What do tennis star Novak Djokavic, comedian Jerry Seinfeld and singer/songwriter Sheryl Crow have in common? Meditation. They have used meditation to manage stress and maintain focus on achieving their goals. But you don’t need to be a celebrity to have it work for you.
Studies from the National Institutes of Health and the David Lynch Foundation have found the practice of meditation has benefited at-risk inner-city youth and military personnel dealing with PTSD. One study of high school seniors showed a noticeable improvement in test performance among the students who had meditated before the taking test versus those who did not. There is evidence that meditating can be useful in chronic pain management as well.
In athletes, meditating is useful for stress reduction and improved concentration. Nervous energy and self-questioning thoughts are replaced with a focus toward achievement. What’s more, meditation has been shown to reduce the recovery time from many common sports injuries.
How does it work? Meditation relaxes the brain and helps the mind filter out the noise and emotions of stress. However, for many people, quieting the mind is easier said than done. If you try sitting still with your eyes closed for just five minutes, focusing only on your breathing, you’ll notice how quickly thoughts will vie for your attention. When you notice your focus has shifted to those thoughts, immediately return your attention to your breath. With daily practice, intrusive thoughts will interfere less, or disappear entirely, and your ability to maintain your focus will increase.
Mindful meditation, transcendental meditations, other approaches, and meditation apps, make it easier than ever to give it a try and find the practice that works best for you. Ideally, meditations should last for 10 – 20 minutes, once or twice daily, depending on the method you choose. If you are crunched for time, five minutes of resting your mind is better than nothing.