The idea of meditation can seem a little overwhelming or abstract, but it is not just for hippies and yogis. The health benefits of meditation cannot be ignored.


“Any condition that is caused or worsened by stress can be alleviated through meditation,” says Herbert Benson, M.D., a cardiologist and founder of the Mind/Body Institute at Harvard Medical School’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. The benefits of meditation reach well beyond mental health, and it can ease chronic pain, improve heart health, boost immunity, and resolve pregnancy problems.


Just 15 minutes of yoga every day will put you on a path to physical and mental wellness.

Just 15 minutes of yoga every day will put you on a path to physical and mental wellness.

The key to meditation is repetition; breathing, ignoring thoughts, and repeating mantras create a biological response of relaxation.


Set a 15-minute timer and follow these steps for a simple meditation, and get on your way to being a mentally and physically healthier you!


1. Set the mood. Create a quiet, calming atmosphere by turning off all electronics. No cell phones, no television, no radio. Keep the lighting low (fluorescent lighting is not relaxing!), but not so dark that you are in danger of falling asleep. Lightly scented candles, in soothing scents like lavender and clean scents like fresh linens, can add a pleasant ambiance.


2. Maintain your posture. If you are sitting on the floor, position yourself toward the edge of a small pillow and cross your legs into the yoga lotus position. If you are not quite that flexible, crossing your legs “Indian-style” works, too. Touch your thumb and middle fingers and gently rest on your knees. You may also sit in a chair, with your legs uncrossed and both feet planted firmly on the floor. In both positions, it is important to remember to keep your back straight but not too rigid. Your muscles should be relaxed, and your spine should be straight.


3. Focus on your breathing. Close your eyes, and breathe deeply through your nostrils. Slowly fill your diaphragm, counting silently in your mind to four, and hold the breath for a beat. Let your diaphragm, then your lungs, slowly deflate by exhaling through your nose and counting again to four. The length of time for the inhalation and exhalation should be the same.


4. Leave your thoughts behind. This may seem impossible at first. Let the thoughts that enter your mind leave as quickly as they come. Acknowledge them, but do not interact with them. It may be easier in the beginning of your practice to focus your mind’s eye on a simple shape, like a white circle, to give yourself a mental image to focus on instead of your thoughts.


It is important to remember that meditation is a practice, so do not be discouraged if you are not able to keep your thoughts away. The longer you practice and the more dedication you give to it, the better you will feel, inside and out.


Do you practice meditation? Do you have any tips for beginners? Let’s talk health here in the comments, or you can find me on Twitter @TiffaniJPurdy. Don’t forget to meet us back here next week for more “Living Healthy!”