Meditation is the ‘buzzword’ in today's health and well-being industry and a word we come across regularly in magazines and social media. But what does it actually mean?

"Meditation can be defined as a set of techniques that are intended to encourage a heightened state of awareness and focused attention. Meditation is also a consciousness-changing technique that has been shown to have a wide number of benefits on psychological well-being"

Meditation is something I have been practising 'on and off' over the last couple of years, possibly more so over these last 16 months. I came across this practice whilst studying for my fitness qualifications in the 'resources' section related to goal setting and positive mindset. As a Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer, I need an understanding of the human mind to help clients achieve their goals and find their motivation 'triggers'. Goal setting and positive mindset are the reasons that drive the human being to achieve their objectives and targets.

We all accept the theory of losing weight. Eat less, move more and the pounds will drop. We know it is not easy, but we also know that this is the only way we will lose the unwanted weight we have gained. Equally we also realise we need to increase our activity if we want to become fit and healthy. We are prepared to count our steps or join a gym. However, we are not so open and accepting when it comes to our minds? We are happy to 'scold' ourselves if we are having a bad day. We talk to ourselves in a very negative way if we are not happy? "Ooh, just get on with it and stop feeling sorry for yourself" ..... "What is the matter with you? Don't be so ungrateful, there are so many a lot worse off that you"......sound familiar? We very easily reject our thoughts and feelings as a lot of 'stupid nonsense' and try to disregard them. This is in fact the worst thing we can do to our minds. These feelings will harbour and return in a constant cycle, ruining our days and bringing our mood levels down even further.

Meditation helps us to acknowledge and accept our thoughts and feelings without judgement. Meditation is exercise for our minds. Just like losing weight, or increasing our fitness levels it will not happen overnight. We accept that we can lose one pound a week for a certain time frame and reach our weight loss goal. We accept that we can slowly increase our steps per day until we reach our target of 10,000 steps, if we walk daily and increase our pace. But we are not willing to have the same patience with our mind and our thoughts. Meditation is a practice and with time and a little daily effort, we will find peace and calm.

What are the Benefits of Meditation

Being an 'Older Adult' instructor, the age group I train and instruct are from a generation (including myself) that have been taught to 'get on with it'!! Life is not supposed to be easy right? This is true, but it is not the end of the story. Meditation is about acknowledging and accepting thoughts and feelings in a non-judgemental way. Life is not easy? No, it is not.....but we can accept this, we can acknowledge this, but we can also 'not react' in any way to this statement. It is our reaction to situations and people that will set the mind up for a negative outcome. Meditation helps us to react in a very different non-judgemental way. With daily practice the benefits of meditation are extremely positive and improve our well-being and health.

1. Improved memory - Increase in mental clarity that can help fight age-related memory loss such as dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

2. Increased Focus - Meditation helps with our attention span.

3. Increased compassion - You will understand yourself with clarity, increase your positivity and your awareness of others.

4. Increased creativity - Meditation opens your mind to new and fresh ideas.

5. Increased productivity - Meditation increases cortical thickness (grey matter). Meditation de-clutters the mind and sharpens your concentration.

6. Increased relaxation of the body - Meditation can produce a deep state of relaxation and a tranquil mind.

7. Enhanced will power - Meditation establishes mental discipline required to break bad habits and implement new healthy ways.

8. Better sleep - Meditation improves sleep quality.

9. Lower blood pressure - Blood pressure actually decreases during a meditative state. With daily practice blood pressure can lower over time and can prevent heart disease.

10. Reduced anxiety - Practising daily meditation helps to reduce anxiety levels, fears and obsessive-compulsive behaviours.

11. Reduce stress - Meditation can help reduce stress by clearing the mind of 'clutter'. Meditation can also improve the symptoms of stress-related conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and fibromyalgia.

12. Reduce pain - Meditation reduces pain and can enhance emotional regulation. Meditation along with prescribed medication may help treat chronic pain

13. Reduced depression - Meditation can help reduce depression. With regular practice, meditation can help your brain better manage stress and anxiety that can trigger depression

14. Enhance emotional balance - Meditation gives you a sense of calm, peace and tranquility that will benefit your well-being and health. Meditation can help you manage your days in a calm and less stressful fashion.

15. A sense of gratitude - Through mindful meditation and reflection you can experience gratitude and appreciation
How to Meditate

Meditation is a very personal practice. There is no wrong or right way to do it. It is for you to feel comfortable and at ease within your meditation. People see meditation as a religious act rather than a well-being exercise. This is not the case, particularly with Mindful meditation.

Medito Meditation Foundation have an app that you can download for free that will introduce you to meditation, explain to you what mindfulness and meditation are and talk you through the process. If you have very little or no meditation experience, you will find a beginners course with guided meditations to help you start a regular practice. Each session is approximately 10 minutes. This app is 100% free as Medito foundation believes that meditation helps us to improve our mental health and ensure that resources are available to everyone. Once you feel comfortable and at ease with meditation there are plenty of meditation practices for you to choose from:

Sleep - get a peaceful nights rest.

Daily meditation - a new session each day.

Low mood - alleviate negative feelings.

Sounds - for meditative ambience.

Relationships - maintain healthy and loving relationships.

30 day meditation challenge.

Work life - finding success in your workplace.

Stress and anxiety - overcoming negative thoughts.

Body scan - meditation for mind and body.

Gratitude - finding appreciation in small acts.

.........and many more meditations......all free.

There is a 'learning to sit' series which will help you become more at ease with sitting for meditation sessions in a comfortable position for 10 minutes. Remember this all takes time, patience and daily practise to really benefit from meditation sessions.

What to Expect

If I am completely honest with you, my first meditation was a let down and I wondered what all the fuss was about. I didn't seem to feel anything at all and felt no benefit afterwards. This is the problem that most people face when attempting meditation. It is a lack of understanding and high expectations that lead to disappointment. I am not sure what I was expecting ..... perhaps a floating sensation, a spiritual awakening or maybe a complete accomplishment to a happier and more fulfilling life. One meditation session or a week's worth of meditation will not bring miracles.

After several months of daily 10 minute meditations, I have felt a lot calmer. I am able to 'single task' (the opposite of multi-task) with the tasks to hand and the thought process behind them. In other words I think of just one thing at a time and I accept I do not need to do two things at once. This relieves me of stress and panic. I am able to focus on the task at hand instead of thinking about what I have to do tomorrow. I can write a weekly to-do list and focus on the more important tasks and not worry about the less important jobs.

Meditation also helps to de-clutter both physically and mentally. I have managed to scale down my belongings and discard the things I no longer require. This can be quite distressing if you find it hard to let go of sentimental objects and material things. Clutter restricts freedom, something that helps to bring peace and calm. Meditation has also helped me see the things that make me happy and the things that make me unhappy, whether it is possessions or people. I do this without feelings of guilt or judgement. We are put on this earth to live the best life we can and to find happiness and calm. There comes a time when we have to place our own happiness above others. You cannot be anxious, depressed or fearful and expect those around you to be happy.

Meditation will bring emotional balance, happiness, calmness, peace and a sense of well-being. It's worth the 10 minutes of daily practice to enhance our physical and mental health.

Author's Bio: 

Catherine is a Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer and founder of Healthy Forever Fitness Motivation.
Her mission is to help everyone stay active and live a healthy and happy life. Catherine promotes all things 'positive' and believes that all aspects of health can work together in harmony. A healthy body and mind, together with good nutrition will achieve optimal health