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Meditation 101

Meditation and mindfulness have countless mental and physical health benefits. Learn some tips for getting started.

Have you ever gone on a walk and your mind was so preoccupied that when you returned home, you weren’t able to recall anything you’d seen? If so, you are stressed, and it’s affecting your ability to be present.

Constant pessimistic, toxic, or stress-oriented thoughts can wreak havoc on your health. From increased blood pressure to cardiovascular risks, stress has endless negative health implications.

Meditation and mindfulness can possibly help you reduce stress caused by a busy work schedule, demanding family life, or current global events. Read on for straightforward, realistic tips on how to get started with meditation.

Try the ‘Take 5’ method

Instead of thinking of meditation as sitting cross legged with your hands in the “om” position, “Take 5” introduces a mindfulness technique that can be done anytime, anywhere.

“Practicing mindfulness can evolve into practicing meditation,” said Jim Raines, PhD, manager of Adult Outpatient Psychiatry for Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento. “The ‘Take 5’ method is great for beginners — a simple way to be present and not think of the past or future.”

  1. Look around and mentally note 5 things you see in your environment.
  2. Stop, listen, and recognize 4 sounds.
  3. Observe 3 things you feel: your clothes, the wind, your feet on the ground.
  4. Breath in and note 2 distinct scents.
  5. Recognize anything you taste.

The Kaiser Permanente app MyStrength includes mindfulness activities and techniques on how to improve your awareness. It’s available to Kaiser Permanente members at no charge.

Learn the basic techniques

When starting to practice meditation, whether it’s transcendental meditation, breathing techniques, or guided meditation, get the basics down. First, find a quiet, comfortable place to either sit upright, stand, or lay on your back.

“The most important technique to meditation is focusing on whatever your meditation asks you to concentrate on,” Raines said. “If your attention gets pulled, simply turn it back.”

For example, transcendental meditation has you focus on a mantra such as counting 1 as you breathe in and 2 as you breathe out, or repeating a single word. Stay focused but be aware of when your mind wanders and turn back to your mantra.

Don’t get discouraged

You might get distracted within the first minute (or even 30 seconds) of meditating. That’s OK, and, in fact, it’s normal.

“No matter how long you practice meditation, this can still be a struggle,” Raines said. “It’s about not giving up and accepting whatever stage you’re at in your journey.”

Practice what you like

Practice the meditation techniques you naturally gravitate toward and enjoy. It will give you a higher chance of consistency and success.

Explore numerous meditation methods and tools in the wellness app Calm, also available to Kaiser Permanente members for free. It includes guided meditation, sleep tools, walking meditations, and more.

A little goes a long way

Even the smallest amount of meditation or mindfulness is beneficial. People often avoid meditation because they feel they can’t dedicate half an hour a day. But even 1 minute a day or 5 minutes every couple of days can garner positive results.

“Don’t get caught up in thinking you need to be a meditation guru to feel the difference,” Raines said. “The smallest amount of practicing meditation is good for our mental health.”

Kaiser Permanente members can receive care from a mental health therapist or explore stress-management or other wellness classes.

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