Known as one of the busiest cities in the world, there’s no denying that the stress factors of living in Hong Kong are off the charts. So what better way to take a load off than with some stress-free, mindful meditation? Luckily, meditation advocate and owner of website HK Running, David Tanner, is here to give us the lowdown on why it’s good for your health.
What is Meditation?
Meditation is a means of transforming the mind. Practicing meditation encourages and develops concentration, clarity, emotional regulation, and a valuable new perspective in your everyday experiences. By engaging with a particular practice, one can develop an understanding and insight into the way your mind works. Meditation also allows you to cultivate new positive ways of thinking, feeling, and being.
Why is Meditation Good For Your Health?
1. Meditation reduces stress
As stress hormones continue to be produced over time, your ability to control stress decreases. Taking time out to quiet the mind can help regulate and balance the stress created.
2. Meditation improves your focus, attention, and ability to work under stress
Studies have demonstrated that students who meditate were able to improve their cognitive skill performance, and in some cases, do 10 times better than students who did not meditate.
3. Meditation improves learning, memory, and self-awareness
Meditation has shown to increase the amount of grey matter in the brain, which is responsible for muscle control, sensory perception, hearing, memory, emotions, speech, decision- making, and self-control.
4. Meditation studies have also shown reduction in alcohol and other substance use
Studies have suggested a direct relationship between meditation, and a significant reduction in alcohol and substance abuse.
How to Start Your Meditation Journey
People often think they’re messing up when they are meditating because of how busy their mind is. But getting lost in thought, noticing it, and returning to your chosen meditation object – breath, sound, body sensation, or something else – is how it is done.
There are a few different postures and positions you can meditate in, depending on your experience or body type. The best position to start in is seated, with your shoulders relaxed and chest open, meanwhile maintaining a focus on keeping your spine long and straight. You can cross your legs and sit on the floor, or simply sit on a chair with your hands on your knees. Of course, you can also choose to relax and lay down during meditation – though many people just end up falling asleep!
There’s no rule as to when you should meditate, but morning meditation is always a great way to wake up your mind. It sets you up really well for the rest of the day, and allows you to become more focused, calm, and in control. There’s also no limitation as to how long a meditation session should be. You can start with anything – even one minute a day is good. The most important thing is that you try to do it regularly. As weeks go on, you can slowly increase your session by a few minutes at a time until you reach an ideal duration.
Examples of Meditation
Focus all your attention on the movement of your breath going in and out, like it’s the only thing in the world. Notice the subtle sensations of the movement of the abdomen rising and falling. Let all your thoughts and senses fade away. If you need help focusing, try saying to yourself, “I breathe in”, “I breathe out” as you repeat the breathing pattern. Even if random thoughts start to come into your mind, feel free to acknowledge that they have arrived, before telling yourself that you do not need them at this time, and let them go.
Shower Visualization Meditation
Not all meditation needs to be done sitting down. This is a meditation for you to do in the shower. Start by just enjoying the soothing sensation of the water. Focus on your whole body relaxing, with water falling over your head, right down to your legs. Each time you breathe out, you are letting your thoughts go one by one – 5 to 10 breaths and you should be as relaxed as possible.
Now start focusing on the water, imagine it as a light blue water that is washing away your stress, tension, and anxiety as it runs over your body. If you like, you can focus on something you are anxious about, and visualise the water washing it onto the floor, and down the drain. As this happens, your body becomes lighter, and you will feel the tension and weight of the day lifted off you. Each exhale is like a new wave of stress being released from your mind, until you start to feel a sense of clarity and calm. The key is not to rush.
About the Author
Hoping to encourage and inspire people through exercise, David Tanner began his own website HK Running, and company, Women’s Five. He grew up in Hong Kong, studied Outdoor Education in Australia, and worked as an outdoor instructor and guide for many years before returning to Hong Kong to work in the sports events scene. With experiences in high risk sports such as rock climbing, skiing, and free diving, Tanner began his self-education of meditation, mindfulness, neuroscience, and psychology, to help overcome mental barriers that allowed him to “get in the zone” and perform at his best. Through extensive research, he learned how to better his practise in different types of mindfulness exercises.
Read more! Check out our 6 Tried and Tested Relaxation Techniques to Reduce Stress, and explore the rest of our Wellness section on Localiiz.