Ready to Give Meditation a Try?

If you’ve always been interested in — if a bit daunted by — the idea of meditating, now might be the perfect time to forge ahead with the practice. Research shows that cutting through the mental static and focusing your mind this way helps alleviate stress and anxiety, slows aging, improves your attention span — and can even act as a sleep aid. Studies have found it can also help alleviate pain, control blood pressure and improve digestion. And who doesn’t need help with all of the above?

That said, for something so simple (what’s more straightforward than, say, concentrating on your own breath?), meditation can take effort. Sitting still, as is often involved, isn’t necessarily as easy as it sounds. And try to focus on a singular phrase or idea can be tedious for minds used to wandering at will. And then there’s the need to sort out what exactly, you’re even trying to do.

“People often think meditation is about getting rid of thoughts or feelings, which it’s not,” says Sharon Salzberg, cofounder of the Insight Meditation Society, and author of Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation and Real Change: Mindfulness to Heal Ourselves and the World. “Or they think it’s about having only beautiful thoughts or peaceful states, which it’s also not. Meditation is about developing a different relationship with our thoughts.”

Say, for instance, you’ve been taking in a steady stream of news. Your mind — no surprise — becomes fixed on all the many what-ifs, such as: What if life never returns to normal? Meditation, a form of mindfulness, allows you “to see what’s happening right now without distorting it,” Salzberg says. “It’s not that difficult things don’t arise; they do. But we don’t have to add to them. With mindfulness we learn to feel a whole range of emotions and physical sensations without getting swept up in them — or trying to push them away.”

For 6 tips on how to get started with meditation, from AARP, CLICK HERE.