The first thing that comes to mind when you think of meditation is probably a monk in a state of complete calm and mindfulness. While that’s likely the case with many who practice meditation seriously, even those who do it on an ordinary level stand to benefit. Meditation is known to manage the stress that can otherwise cause anxiety. Anxiety, in turn, can disrupt sleep as your mind races with thoughts and worries. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University aimed to determine how efficient meditation programs were to improve stress-related outcomes like anxiety, depression, and sleep. They found that the programs could result in reductions of psychological stress that, we know, is a contributor to insomnia.
It’s not just stress that can keep you awake, however; back pain is a common complaint and one that can make sleeping difficult for some people. While over-the-counter medication and physical therapy are treatment options, a study has found that combining usual care with mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) – which combines meditation, yoga and body awareness – resulted in better improvement of chronic back pain.
If you’ve been struggling with sleep, whether because of stress, back pain or other reasons, it’s time to take a different approach in the form of meditation. Take a look at what you should do and avoid.
Once the day is done and dusted, it’s important to take the time to relax and prepare yourself for sleep. Meditation, being an effective stress-buster, can help calm you down and manage racing thoughts that can prevent you from falling asleep. There are several techniques you can try such as mindfulness meditation, affirmation meditation, and guided meditation. All are geared towards achieving calmness and a state of relaxation that’s conducive to sleep.
How you feel during the day can impact how well you sleep at night. For instance, if you’ve had a stressful day, it’s possible that you’ll carry those thoughts and emotions to bed. It can be harder to fall asleep as you’re caught in the grip of your stress. However, if you’ve had a good day you won’t have anything to worry about at night and will find it easier to sleep. Meditating in the morning can set the stage for how well you handle stress as the day passes. You’ll be in a better state of mind as awareness, calmness, and focus come to the fore. If you’re just starting out, you can meditate for just 5 minutes a day. Once you find it simpler to get into a state of awareness, you can do it for longer.
You can meditate nearly any time of the day but since meditation helps reduce stress, you should do it whenever you feel the same. It can seem difficult at first as you try to calm your thoughts and relax. However, you don’t need to practice complex meditation techniques; just focusing on your breathing can help quiet the mind. You’ll find it easier to handle the tasks in front of you and will be able to make more rational decisions.
Breaks you taking during the day are another good time to meditate. Since you’re already holding the pause button on activities, you can use the time to disconnect and de-stress, even if for a little while. It will help you refocus and get on with the remainder of your tasks. Meditating during breaks also gives you a chance to stretch tight muscles that can be painful and make it difficult to work.
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It may seem odd to think that there are don’ts associated with meditation since it’s such a wonderful practice. However, you should avoid meditating close to bedtime. If you associate meditation with sleep, you won’t be able to attain the mental clarity you’re supposed to. Meditation and sleep are two very different things and it’s important to recognize that. Meditation is a state of awareness and focus that results in calmness and a deep restfulness. Sleep occurs because your body needs rest and must repair itself to get through another day. This doesn’t mean you can’t meditate at the end of the day. Just make sure to do it at least an hour before bedtime.
It’s normal for the mind to wander when meditating. If you’re new to it, it can be frustrating trying to get back on track. You may feel like you’re doing it wrong and that you’ll never get the hang of it but you shouldn’t feel that way. Instead of beating yourself up over it, acknowledge the stray thoughts that enter your mind and let them go rather than dwell on them. Be gentle on yourself and give yourself time to master meditation.
For many, meditation means your mind goes blank and there no thoughts and interruptions. This isn’t true. It’s natural for the mind to wander, especially when you’re a beginner. The goal should be not to chase the thoughts away or try not to think of anything. Rather, it should be to gently guide it back to the present. In fact, mindfulness meditation that encourages practitioners to be in the moment focuses on being aware of thoughts, acknowledging them and letting them go.
Meditation is an ancient practice that could possibly open doors beyond sleep even including addressing mental health and addiction. Much needs to be done to find out the extent to which it can help but for many, it’s already a key tool for better sleep. Perhaps the biggest appeal is that it’s safe and doesn’t require fancy equipment. It can be done nearly anywhere and can be done combined with other sleep treatments.