The first of the Twelve Paths to Happiness is Meditation. Meditation can mean a lot of different things, and there are lots of ways to meditate. In general, the practice of meditation usually involves sitting still and focusing on breathing, a positive message, or whatever comes to mind, with the aim of being non-judgemental, patient, and open.
There’s some stigma in our busy society about the benefits of “sitting around and thinking about nothing”, but evidence of the benefits of meditation is solid, and based on years of empirical research.*
Meditation has been shown to improve physical health, cognitive abilities, and of course to increase happiness and other positive emotions (or we wouldn’t even be discussing it). The cynic in me thinks that the only reason we’re not all meditating daily is that nobody has figured out how to get rich peddling meditation.
Or have they? While researching easy ways to get a mediation habit to stick, I found this great website/app called Headspace. It’s an on-demand meditation guide, starting with a 10-minute daily session, and increasing from there. Like many online services, it’s free to start, and you pay to access the more advanced lessons.
I started using it a few days before New Years, and I’ve been really happy with the results. I feel calmer, and more in touch with the small details of what’s going on around me. My goal is to continue 5 days a week, either with Headspace or on my own. (I’m not getting a kickback from Headspace for promoting them, I just think it’s an awesome idea: “the gym membership for your mind”)
* Here are some Google Scholar search results for the skeptic. You’ll find scores of controlled investigations into the effects of meditation. Here are some factoids that are presented in an easy-on-the eye format, with references available when you click “find out more”