Meditation is a practical way to achieve health from the inside out as it addresses underlying issues like stress, fear, worry and anxiety that may manifest as skin problems. A lesser-known field of research called psychodermatology studies the link between mind and skin. It suggests meditation bridges the gap between mental and emotional health and physical health.
Dermatologist and 200-hour registered yoga teacher Sheila Jalalat, M.D. explains that “psychological factors affect the management of skin conditions in more than one-third of reported dermatology patients, so it is important to consider these factors, especially for chronic dermatological conditions.” If stress and anxiety could be causing your skin problems, managing these a little better should help you improve your skin health—and overall wellness.
Dr. Jalalat notes that meditation can lower your stress levels, calm inflammation and even help you live longer. In as little as 15 minutes a day, meditation can begin to accelerate healing and decelerate the aging process of skin cells. Of course, you’ll need to remember to rest, hydrate, eat healthy, exercise and wear sunscreen. All of these healthy habits, when combined with meditation, can do wonders for your health and well-being.
Some people choose to meditate on their own, while others prefer a guided meditation (where someone walks them through specific thought and breath patterns) to really help them focus. The choice is completely up to you. The priority is really on mindfulness—the ability to be fully present in the moment and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s happening around you. Here is a guide to some of the basics of mindfulness and meditation to help you get started.
Find a comfortable, quiet place where you won’t be disturbed during your meditation. Sit comfortably in a chair with your feet on the floor and your shoulders relaxed. You may also sit on the floor in easy pose (crisscross applesauce) if that works for you. Finally, do your best to maintain good posture while meditating. You want to be sure to maintain the natural curve of your back.
As you sit comfortably, soften your gaze downward or gently close your eyes. Slowly inhale and exhale through your nose; let yourself fall into a natural rhythm. There is no time limit here. Do this for as long as you like.
Often, meditation is misunderstood as a practice that discourages thought. “Meditating is not about having a perfectly still mind. It’s about bringing awareness to your thoughts and then acknowledging that you have the power to let it go,” says Jocelyn Delaney, 200-hour certified yoga teacher. As you begin to meditate you will quickly realize that sitting devoid of thought is virtually impossible for the average person. In reality, mindful meditation acknowledges each passing thought or ambient noise and then lets it go. When you do this consistently and bring your focus back to your breath, you are being present in the moment.
Your mind will wander, your ears will focus on the smallest sounds and your body will want your attention. Is that an itch? Is my hair tucked well enough behind my ears? What was that noise? Try your best to avoid acting on these thoughts and return focus to your breath. Mindfulness is the practice of returning to the present moment over and over again, not only during your practice but also throughout the day. “Practicing meditation trains our mind. Whether you are experiencing stress at work or trying to maintain patience with your children, you can apply the same techniques you’ve gained from meditating to stay calm. Taking a deep breath and giving your mind a moment of stillness will help you approach the situation from a grounded place,” Delaney says.
As you begin to meditate you will likely experience negative thoughts and emotions. Instead of focusing on them and allowing them to consume you, simply acknowledge them with a positive attitude, accept them and refocus attention to your breath. Though they are a part of you, they do not define you.
When you are finished meditating, gently open your eyes and slowly stand up. Take a moment to stretch your entire body. Raise your arms overhead and extend them as far as you can reach. Stretch your legs, back, sides and shoulders to restore natural blood flow and extend increased awareness into your next activity.
If you’re thinking to yourself, “I don’t have time to meditate,” you probably need it the most. Luckily, meditation doesn’t require any special equipment or supplies and can be done just about anywhere. “If you can’t find the time to sit for five minutes with your eyes closed, then take advantage of little moments throughout the day when you aren’t doing anything, like when you’re waiting in line for a tea or you’re sitting in a meeting,” Delaney says. “Simply deepen your breath so you can feel your entire belly expand. Even just three to five breaths like this can send calming signals to your brain.” Try a quick two-minute meditation each day for one week, and then slowly increase the length a little at a time. There isn’t a time limit to meditating. Just do it for as long as you feel comfortable.
Ready to begin? Find a quiet place and get comfortable. I recommend sitting rather than lying down to avoid falling asleep (something I’ve been known to do from time to time). As you begin, pay particular attention to the sensations in your body, your thoughts and your emotions. If you notice your mind begin to wander, gently guide it back to your breath. Meditation may be the key to a calmer, healthier, more youthful you.