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Meditation is an ancient tradition that has been scientifically
studied and shown to have a big positive impact on our minds and
bodies. It's easy to learn, but needs regular practice. It's worth
trying - as once you've learnt it, you'll truly have a skill for a
Scientific research has shown that meditation has many benefits for our well-being, including:
What's more, regular practice over time can literally change the structure of our brains so that we are able to experience more positive emotion.
But that's not all, there is evidence that meditation can also help improve: our ability to focus, our level of alertness, our memory, our academic performance and creativity.
Practicing meditation has been shown to help us get in touch with our feelings and over time it can increase how happy and optimistic we feel as well as our sense of spirituality. It can help us accept who we are and increase our sense of fulfilment. It can also help us build empathy and compassion and so help improve our relationships with other people.
Wow! Surely something with so many potential benefits is worth trying?
Mediation is a technique that involves learning how to be fully present and aware in the current moment, rather than thinking about the past or future. It is a skill that can be learned through regular practice.
Mediation involves a conscious intention or attempt to focus our attention without analysing, judging or dwelling. The 'conscious' part means that it is a deliberate, active skill - so it's different from resting or sleeping. It isn't a relaxation technique, although practising meditation often results in people becoming more relaxed.
The 'intention or attempt' part means that it's not about striving or trying too hard, it's about learning to be more aware. It's really a process rather than a one off and you need to do it regularly to get the most benefits.
There are three basic types of meditation:
There are different mediation approaches with names such as: 'zen', 'transcendental', 'vipassana', or 'loving kindness'. It may also simply be called 'mindfulness' (although strictly speaking meditation is a technique to teach mindfulness). Some forms of meditation may also be wrapped up into specific techniques or courses, for example Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction.
Meditation does take practice so it helps to think of it as a process rather than a destination, focusing on your intention rather than trying hard to get it 'right'. You don't need be able to sit cross-legged - you can meditate sitting in a chair or even walking. It can be learned by schoolchildren, and by adults of all ages.
Although mediation is often thought of as coming from Eastern spiritual traditions, other religions such as Christianity and Islam have similar practices. Today, however, much meditation is not associated with a religion and does not need any religious affiliation.
There are lots of different approaches to learn meditation, including books, courses, events, online tools and even iPhone applications. See the resources section below for more information.
A simple way to start is to set aside 10 minutes when you won't be disturbed. You'll need some way of timing yourself - a kitchen timer or timer on your mobile phone is ideal. Here goes:
 Shapiro, S.L. (2009). Meditation and Positive Psychology. In S.J. Lopez & C.R. Snyder (Eds.) Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology. NY: Oxford University Press.
 Lyubomirsky, S. (2007). The How of Happiness. London: Penguin Books
The Mindful Manifesto
How doing less and noticing more can help us thrive in a stressed-out world
The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living
Practical applications of the Dalai Lama's spiritual values
Offers simple, modern, evidence-based, non-religious meditation courses
Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
Manage your stress levels and improve your physical and mental health.
Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)
Helps people break free of the negative thoughts that can lead to depression
Get Some Headspace
Encourages you to take 10 minutes out of your day to sit in the here and now
Dalai Lama - Why meditate?
Interview with the Dalai Lama about benefits of meditating.
Meditation For Dummies
No–nonsense introduction and how–to instructions for meditation
Mobile meditation app for iPhone and Android
A simple, natural, effortless process practised for 15–20 minutes twice daily
Wherever You Go, There You are
Mindfulness Meditation for Everyday Life
How to meditate: An introduction
Mindfulness meditation could be the key to a calmer, happier, healthier you
Training in mindfulness based approaches to pain and illness
Simple, practical tools to help find a bit more clarity and calm in your life
Mindfulness for Beginners
Brings the practice of mindfulness meditation to the widest possible audience
Independent, non-profit website dedicated to promoting mindfulness
Happiness and How it Happens
Suryacitta explores what happiness actually is and how we all can achieve it
"Half an hour's mediation each day is essential, except when
you are busy. Then a full hour is needed."
St Francis de Sales
Mindfulness changes your brain
The Happiness Challenge involves simple daily actions in
* Be Mindful - do less and notice more
* Be Kind - do things for others
* Be Grateful - remember the good things
The Happiness Challenge was supported by our friends at Headspace.
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