30-Day April Meditation Challenge
By RACHEL GRICE
Spring cleaning isn't just for your closet. By meditating daily, you can clear your mind of unwanted clutter and start to live more intentionally. So we challenge you to spend the month of April incorporating five to 15 minutes of meditation into each day.
1. Meditation de-stresses you. One of the most often-cited benefits of meditation is that it reduces stress and cortisol levels in the body. And who doesn't want that? By sitting quietly for several minutes, you encourage your brain to slow down and your body to be still and recover.
2. Meditation improves your health. Several studies have shown that regular meditation (even as little as five minutes a day) helps your immune system function better and can even reduce pain in some cases.
3. Mediation boosts your productivity. Yes, doing nothing can actually help you during the times when you are doing something. Meditation improves your focus, attention and memory as well as your ability to think creatively. One study even found that you could increase your attention span in as little as four days of meditation training.
4. Meditation makes you happier. You'll boost positive emotions while decreasing depression and anxiety. Meditation can also make you more compassionate and less lonely.
What Do I Do While I Meditate?
1. Nothing. That's the point of meditation. You don't have to do anything. You can, of course (see items 2-4 below), but it's perfectly acceptable to just sit and do and think and be... nothing. It's perfectly normal to start all zen-ed out and then have stray thoughts come flying into your brain. Just acknowledge them and allow yourself to let them go.
2. Repeat a mantra or use mala beads. Oftentimes, repeating a word or phrase can help your mind stay focused during meditation. The most common mantra is "om," but you can say, chant or sing anything in any language that helps you find your center, either out loud or silently. Some examples: "Today, I choose to be gracious," "My breath is deep and my heart is open," "I am strong and capable," or any name for god in any religion/language (Allah, Govinda, Yaweh, etc.).
3. Pray or take time to be grateful. You don't need to be religious or even super-spiritual to enjoy meditation, but a lot of people use this time as part of their spiritual practice. If you pray or want to think of specific scriptures, you can. If you don't hold any particular religious beliefs, try just being grateful for the things and abilities you have.
4. Listen to a guided meditation. Meditation can be awkward for beginners if you're not sure what you're supposed to be doing (but again, you're not supposed to be doing any one particular thing). So guided meditations can be a helpful way to get started. You can find them through UCLA's Mindful Awareness Resource Center, Deepak Chopra's website or on YouTube .
Readers - Will you join the challenge? What are you hoping to gain from it? Have you ever participated in a meditation challenge before? What did you learn from it? Share your meditation stories and tips in the comments below!
Rachel Grice is an editor for Livestrong.com and certified yoga instructor who loves running on the beach, watching USC Trojan football and drinking red wine. Previously, she worked for Men’s Health, FitPregnancy and People. Read more about her running adventures at thesoleofarunner.com.