At Puori we are always keen to challenge ourselves by engaging with new wellness practices. Not so long ago, for instance, we took on a marathon row (26.2 miles). This event focussed on the first of our four cornerstones to a healthy life – namely, physical activity. More recently, through the month of September, we invited Niclas Tonnesen to our Copenhagen office so he could take us through three guided meditation sessions. Each day we meditated for 15 minutes before work and then again 15 minutes after lunch. This allowed us to experience the second of our four cornerstones to a healthy life – namely, balance.
For every minute a member of the Puori team meditated during the month of September we have donated 1 DKK to the MindUp Foundation that's dedicated to helping children develop the mental fitness necessary to thrive.
From our month-long challenge guided by Niclas, we learnt a lot about meditation. Now we want to pass on what we learnt from our experience to you.
You will know that meditation is now something carried out by people all over the planet. Yet it’s not exactly a new practice. Archaeologists have found evidence that people were meditating in the Indus Valley, as long ago as 5,000 to 3,500 BCE. Recently, there has been a surge in scientific literature on the benefits of meditation for mental and emotional health – for example, meditation has been shown to reduce levels of anxiety (1), stress (2) and burnout (3), as well as having effects on reducing physical health problems (1).
We want to share exactly why we, at Puori, chose meditation, why it’s important for your mental health and wellbeing, and how you can include meditation in your own daily routine.
What is meditation?
Put simply, meditation is about training your mind. Just like you can train your body in the gym, you can also train your brain by using one or more meditation techniques. We live in a society where we are overloaded with information and our overstimulated minds rarely get a break. In essence, the goal of meditation is to achieve a state of mind where you are devoid of thoughts yet also very aware of what is around you. In a meditative state, you should feel peaceful, calm and tranquil but also alert.
What are the types of meditation?
Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present without reacting or being overwhelmed by what is going on around you. Here we describe a simple exercise that will allow you to begin practising mindfulness. You will get maximum benefit if you practise the technique every day.
Give yourself a set amount of time. It doesn’t have to take too long – around 5-10 minutes is perfect, to begin with.
Choose a quiet spot, whether that’s at work on your lunch break, or at home before breakfast or your evening meal. You can sit on a chair or cross-legged on the floor, whatever you find is the most comfortable. However, try to avoid lying down as that body position increases the likelihood of you falling asleep.
To begin, close your eyes and become aware of how your body feels, as well as the sounds and smells around you.
After several minutes of noticing your surroundings, you can focus or become aware of your breathing – for example, monitor your breaths by counting from 0 each time you inhale. Once you reach 10, start again from 0. Finally, when the time you have allotted for your meditation has elapsed, return to observing yourself in the present moment before finally letting your awareness come back to the room. You can now open your eyes.
It’s important to note that in the beginning, this process can be very challenging. With our busy lives, constantly focussed on multi-tasking, it’s often very difficult to focus on just one simple thing. However, you will find this gets easier with time. Furthermore, if you find your mind is wandering, don’t worry – this is entirely normal. Once you realise your mind is wandering, gently bring your attention back to focusing on your in- and out-breath.
The repetition of a simple mantra can help you disconnect from any thoughts that arise during meditation and also help keep you focused. So, pick a word or phrase to focus on. A couple of ideas are “I am strong”, or you can choose the famous Sanskrit mantra, “Om”. Take deep breaths and repeat the word or words silently, or aloud, as you breathe in and out.
Many of us find that repeating a mantra brings a benign focus and calmness.
Visualization practices have been used for centuries, which is perhaps not surprising given how important the visual sense is to humans. The technique of visualization meditation aims to familiarize you with qualities that already exist within yourself.
Firstly, sit comfortably and just allow yourself to become relaxed for a few moments. Close your eyes. Become aware of your surroundings and take some slow, deep breaths.
Now, begin by bringing your attention to someone in your life who is easy to love. This might be a dear friend or a family member.
Now, visualize their facial features, the way that they hold their body. Notice how it feels to be in their presence and any positive feelings of happiness, warmth, or kindness that they evoke.
At this point, simply send love and gratitude to whoever it is you are visualizing. To finish, allow their image to dissolve in your mind’s eye, before taking a few slow, deep breaths, and then opening your eyes. Now, you are ready to continue with your day.
Download guided meditation apps
If you don’t feel comfortable with trying out meditation on your own, or you’re not too sure where to begin, there are plenty of great guided meditation apps. Everyone at the Puori office used the app called Breethe. You can also consider Headspace or Calm
- Mindfulness meditation, anxiety reduction, and heart disease: a pilot study. Tacón, A.M., McComb, J., Caldera, Y. and Randolph, P., (2003)
- Meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Goyal M, et al (2014)
- Effect of heartfulness meditation on burnout, emotional wellness, and telomere length in health care professionals. Thimmapuram, J., Pargament, R., Sibliss, K., Grim, R., Risques, R. and Toorens, E., (2017)