Along with “drink less wine” and “Marie Kondo my wardrobe”, a daily meditation practice is one of those things a lot of us would love to do but haven’t quite gotten around to.
But experts believe it might just be the ultimate antidote to our increasingly frantic lives. “It’s a really invaluable life skill…through meditation you start to condition your body to shift into the parasympathetic response where we do all our best healing and rest,” says Lis Cancio, founder of meditation school The Uma Collective.
“There is incredible research that has demonstrated mindfulness meditation lowers inflammation in the body and brain. This activates the immune system which defends against a host of diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s and depression to name a few.” Improved energy, an increase in resilience and just generally feeling much happier are all common side effects that can flow from a regular routine.
But much like finding a regular workout plan you will actually stick to, meditation isn’t a one size fits all affair. Here’s how to take it off your “should do” list and make it an essential part of your daily ritual.
EXCUSE #1: I HAVEN’T GOT TIME
Try: Mindfulness or guided meditation
Download: The Headspace app
Mindfulness works by bringing your attention to the present moment in a purposeful way – it could be mindful breathing, gazing at a tree in front of you, or while eating something delicious. “The beauty of mindfulness and guided meditation is that they’re very accessible, anybody can practice it in as little as five minutes,” says Lis. You can even do it with your eyes open, perfect if you struggle to make time to sit and get still.
“With a guided meditation practice you’re bringing your attention inward” explains Lis. Apps like Calm and Headspace offer guided meditations that use music and narrative to trigger a relaxation effect. It works a treat when you need to calm anxiety or chill out before or after a stressful scenario or confrontation.
EXCUSE #2: I’M NOT SPIRITUAL
Download: Universal Breathing Pranayama Lite app
If you’ve got both feet firmly fixed in the material world or you’re just plain skeptical, your breath can be your best friend in quieting your mind. Pranayama (which means universal breath control/extension in Sanskrit) can help sharpen your focus before a meeting or calm anxiety before bed.
"There is a myriad of studies that show the breath has the capacity to decrease stress and also increase energy…you don’t have to be anyway spiritually inclined to get huge benefits from that,” explains Lis. “The first step to learning Pranayama is to practice breathing equally, inhaling for four, exhaling for four.”
Learn basic exercises to introduce into your day using an app, or you can enlist the help of a meditation teacher to get you started.
EXCUSE #3: I CAN’T CONCENTRATE
Try: Mantra-based meditation
Download: 1 Giant Mind app
A mantra-based style like Vedic meditation (VM) is perfect for anyone who’s given up because their mind keeps wandering off to their shopping list or what’s for dinner. “Vedic meditation is an effortless style of practice that is easy to learn. It uses a sound to help relax your attention deeper within known as a mantra, which literally means ‘mind vehicle’,” says Lis.
“It’s different to mindfulness and Pranayama in that you’re letting go of having an outer focus or controlling your breath. VM is about transitioning your attention into a deep, restful state. The emphasis is on non-attachment to your thinking and body and letting your awareness expand.”
To learn VM, a teacher will select a personalised mantra based on your needs, but to get a little taste of this technique, try the 30-day challenge on the 1 Giant Mind app.