We all know the importance of exercising our bodies for optimal health, and that we need physical relaxation for recovery and vitality. Muscles need movement to maintain strength, and recovery for longevity. But our minds need exercise to stay healthy as well as needing recovery too. I’ll refer to this here as mindfulness meditation.
Physically, meditation helps decrease metabolism, lower blood pressure, and improves heart rate, breathing, and brain waves. Psychologically, meditation can also boost your self-confidence and expand your awareness, by clearing the mind and creating a sense of calm.
If you find ‘formal’ practice difficult (like doing a lying down body scan, or sitting meditation), meditation can also be done in other forms.
‘Informal’ meditation, also known as mindfulness, involves bringing an awareness into everyday activities, such as eating, making a cup of tea, exercising, or hanging out with friends and family. It’s about paying attention to the present moment without judgement, with a sense of openness and curiosity.
Research has shown meditation can help reduce stress and anxiety, improve concentration and productivity, develop a greater sense of empathy and connectedness with others, and provide better sleep and emotional regulation.
Give it a try. While you’re going about your day, try to stay present and engaged with what you’re doing. If your thoughts lead you somewhere else, try not to let them distract you; just acknowledge them, and move on. What do you notice? What do you hear? I like to focus on my breath, using it as an anchor to help bring me back into focus, in both informal and formal meditation. It’s not about aiming for no thoughts at all, it’s about having awareness of them - and this is only achieved continuous practice, so add small mindful sessions throughout your day if you can!
Every great race I’ve competed in as a triathlete has involved formal meditation beforehand, and informal meditation while racing. So, as you continue your day after reading this, think about how you can exercise your mind using meditation too.