It would seem us humans have been actively seeking inner peace and universal connection for quite some time: The first written records of meditation date back to 1500BC in India, and it's also referenced in ancient Chinese philosophy. Meditation continues to be a profoundly beneficial and widespread practice.
While it comes from a spiritual background - and though there's no denying that it can leave you feeling transcendent - you can adopt a meditation regime without subscribing to spirituality or religion of any kind. Meditation is truly for everyone.
It can be done anywhere, anytime, and it's totally free. Like other beneficial practices, the most challenging part is starting. The beauty of meditation means that you'll feel a difference even after one session - ten minutes of stillness can provide a much-needed reset during a busy workday.
The benefits of meditation
The benefits of meditation go far beyond stress relief. The act of meditation is valuable for our health on many levels, as evidenced in many studies.
"Meditation literally changes your neural configurations. Research suggests that meditation can be effective as an adjunct therapy for depression, anxiety, trauma, chronic pain, cancer, heart disease, and more. Better yet, it can help prevent many issues before they start.
Meditation cultivates the neurobiology of optimal health and resilience. There's a reason this practice has stood the test of time and why there's been an exponential growth of research on meditation in the past few decades: It works."
Ann Swanson via Australian Yoga Journal
Meditation and mental healthMeditation calls for us to slow down and just be. Our fast-paced lifestyles leave little space for calm, and nowadays we're all available via our cellphones after hours too. Many of us have forgotten what it's like to be present without distraction. A regular meditation practice helps us come back to ourselves, our bodies, and to embrace stillness. It's an excellent antidote to stress.
For those suffering from anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues, meditation can have a profound effect on both the body and the mind. It has been shown to:
- Increase serotonin levels (our "feel-good" chemical).
- Lower stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline.
- Increase alpha wave activity in the brain - alpha waves encourage relaxation.
- Increase GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) which boosts relaxation and counters anxiety and stress.*
If you suffer from mental health problems, you can easily use meditation alongside other tools to manage and enhance your mental wellbeing. Think of it as an effective, useful piece of the wellbeing puzzle.
- It's normal for your mind to remain restless during meditation, especially if you're a beginner. If you feel your thoughts drifting, come back to your breath and focus on your inhale and exhale.
- Another useful technique is to imagine your thoughts as clouds drifting by. Let them pass through your mind, see them go, and accept that they are part of the process. Don't fight them. The more you practice, the easier it will become.
- If you're having particular trouble finding your groove, try a guided session on Spotify, YouTube, or a meditation app where you can focus on the voice leading you through the session.
- Like yoga, there are many different meditation styles. You might need to try a few on for size to find your fit.
- Using a mantra can also help keep you focused. The most well-known sacred mantra is Om, or Aum, which signifies the soul, truth, and divinity in Hinduism, and is the vibration of the earth and Universe. You can chant Om aloud or in your mind, or choose another mantra that resonates.
- Get comfortable. Experienced meditators can sit upright in the traditional cross-legged position with ease, but you may have more success if you start in Shavasana, or Corpse pose (lying on your back). Once you're ready to sit upright, use a proper meditation cushion or mat to support your body. If you have back problems or injuries, you'll be far more comfortable lying down or sitting with a proper meditation cushion. There's no right way to meditate; choose what works for you. A meditation cushion and/or mat are perfect accompaniments for both sitting and lying positions (see more about cushions and mats below).
- Stay warm. All that stillness - and being at ground level - can cause a drop in body temperature. Keep yourself cosy with a blanket and comfortable clothing. Natural fibres like cotton and wool will allow the air to circulate and prevent you from overheating. The Yolana Pure NZ Wool Mat makes for an excellent meditation base during the colder months to keep you snug.
- Take your time returning to your day. As you come out of your meditation, make it slow. Wiggle your fingers and toes and start to shift your body before you open your eyes. Enjoy the serenity after each session, and ease back into your daily routine.
TRIBE Zafu Meditation Cushion *
This cleverly designed little cushion raises up the hips so the sacrum tilts forward very slightly, keeping the back straight. Sitting on a traditional meditation cushion like the Zafu adds comfort to your meditation practice, improves posture, and relieves pressure.
The Zafu is filled with buckwheat hulls that gently conform to your body's shape, has a removable organic cotton cover with an easy-to-carry handle, and is available in four lovely hues.
TRIBE Zabuton Meditation Mat *
Another option to create comfort during meditation is a cushioned mat. Mats are super versatile - you can sit directly on the mat to relieve pressure from your knees, ankles, and back; or pair it with a Zafu cushion for even more comfort. If you choose to lie down during your practice, you can use the Zabuton under your upper body to cushion your back and head, and a cushion or pillow under your knees to support your legs.
The Zabuton mat is filled with body forming felt sheets of recycled woollen fibres and has a removable organic cotton cover.
* We're donating $5.00 to the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand for every Zafu and Zabuton that we sell until 31st October 2020.
TRIBE Still Me Eye Pillow
For an extra relaxing touch, a gentle eye pillow will help you go deeper into relaxation. Still Me Eye Pillows are perfect for supporting restoration during your meditation or savasana practice, and they're also fantastic for soothing tired eyes after a long day in front of your computer.
Each mask is perfectly weighted and filled with linseed and dried lavender for additional relaxation benefits.
See our full meditation collection here...
Mental Health Awareness Week
The Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand runs Mental Health Awareness week once a year to bring attention to this important cause. 1 in 5 Kiwis experience a mental illness each year, and it's important to remember that with the right support many people can and do live well with mental illness.
This year the week runs from 21st to 27th September, and the theme is He Tirohanga Anamata - Reimagine Wellbeing Together.
We're supplying one of the daily prizes for the MHFNZ social media competition running through the week: A sustainable, ethically created Zafu Meditation Cushion and Zabuton Meditation Mat combination from our newly re-designed Tribe range. Follow the MHFNZ on Facebook to enter!
We're also donating $5.00 to the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand for every Zafu and Zabuton that we sell until 31st October 2020.
Make your own donation here...
Looking for support?
Life’s a bit of a rollercoaster right now. It’s okay if you’re taking things day
If you’ve noticed you’re really not feeling yourself, or you’re worried
someone you care about needs some tautoko/support, there is help
Below is a list of some of the services available in New Zealand that offer support, information and help. All services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week unless otherwise specified.
Need to talk? - Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor
Lifeline – 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP)
Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
Healthline – 0800 611 116
Samaritans – 0800 726 666