The buzz around mindfulness and meditation has been building and so is the evidence of related health benefits, according to the latest research.
As reported yesterday in the New York Times, a placebo-controlled study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry found that subjects who practiced mindful meditation over three days not only reported feeling less stressed and more refreshed, but also demonstrated more communication among areas of the brain related to processing stress and those associated with calm and focus. Those same subjects also had lower levels of a marker of unhealthy inflammation several months later—encouraging news considering that chronic inflammation has been linked to increased risk of heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's and other deadly diseases.
I've heard it said that those who don't think they have time to meditate need it most of all. Taking those words to heart, I decided to give it a try with the free 1 Giant Mind meditation app, which requires a mere 15 minutes a day.
Created by renowned meditation teacher Jonni Pollard, co-founder and executive director of nonprofit org 1 Giant Mind, the app of the same name is super accessible and easy to incorporate into your daily routine. (I use it to wind down before bedtime.) You don't need any prior meditation experience, it doesn't require subscribing to any belief system and there's no scolding if your mind wanders off during your practice. Instead, you're encouraged to allow whatever's happening, without judgment, and reminded to effortlessly bring your focus back to the mantra (in your mind; you don't have to say it aloud). Easy.
Anyone can do this meditation practically anywhere. (Riding the train, yes. Driving, no.) Simply sit upright with your eyes closed, listen through earphones and turn your phone to airplane mode to avoid interruptions. Follow the 12 easy steps (1 per daily session), each building on what you learned in the previous one. Then you can continue on with the 30-day challenge or just meditate whenever the mood moves you using the handy meditation timer.
The app is also noteworthy for its user-friendly interface (the best I've come across) and options to suit your taste and time. You can set daily meditation reminders, view brief and insightful videos and learn more about the benefits of meditation from well-written, easy-to-digest content, too.
I'm more than a month into this daily routine (okay, I've missed three days) and plan to keep it up. After all, 15 minutes a day is a small investment for less stress, more happiness, focus and energy—and, as the latest research suggests, potentially better long-term health as well.
Still think you're too busy? If you just read this article, you've got the time.