Body Buzz – All In The Mind
by Sasha Kanal
Take a few minutes in your busy day for a moment of zen calm and quiet as you meditate your way to better health.
September is the ideal month to make a fresh start when it comes to your health. Who can resist that ‘back to school’ feeling and the thrill of something new? With renewed energy (hopefully!) gained from the summer break, now is the time to make small tweaks to your old regime so you start off the autumn healthily. Whether it’s the eternally noble cause of aiming to eat more fruit and vegetables daily or just walking more, then making small changes over the long run can have tangible and lasting effects.
All too often however, we think of our bodies and not our minds.
So what of our mental health? Science shows that regular exercise is a real boon for our mood, helping to ward off the ‘blues’ through the release of endorphins, but what about going one step further and actively cultivating a quieter and happier mind through meditation or mindfulness?
There are so many different types of meditation and mindfulness approaches available, it can be hard to understand which one can work for us and what they can contribute to our lives. There’s much debate out there as to how they all differ and more importantly which one works best. From breath work and mantra techniques to walking and yoga meditation – the categories can be baffling to say the least. So where do you start?
First it’s important to understand the fundamental differences between mindfulness techniques and other meditation. Very simply they can be broken down into two categories – ‘focused attention meditation’ and ‘open monitoring meditation’ – based on how scientists have classified the way techniques focus attention in the mind. Focused attention meditation is where you focus your mind on a single object, be it your breath, a mantra, or an item, for the whole meditation and use it as a tool to quell any distractions and therefore quieten the mind. With open monitoring (mindfulness falls into this category) instead of fixing your attention on any one thing, you keep it open and ‘monitor’ all aspects of your experience and thoughts without judgement or attachment, letting them come and go with the aim that a more peaceful state of mind is reached.
Different things work best for every individual and it’s almost impossible to really drill down and differentiate between every approach because there are inevitably overlaps. The overall consensus however (and research has consistently proved this) is that mediation and mindfulness can be very beneficial in tackling stress, anxiety and depression and can contribute towards improved cognitive function, sleep quality and mood, to name a few.
Start by talking to friends and find out what has worked for them and look out for any local classes you can attend to get a taste of what’s out there. From experience, the key is to be consistent in your practice – although the benefits can be felt immediately, regular everyday practice can really make a difference in the long run.
CAUTION: If you are unsure of any new exercise regime please consult your GP before commencing.