The whole world cheered when 12 boys stuck in a cave in northern Thailand with their football coach were finally freed on 10 July after spending more than two weeks in the darkness.

According to several news sources the 25-year-old coach and former monk Ekapol Chantawong (above) had taught the boys how to meditate to pass the time, keep calm and conserve energy.

The practice has been credited with helping the boys stay mentally strong throughout their ordeal.

So, what is meditation all about and can it really help?

What is meditation?

What is meditation?

There are many types of meditation used by different philosophies, but at the core, meditation requires you to be mindful of the moment.

During mindfulness meditation, one tries to redirect distracting thoughts and instead focus on the present.

Although simple in theory, as anyone who has tried it can attest, it can be hard to switch off your thoughts even for a few seconds without thinking about work or wanting to check your phone.

Considering meditation to relax? Teaching yourself to relax is one of the best ways to cope with physical and emotional stress.

What are the benefits of meditation?

What are the benefits of meditation?

Meditation has been credited with improving not just mental, but physical health as well. Studies have shown that it can increase immune function and reduce chronic pain. Meditation has also been proven to be effective in decreasing instances of depression, anxiety and stress.

It can also sharpen your mind, help your focus and attention, and improve your memory, which is why some schools have started teaching students mindfulness techniques.

At Westwood Primary School in Singapore, students do a five-minute mindful breathing exercise at recess every day, while students at international school UWCSEA were introduced to mindfulness techniques four years ago.

How do I start?

How do I start?

As with any new habit, you need to commit to it, much like you would a new exercise routine.

Start small with just a few minutes a day. Set aside both time and space as rushing through it would defeat the purpose.

Dress comfortably and choose a quiet spot, which means you shouldn’t have the TV on in the background and you’re away from a pet that may wander into your space.

Sit cross-legged on the floor or upright on a chair. Don’t lie down as you may fall asleep. When you’re ready, sit quietly, breathe deeply and start observing your feelings at that moment.

The key is to acknowledge and accept your thoughts and emotions without attaching any judgement to them.

It will be challenging to quiet the noise in your head at first, but it’s important to keep at it until it becomes comfortable.

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