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How to meditate if you have never tried before

Meditation can help fight depression and anxiety, improve sleep, lower blood pressure, help your body deal with pain, and a lot more.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — When I say the word meditation, what comes to mind? Maybe some monks in Tibet, chanting with bells while incense burns around them? If so, just know that this was exactly my reaction a few years ago, too, and because of that I was scared off trying it for quite a while (no disrespect to Tibetan monks, by the way, because I’ve met quite a few and they’re awesome).

As it turns out, meditation isn’t some lofty, unreachable practice exclusive to guys with man buns (again, no disrespect)—it’s actually simple, approachable, and has all kinds of amazing benefits backed by science. It can help fight depression and anxiety, improve sleep, lower blood pressure, help your body deal with pain, and a lot more.

Still, it can seem intimidating when you first dive in, so I talked to Joyce Scherdin, a licensed therapist in Louisville, to get some tips. She uses meditation with her clients.

“In it's simplest, most basic form, mindfulness is being aware of where your mind is—that’s it,” said Scherdin. “It's just being aware, which is a practice.

“Most people that I begin meeting with are really out of tune with what the body is experiencing. Shortness of breath, tightness of breath, shallow breathing--all of that is a real indication that we're stressed, and just paying attention to that is enough to bring awareness so that we begin slowing the breath down or taking a slightly deeper breath.”

Scherdin said a simple way to start incorporating mindfulness into your life is by working two “check-ins” each day. Sometime mid-morning and mid-afternoon, take a moment to check in with your thoughts and tension that may be building up in your body. Usually, just a few deep breaths will be enough to make you feel less stressed.

"So many people have this misconception that we have to have nothing in our mind,” said Scherdin. “Well, what I have to say about that is ‘’good luck.’ Not likely to happen.

“I like to call in monkey mind--you know, we sit with our breath, and we begin practicing, but our mind just wants to go in every direction. That's what [meditators] are going to notice at first . But a client taught me this beautiful phrase… ‘the power of pause.’ They now have that power to pause, be aware of what their reaction is and then choose their response. And that for me is such a beautiful place to live life from."

If you’d like to give meditation a try, Scherdin recorded a short introductory session for our Facebook page.

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Contact reporter Rob Harris at rjharris@whas11.com. Follow him on Twitter (@robharristv) and Facebook.  

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