a treatment or cure for any medical conditions.

How to get started
Check with your local community center, health club, or yoga studio to see if they offer any introductory meditation or mindfulness classes for families. Most places will let you try out a class for free. You can also search for guided meditations on YouTube — or guided meditations for children — and find hundreds of videos geared toward relaxation and reducing stress. There are even meditation apps you can download on your smartphone. A popular one, called Headspace, was developed by a former Buddhist monk to introduce people to meditation in just 10 minutes a day.

No matter how you go about it, the goal of any meditation practice is the same: to slow down, breathe, and be fully present in the moment. And that’s something the whole family can benefit from.