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Inhale, exhale: the benefits of meditation

Meditation is often thought of as a practice belonging solely to Eastern religions. However, most religions have some form of meditation practice.
Today, there is evidence of meditation being a healthy practice for all, especially those of us who are overwhelmed by school and work.  
To meditate, one must simply clear his or her mind, breathe deeply and relax; it’s about learning to focus on the present instead of living in the past or the future.
There are many different forms of meditation.  
Basic meditation involves sitting in a comfortable position, closing the eyes, taking deep breaths through the nose and clearing the mind. Yet many people find it difficult to be still or keep their minds clear.  
In order to rectify this, you can light a candle and focus on the flame or count to four on your “inhales” and “exhales.”  
Another more involved alternative to basic meditation is “active” meditation, which could be a number of activities, including hiking or jogging, which helps to focus the mind on the present moment and focus on breathing.  
Yoga is another form of meditation that has a number of benefits.  
Not only does yoga help one’s mental state, it also helps to relieve back pain, improve digestion, build muscle and stretch the body.  
The point of the practice is to center oneself, to acknowledge the world around you and to be OK with what you see.  
Because of its calming nature, meditation aids in stress reduction, something that most of us desperately need post-midterms with finals looming on the horizon.  
By taking a few minutes each day to relax and clear the mind, it becomes easier to cope with difficult situations and to have peace of mind.
Meditation also helps people who have “loud” minds.  
Sometimes we tend to let our minds race, making it difficult to study or sleep.
A few minutes of meditation before bed can help still the mind, making the body more susceptible to sleep.  
It also aids in learning to focus on the task at hand, making it easier to retain information when studying because you aren’t having to go back and read the same sentence over again.
By learning to “live in the present moment” and enjoying it, we focus less on the disappointments of the past and the worries of the future.  
If you should have started studying yesterday for an exam but didn’t, stressing about that today isn’t going to help you. All that does is frustrate you and make it more difficult to focus right now.  
With the busy lifestyles that most of us lead, taking a few moments out of our day to let go of the things that wear on us and stress us out helps us put our troubles into perspective.  
Being calm is a characteristic that many of us are not familiar with, especially when the semester feels as though it’s rushing to an end.
Just take a moment, and clear your mind.  
Don’t latch on to any thoughts; simply focus on your breathing, close your eyes and relax.