Think meditation is not for you, or too hard a task to fit into your busy life? Think again. These 6 surprising facts will make you reassess your stance on this practice.
Leading meditation expert and clinical psychologist Dr. Paula Watkins, shares 6 things you probably didn't know about meditation.
1. Don't try to stop all of your thoughts
One of the biggest (and most unhelpful) meditation myths is that when you meditate, you should try to stop all of your thoughts. This one is simply not true, not according to traditional texts of meditation and not according to modern science. The goal of meditation is not to stop all thinking, but to change your relationship to your thoughts so that you’re not so caught up in them, swept away in them and finding yourself fighting with them.
2. Meditating for five minutes is just as effective
You don’t need to meditate for an hour a day to experience the benefits. In fact, studies have shown just 15 minutes of mindfulness meditation can be beneficial help to free the mind from biased thinking. However even 15 minutes can be a long time for beginners. I teach clients to begin with a breathing technique that takes just 5 minutes and within a few weeks we increase to 12 minutes of mindfulness. You can incorporate more mindfulness into your day by uni-tasking…doing one thing at a time and staying attentive to that one particular thing while you’re doing it.
3. You can achieve mindfulness by simply using your senses
Using your senses is another way to enhance your mindfulness of the present moment. Explore with curiosity everything your senses can detect – sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures. Try this the next time you’re having something to eat.
4. Meditation and mindfulness are aspects of the same thing
Mindfulness is a buzzword and this is a great thing because research shows how beneficial it is for our physical, emotional and interpersonal wellbeing. Meditation and mindfulness are complementary – there is a huge overlap. For many of us, they are aspects of the same thing.
The main reason that people tend to get confused about mindfulness and meditation is that both of them have multiple definitions, and they’re also intertwined in various ways. Meditation is when we set aside time to literally train the mind. Psychologists have adapted meditation techniques but often call it ‘mindfulness’. However the confusion also lies in the fact that one of the most well known types of meditation is mindfulness meditation in which you pay attention to the present moment with acceptance and openness. In other words, mindfulness is a way of paying attention and it can be done formally (during meditation) or informally (as you go about your day). In many ways you can’t meditate unless you are being mindful.
5. Meditation can improve your relationship with food
Mindfulness meditation has been researched in relation to eating behaviours and particularly binge eating and other eating disorders. It has been found to decrease binge eating episodes, improve one's sense of self-control with regard to eating, and diminish eating-related depressive symptoms. In a study of adults who did not have an eating disorder, mindfulness meditation was associated with mindful eating and specifically smaller serving sizes of energy dense foods.
6. There's no 'one-size-fits-all' approach to meditation
It’s important to find a meditation style that resonates with you. There is no one particular best way to meditate – there are many pathways to meditation. Most meditation teachers only offer one particular technique, but in my experience it’s beneficial to introduce students to a range of evidence-based meditation techniques and support them in discovering and practicing the one that works best for them.