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An Open Mind

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In The Moment

Countless thoughts go through our minds all day. Don’t forget to eat breakfast. Did I return that client’s phone call? I wonder if I’m doing a good job as a parent. Where did I put that paper from yesterday? I really should exercise more.  Sometimes it may feel as if our thoughts are controlling us, telling us what to feel, what to do, what to focus on and how to react. They put us in either a positive or negative state of mind. Let’s take a look at meditation and the role it plays in giving us back control over how we navigate this world.

A man is but a product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.”

Mahatma Gandhi

Food for Thought

What is meditation exactly? It’s not just the standard movie depiction: sitting cross legged, hands on your knees, breathing and saying “ohm.” (Though this closely resembles the mantra type of meditation, where you focus on a word or mantra instead of the breath.)  Did you know that there are myriad types of meditation? You can check out the resources at the end of this article to get more details on the different ways to practice, but we’re going to look at the most common ones here. The names may vary depending on where you are, but that’s because there is no single country of origin. People all over the world use meditation for the benefits it brings. 

For instance, progressive relaxation (also called body scan), is where you slowly focus on each part of your body to let go of tension. Often this involves tightening and releasing each muscle as you focus on that area. The main benefits include:

  • Reduced pain
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Stress relief

Another very popular type of meditation is mindfulness, which usually involves being aware of your thoughts and patterns, but refraining from judgement or involvement in those thoughts. It is also an awareness of using your senses, like the way the air feels on your skin or the sound of the fan in the room. This type of practice is good for:

  • Awareness
  • Focus
  • Willpower

One of the meditation practices that seems to have the most benefits is often called loving-kindness, and can be compared to visualization. You can find a number of ways to practice loving-kindness meditation, including with a partner. At its core, it involves visualizing joyful, compassionate, kind, and loving experiences and feelings. Whether you dwell on times that you’ve been the empathetic one, or bring to mind people who have been empathetic toward you, meditating on these good vibes is shown to have the most impact on our social and emotional health. Benefits include those previously listed, along with:

  • Less self-destructive or critical thoughts
  • Empathy
  • Lower cortisol levels
  • Increased ability to sense the feelings of those around you, although this point is still debated among researchers.

I know - it’s a lot! Let’s talk about some resources you can use to get started, if you don’t know where to begin.


Keep in Mind

It might not be easy to get started if you’re not familiar with meditation. There are a few apps you can try if you’re looking for guided meditation. Try the Calm app, or the UCLA Mindful app. Both of these have guided meditations, so you don’t have to figure it all out while you’re simultaneously trying to meditate for the first time. The great thing about these apps is that you can have them handy no matter where you are or how much time you have.

Researchers say that it only takes 10-20 minutes a day to get optimal benefits. But please understand... this is a practice! It’s not a fix-all, so only through consistent and repeated practice will you reap the rewards of your mental training.

Repetition strengthens neural connections in your brain and essentially teaches your brain how to react. Not only is there noticeable differences in your brain structure physically (i.e. more grey matter!), but you can also see a difference in the way your brain functions. It’s pretty mind-blowing (pun intended) to be able to use the practice of meditation to change your actual brain! There are so many ways that meditation can improve your life, and with so little time needed daily, there’s no reason not to try it. If you have a favorite type of meditation or practice hack, please share with us below!


**Additional Resources


10 Things We Know About the Science of Meditation - Mindful

What Happens to My Brain When I Meditate? | Right as Rain by UW Medicine

Meditation and Mindfulness: What You Need To Know | NCCIH (

12 science-based benefits of meditation - Hunimed

Guided Meditations - UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center - Los Angeles, CA (

What is Loving-Kindness Meditation? (Incl. 4 Scripts + Videos) (

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