Why Meditation Might Be Exactly What You Need to Destress

Why to Meditate

If you’re anything like me, the idea of taking a mental vacation is probably exactly what you need at this time in the quarter. With midterms nearly gone and finals right around the corner, you might not feel like you have time to sit on the floor with your eyes closed and wonder when this meditation thing is supposed to be over. I wholeheartedly agreed until I started taking my Buddhist psychology class this quarter and started to see meditation in a different light.

During my first experience meditating, I was super surprised to find that it involved much more concentration than I originally thought it might. It’s a lot more than just sitting on the floor and humming to yourself in the hope of finding peace. While I’m used to sitting for long periods of time because of classes, I’m not used to sitting completely still, so ignoring the impulse to scratch my face or move my leg or fidget in general was really difficult for me at first.

After taking the time to go through the steps of meditation, though, I found that everything from how I position my body to the state of mind I set myself in has helped me to reach a point where I can meditate for at least a minute or so and just focus on my breathing and being present. Also, I have started trying to apply the concept of meditating in my everyday life, though I haven’t made it through more than a few minutes here and there yet. Reminding myself to be present in a moment, whether I’m walking to class or listening to someone speak, has helped me to enjoy these moments a little bit more and to remember them more clearly at the end of the day. I find that sitting down to meditate, either at the end of the day or in the morning, does help me to be more calm and level-headed and optimistic for at least part of that day and makes me feel more peaceful overall.  

So, what’s the point here? Meditation is something that has helped me to feel more relaxed, more alert and more concentrated in my everyday life. It’s not just something that you sit on the floor and do for ten minutes each day. It’s something that you can apply to your everyday life and really use to alter your state of mind and how you perceive the world around you. Even if it doesn’t seem like you have time to meditate because you’re too busy, that’s all the more reason to try it out! Just a few minutes in the morning and at night of actively practicing mindfulness can change how we take in information. This not only helps to relieve exam stress but might actually help you do well on your finals. So give it a try for a few days and you just might find that meditation really is the break you need from the chaos of everyday life.

How to Meditate

1. Sit with your legs crossed in front of you or on a chair with your back straight and your feet firmly on the ground. Make sure to sit up straight but relax your shoulders and focus your eyes on a point in front of you. It’s important not to focus on any object in particular but to keep your eyes steady. Rest your hands on top of one another in your lap or place them gently on your thighs.

2. Keep your mouth gently closed or partway open, with your tongue tucked naturally behind your top front teeth to practice steady breaths.

3. Keeping your eyes open, pay attention to the amount of time it takes you to breathe in and out. This is to get you started and focus your mind on one thing in particular.

4. From here, you can go in a lot of different directions depending on how much practice you’ve had. The easiest thing to do is to try to focus on wishing wellness to yourself and others.

5. If intrusive thoughts enter your mind, don’t push them away. Acknowledge that you’re worrying about studying for your test or writing your essay, but don’t dwell on it. Notice that you’re having the thought and move back to wishing wellness to everyone.

6. Once you’re comfortable with this practice, you can direct your energies to one person or pet in particular, even yourself. This means keeping someone in mind and considering what struggles they might be having and projecting positive energy onto them by repeating phrases such as “May you be well. May you be happy. May you be safe. May you be at peace.” It has been shown that wishing well onto others can have a huge positive effect on your personal well being, which might just turn around and improve how you feel about yourself and your own life.

7. Finally, an important form of meditation to keep in mind is that of checking in with your body. This can be done multiple times throughout the meditation process and is meant as a way of grounding yourself and practicing mindfulness with one’s own being. To do this, start at your feet and feel the energy move from your toes to your calves, to your knees, up through your body until you get to the crown of your head. Once there, you can feel the energy release itself from your body if you’ve been focusing enough and can start the process over again.

8. Remember that different forms of meditation work for different people, and it takes practice to find a style that is right for you. Even though it might not happen on your first try, mindfulness practice and meditation can relax your mind and your body, making you more focused and more at ease even when you aren’t meditating.

That’s all it takes! So, as long as you’re willing to give it a try and spare ten minutes from your day you can practice meditation. You can even make it a Reading Week/finals activity and get together a group of your friends to try it out with you and relieve the stress of exams. Guided meditation videos and audio clips are super helpful for this. Now that you know what to do, find a position you’re most comfortable in and give meditation a try. It might just be the secret to passing your finals.