You probably already know that meditation can make your RealAge younger and you more beautiful—inside and out. In particular, research has shown it’s an incredible stress-reduction tool. Meditation can drastically improve your sleep and even reduce inflammation (which is a byproduct of stress), affecting the way nearly 70 inflammatory genes are expressed!
Recent research has provided even more evidence that meditation can treat anxiety and depression. One study, in fact, had the pretty awesome finding that Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, which combines traditional cognitive-behavioral therapy with mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques, is as effective as antidepressants in preventing depressive relapse. (Mind=blown. Right?)
Not all of us are going to seek out a Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy practitioner, but there are many ways to make mindfulness a part of your daily life. Below, we offer you some of our favorite techniques—all of which are simple and easy, we promise.
1. Focus on your body. In one study, athletes completed seven weeks of mindfulness training in which they were taught to focus intensely on their bodies, rather than on any surrounding noise or other disruptions. After the training, brain scans during a stressful situation showed the athletes were more aware of the stress, but less liable to exhibit a panicked physiological response. That is, they could observe what was happening without their bodies freaking out: a big deal! So how to meditate with a focus on the body? The athletes’ training included an exercise in which they mentally scanned their bodies, paying very close attention to each body part. They also had to breathe through straws and submerge their hands in ice water, focusing on those intense physical sensations. So try a meditation practice in which, every day, you close your eyes and simply scan through each body part in turn—or just dunk your hand in ice water and pay super-close attention to the way it feels. The point is to put your attention on the physical, not on what’s going on in your mind, for a brief time every day.
2. Pick an exact time that you’ll meditate for 10 minutes every day. Get out your calendar or alarm—yes, right now. Without thinking too hard about it, pick a time that you can spare 10 minutes every single day. (You can always change it later.) This will be your date with yourself. No matter what’s happening, when this appointment comes up, you will simply sit, close your eyes, and do nothing for 10 minutes. Let go of the idea that to meditate properly, you need to completely clear your mind and think no thoughts. Meditation is about being comfortable with the mind and letting thoughts come and go as they will—the opposite of controlling it! Just sit.
3. Try a walking meditation. Did you know that you actually don’t have to be sitting down for meditation to “count”? Meditation can happen in all kinds of places and positions, including lying down, standing—and even walking. Simply clasp your hands gently in front of you, lower your eyes to decrease distraction, and walk slowly, concentrating on every step and breath. Again, this is something that can be easily integrated into your daily routine, even if it’s just for a single block on your walk to work.