Quick Mental Wellness Tip: The Listening Meditation
Does the idea of meditation intimidate you? If so, today's blogpost will help change that. Meditation is an ancient practice with numerous benefits. For my patients, it's an awesome tool to combat depression and anxiety. It also helps people struggling with temper outbursts, psychological trauma residue and substance-dependence.
Unfortunately, many people are suspicious of meditation, worried that it stands in contrast to their religious and spiritual beliefs. Just as many others are intimidated by it - and the thought of having to have a perfectly still, silent mind to achieve it. However, meditation can be part of any spiritual system (or practiced separate from a spiritual system) and does not necessarily require you reach a state of perfect mental stillness.
Today's blogpost will teach you a very simple meditation that can be used anytime, and it's benefits. I regularly recommend this meditation for people who can set aside at least 1 minute in the morning to practice (that's right, all you need is one minute!), but it can be done at anytime of day. It can also be done at various points in the day if you need quick stress relief.
This simple listening meditation can be done inside your home, on your front porch, or any public place. For safety purposes, we do not recommend meditation while driving. Also, meditate in a place where you can be safe. If you have to worry about your surroundings while you're doing the meditation, it won't be as effective.
1. Pick a time when you won't be interrupted.
2. Set a gentle alarm (like a quiet chime) for the number of minutes you want to meditate, if your time is limited.
3. Sit comfortably with your feet on the floor and close your eyes if you feel comfortable.
4. Breathe as you would normally but pay attention to your breath. How does it feel entering and leaving your body?
5. Slowly and gently turn your attention from your breath to the sounds around you. If you're meditating outside, you will hear cars, birds, wind, people talking, dogs barking, etc. Instead of trying to tune them out, tune IN to everything you hear.
6. Try to differentiate the sounds in your mind. If you hear birds chirping, how many different types of birdsong do you hear? If you can hear the hum of machinery, what type is it? A car? A large truck? The hum of the highway?
7. If your mind wanders from listening to the sounds to thinking, just shift your thoughts back to the sounds. This doesn't mean you've "messed up."
8. When your chime goes off, take a few deep breaths then slowly open your eyes. Gradually wiggle your toes and move your limbs to "come back" to yourself.
* The more you practice, the easier this will become. Start with a 1-minute mediation and expand to 5, 15 and 30 minutes over time. The primary goal is to stay focused on the sounds you hear and gently bring your mind back if it wanders to thoughts about things like work, family, finances, relationships, etc.
But can sitting and listening to the noise outside really benefit you? Yes, it sure can. Various research studies have shown a multitude of benefits from simple mediation. Some of the most common benefits are:
Improved focus, mental clarity and creativity
Prevention of cognitive decline and some types of dementia
Decreased inflammation, which lowers risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and autoimmune disease.
Stress-reduction and improved ability to handle worries
In addition, spending just a few minutes at the beginning of the day to tune your mind will help you face the unexpected. It will also give you the increased ability to shift your attention from stressors. If something disturbing is on your mind, having the ability to shift attention to your environment, your body, or something you're looking forward to, it will be a powerful tool in stress management.
Click here to read more about how meditation can support your overall health. If you try the listening meditation and it works for you, please let us know! Happy listening!