A daily meditation practice can reduce stress and manage negative emotions. (Credit: Getty Images)
Health experts encourage everyone to learn how to meditate for a simple reason: it helps with stress and anxiety. However, many people think meditation is not for them because they cannot keep still, their mind wanders or they find the ubiquitous crossed-legged position isn't comfortable for them.
But you don't need to do a yoga pose to meditate. In fact, you can practice it while sitting on a chair (legs uncrossed), lying in bed or even while walking.
So now that you know you can meditate anywhere, let's explore the types of meditation that might appeal to you the most.
1. How to meditate in the morning
Focusing on the present – and enjoying it – is an emotional benefit of meditation (Credit: Getty Images)
You don't need anything for meditation except quiet time, which can mean early in the morning or late in the evening.
Staying still is the image most associated with meditation, but it's not necessarily about refraining from moving or fidgeting. Instead, it's about practising mindfulness – the ability to be fully present, aware of where you are and what you're doing. Mindfulness makes you aware of your thoughts and emotions in the present moment, so you can regulate them better.
As the American Psychological Association puts it, this quiet reflection involves observing your feelings and sensations without judgment. "Instead of responding or reacting to those thoughts or feelings, you aim to note them and let them go."
Harvard University's Gazette has a mindfulness meditation technique that's ideal for beginners. It's a breathing exercise you can do as soon as you get up, while sitting on a bed or chair.
- Find a space to sit comfortably. Relax your shoulders and put your hands on your lap or side.
- Close your eyes and observe your breath. Inhale and exhale without force. Focus on the rise and fall of your belly.
- Try counting to help you stay focused. Getting distracted? Being aware is good. Let it be your cue to bring your attention back to your breath.
You can do this for five minutes when you're just beginning and gradually increase the duration to 10 minutes a day.
Research shows mindfulness meditation helps quiet the brain, lowering the body's stress response and improving your immune system. Practicing meditation in the morning puts you in a calm state and can help prepare you to cope better with the day's stressful situations.
2. How to meditate at the end of day
To reap meditation benefits, you need to do it consistently. This may prove to be a challenge when the only quiet time you have is when you go to sleep. If that's the case, try body scan meditation, which you can do in bed.
The body scan practice is helpful when you can't sleep or your body (and mind) can't seem to relax. Stress can manifest physically – in a clenched jaw, tight neck and shoulders and headaches, for instance. A body scan can help zero in on the aches or tensions to get your body to relax.
Since this technique mentally scans your body from head to toe – like a document on a photocopier – it's great to do it with a guided meditation. It will help you feel less distracted, especially when you can't concentrate on your breathing.
Here's an example of how body scanning works, based on a five-minute audio guided meditation from The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley. You can do this three times a week or whenever you feel anxious.
- Lie in bed or on a yoga mat. Bring your attention to your body. Feel the support of the bed or mat on your back. Take a deep breath.
- Notice the sensations in your body. Scan your body in an upward direction, starting from your toes. Pause on each body part: toes and feet, ankles, thighs, stomach area, neck and throat and then your forehead. If you feel a body part tightening as you scan, relax or soften by taking a breath.
- Do a slow inhale-and-exhale. Once your scan reaches your face, notice how your body feels. Take a deep breath then slowly open your eyes.
3. How to meditate at work
How to make meditation a habit? Try it with a group of friends or co-workers. (Credit: Getty Images)
Pressure at work or stressful situations at home can make you feel weak or not in control. You can't avoid these situations, but you can manage your reaction. Here are three quick tips to help you manage stressful situations quickly.
Inhale and exhale
Try the mindful meditation breathing exercise above when you feel overwhelmed. If you have only less than a minute, then close your eyes and just breathe slowly.
Have a "rant" friend
When you feel angry or paralysed from pressure, message a friend who understands you and your need to let off steam. This helps to clear the head and level out any heightened emotions, so you can be more logical when dealing with a situation.
Put together a mood-booster playlist
Listen to your feel-good playlist when you are experiencing unwanted emotions. Music can improve confidence, quell sadness and provide comfort. As you find yourself humming along, the temporary blues you were feeling will soon give way to lightness.
AIA, which has launched the ambition to help a billion people live Healthier, Longer, Better Lives by 2030, describes meditation as an excellent psychological 'first aid' to overcoming stressful or anxious situations. But how else can you have one less thing to worry about?
Focus your time and energy on things you can control now, like your health. AIA has a science-backed wellness programme,AIA Vitality, designed to help you make better choices for your health and wellness, which includes your financial wellbeing.
AIA health insurance has a medical protection plan that covers you from prevention through to recovery, including outpatient benefits for different stages in your life. It even comes with cancer care benefits like palliative treatments and cost monitoring, so you have one less thing causing financial stress.
American Psychological Association. 2019. Mindfulness meditation: A research-proven way to reduce stress. [online] [Accessed on 9 June 2022]
The Harvard Gazette. 2018. With mindfulness, life's in the moment. [online] [Accessed on 9 June 2022]
Greater Good in Action. Body Scan Meditation. [online] [Accessed on 9 June 2022]
Irish journal of psychological medicine. 2020. The benefits of meditation and mindfulness practices during times of crisis such as COVID-19. [online] [Accessed on 9 June 2022]
Mindful Communications. 2020. What is Mindfulness? [online] [Accessed on 9 June 2022]