Posted by Christina Pistotnik
Winter is upon us with days getting shorter and the temperature dropping, forcing us to spend more time indoors. I know from personal experience that this can put a damper on the way I feel physically and emotionally. That’s why it is so important to take care of ourselves during the winter season and one way that really helps me, is by doing regular meditative exercises.
Meditation is such an easy self-care practice because it can be done anywhere you feel comfortable and it doesn’t cost much, except for a little of your time. One important benefit of meditation is that it helps to clear the mind, so that goals and obstacles can be seen in a clearer light, allowing the ability to deal with everyday stressors more effectively. Nevertheless, there are many other benefits of meditation according to research1 and they include:
• Cardiovascular disease
• Chronic pain
• Obsessive compulsive disorder
• Premenstrual syndrome
• Sexual dysfunction
The way meditation works is that the more you do it the better you will feel and to truly benefit is to dedicate time everyday to meditate in order to experience the full effects from this practice.
I know what you are thinking; “I already have so much going on and barely have enough time in my day, how do you expect me to fit another thing in?” Well that’s the beautiful thing about meditation; all you need is a minimum of 15 minutes per day. If you have more time to give up in the day then that’s great but if you don’t that’s okay too. I find the easiest way to fit the time in, is by either getting up 15 minutes earlier in the morning or going to bed 15 minutes earlier in the evening.
If sleep is a problem for you, then meditating before going to bed will be the best option because it will help to relax the mind so that sleep is easier to achieve.
How to Meditate
You may already know the basics of how to meditate but if you don’t, then here are some step-by-step instructions:
1. Find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed and assume a comfortable position, lying down or sitting up. If sitting, keep the spine straight and let your shoulders drop.
2. You can either close your eyes or keep them open. If eyes are more comfortable open, keep your focus on one object straight in front of you.
3. Take a deep breath in then slowly exhale out.
4. Bring your attention to your stomach, feeling it rise/expand on the in breath, and fall/recede on the out breath.
5. Keep your focus on your breathing
6. Every time you notice your mind has wondered off the breath, acknowledge that thought and then bring your attention back to your stomach and the sensation of your breath moving in and out.
7. Each time your attention wanders away from your breath, simply bring it back, no matter what it has become preoccupied with.
I find it more relaxing to play soft rhythmic music while I meditate and there are a few places to find meditation music, some are free while others cost money and they include:
One simple meditation that I like to do originated in Japanese Zen meditation. It is called Breathing Clouds.2 Please follow the steps below to try the Breathing Clouds meditation.
1. Do steps 1-7 from the how to meditate section above, focus all of your attention on your breathing.
2. Visualize the air that you are breathing in as being clean, fresh, and pure.
3. This air has the power to cleanse and heal your body.
4. As you breathe in this cleansing air visualize and feel the air move up to your sinuses, to the top of your head, and down your spinal column to circulate through your body.
5. Now as you exhale, visualize that the air leaving your body is dirty air (dark, cloudy, & smoky) that symbolizes all the stressors, frustrations, and toxins throughout your body and mind.
6. With each breath you take, allow the clean, fresh air to enter, circulate, and rejuvenate your body, and expel the dirty air to help rid your body of its stress and tension.
7. Repeat this breathing cycle for 15 minutes. As you repeat the breathing clouds meditation, you may notice the colour of the exhaled air beginning to change from dark clouds to clear clouds. This is symbolic of the relaxation and cleansing taking place within your body.
Establishing a regular meditative practice will not only help you to feel good in the winter season but also allow you to cope with stress that comes along with this time of year.
1 Meditation as Medicine: Activate the Power of Your Natural Healing Force. Dharma, Singh Khalsa, M.D., and Cameron Stauth. New York: Pocket Books, 2001
2 Managing Stress: Principles and Strategies for Health and Well-Being. 4th edition. Brian Luke Seaward, Ph.D. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 2004