3 Minutes A Day To A Happier You
Short, but surprisingly effective, these practices are great ways to weave meditation easily into your day
Studies by researchers and neuroscientists at MIT and Harvard have shown that regular meditation can help to relieve symptoms in people who suffer from chronic pain. Other health benefits include stress reduction, reduced anxiety, sharpened concentration, and clarity of mind. Keen to begin meditation but unsure of how to work it into your packed schedule? The good news is, you don’t need an excessive amount of time to begin a practice. All you need is three minutes a day to improve your life and become happier
Breath for Victory:
Wake up every single cell of your body with morning meditation – you’ll not only enjoy the benefits of starting your day with intention, but you’ll also love the energy boost that comes with it. Kundalini Yoga and Meditation teacher, Rie Komiya, recommends the Breath for Victory meditation. “This can be done anytime throughout the day, but doing it first thing in the morning after waking up is best. You’ll feel powered up and energised!”
THE PRACTICE: This Kundalini meditation can be done sitting or standing. Close your eyes and gently focus on your brow point. Inhale deeply and suspend your breath for 10 to 30 seconds (or as long as you comfortably can without feeling tension in any part of your body). While you’re holding your breath in, mentally repeat the word “victory”. Exhale and repeat. End your practice with a deep inhale and exhale, and then relax.
Breathe in, mentally utter the word ‘Victory’ and exhale. You’ll find the strength of a hundred angels behind you.
– Yogi Bhajan
Did you know that “deliberate breathing” can give you control over your body’s “switch”, enabling you to turn off its “fight or flight” response, and switch on its “rest and restore” system? A great technique to manage those moments of anxiety and acute stress, this simple breathing meditation can be done anytime, anywhere, regardless of whether you’re in the privacy of home, at your cubicle in the office, commuting between appointments, or stuck in a traffic jam in your car. “Inhales activate your sympathetic nervous system, which turns on your stressed state,” points out Restorative Yoga teacher, Adeline Tien. “Exhales however, activate your para-sympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness. So when you exhale more slowly than your inhales, your body goes into “rest and restore” mode, allowing you to relax from the inside out.
THE PRACTICE: Close your eyes and breathe deeply to the count of four. When you exhale, try to extend your breath to eight counts. As you inhale again and fill your belly with air, visualise the movement of oxygen flowing through your respiratory system. As you empty your belly and let your breath out slowly, mentally let go of the stress that you’ve been holding on to so tightly. Repeat for three minutes.
According to Matthieu Ricard, a molecular-geneticist-turned-Tibetan-Buddhist-monk known to science as “the happiest man on earth”, it is impossible to not feel the positive effects of practicing meditation that’s focused on compassion. After undergoing over 100 hours of MRI studies and research into the effects on meditation, neuroscientists found that Ricard’s levels of positive emotions were off the charts, with some of the highest numbers they’d ever studied. Ricard, who’s also the bestselling author of books like Beyond the Self and Why Meditate? Working with Thoughts and Emotions, attributes his high levels of happiness to compassion, loving kindness, and altruism. He explains, “Take for instance, the loving kindness meditation…There’s nothing mysterious. You don’t need to be sitting trying to empty your mind with incense around you under the mango tree.
“We all have unconditional love for a child or someone dear,” he shares. These moments of love tend to “last 10 to 15 seconds, or even for a minute, then we’d do something else or go back to our work. So instead of letting that “beautiful, warm feeling” disappear after just 15 seconds, cultivate it,” he encourages. Make it last for three minutes for a start, then over time, work your way up to five minutes, and eventually 10 minutes.
THE PRACTICE: Make yourself comfortable and sit with your eyes closed. Inhale and exhale slowly, focusing on your breath. It’s normal to have thoughts racing through your head, but instead of “fighting” them and trying to ignore their presence, allow them to float by while you observe without attachment, as though watching a passing parade. If you find yourself getting distracted at any point, simply bring your focus back to your breathing. And when you feel relaxed and centred, think of someone you love and focus on your altruistic love for them. “Keep reviving that feeling,” says Ricard. “Keep the clarity and the vividness… keep coming back to it even if you are distracted.” He adds, “It’s a form of mind training that is meditation. There’s nothing mysterious. It’s just like exercising your skills for playing the piano, except in this case, you’re exercising your mind for kindness, mindfulness, inner peace, and resilience – all these can be trained as skills. Neuroscience tells you that it’s possible, again and again.”