A recent study at UCLA’s Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences demonstrated once again that even short meditations, when done consistently, have positive effects on both the body and the mind. The study evaluated 49 caregivers of patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Almost 50% of these caregivers experience clinical depression, and they are also twice as likely as the general population to report high levels of stress.
The study divided the caregivers (who ranged in ages from 45 to 91) into two groups: one that practiced a 12-minute meditation daily for 8 weeks, and one that spent 12 minutes each day for 8 weeks relaxing while listening to a relaxation CD.
The meditation group showed several benefits over the group that listened to the music:
- Significantly lower levels of depressive symptoms
- Improvements in reported mental health
- Improvements in cognitive functioning
- Increased telomerase activity in the blood (an indication of decreased cellular aging)
- Significant decreases in blood proteins associated with inflammation.
All these benefits from just 12 minutes of meditation a day!
This specific study examined a chant and meditation practice called Kirtan Kriya, but prior studies on meditation have shown similar mind-body benefits with a variety of meditations. In short, any meditation practice you do for 10 minutes or more daily is likely to achieve similar results.
The meditation below has been used in other studies on meditation’s “relaxation response.” But remember, the most effective meditation practice is one you will actually do. Hundreds, if not thousands, of meditation techniques exist and are easily found on the web. Experiment and find the one that works best for you.
Simple Counting Meditation:
- Sit comfortably, with your spine erect and the crown of your head floating up
to the ceiling.
- Allow your eyes to close, and notice your breath—without intentionally trying to
change it. Bring your attention to the warmth and coolness of the breath
at the tip of your nostrils.
- After 2 – 3 minutes, or whenever you are ready, start counting each exhalation.
For example, when you exhale the first time, think “one.” The next time you exhale, count “two.” Keep counting silently to yourself, until you get to ten. After you reach ten, then start over again from “one.”
- You’ll know your mind has wandered because you’ll lose count or notice that you’re thinking about something else. When that happens, (and it will!) try not to get frustrated. Instead, simply start over again by counting from “one.” Without judgment or frustration, notice how often you need to restart counting. The goal isn’t to get to 10, but to keep refocusing whenever your mind wanders.
- Continue this meditation for 10 minutes or longer if you’d like.
I’ve outlined two other methods in prior blog articles: a simple Meditation for Inner Peace and a Breath Focused Meditation. I will post additional meditations in the future, so keep checking back. Remember not to worry about “being good” at mediation–just by the act of meditating, you are inherently good at it regardless of how often your mind wanders as long as you keep bringing it back.
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