It’s no secret that the way our society looks at mental health is changing for the better. Taking care of your mental wellbeing is no longer a fringe or taboo subject, or even just a nice-to-have component of your day if you happen to find the time.
People are beginning to prioritize mental wellness for wellbeing by engaging in practices like talk therapy, yoga (which has benefits for the mind, body and soul), and meditation. Science also backs up this shift, with several studies on the effects of meditation suggesting the practice could help to treat anxiety, depression and more.
As registered psychotherapists and mental health clinicians, Stephanie Kersta and Carolyn Plater have been helping people reduce stress, cultivate mindfulness and improve their overall wellbeing for over a decade. In 2018, they founded Hoame: a dreamy, light-filled space where they could continue enriching people’s lives through mindfulness-based practices while bringing everything they had learned about the science of mental wellbeing to people of all walks of life.
Mental Wellness Practices Resonating With More People
During their clinical careers, Kersta and Plater had seen firsthand the power a mental wellness practice like meditation could have on people struggling with stress, anxiety and depression, and increasingly, the scientific evidence was there to back it up. As the years went on, they continually noticed how deeply meditation was resonating with people of all backgrounds, and they wanted to find a way to bridge the gap and make practicing mindfulness as mainstream as a gym session or a bootcamp class.
“Because the science really backs it for physical and mental health, we thought, ‘How can we innovate and bring it to Toronto in a big and exciting way?’” Kersta says.
In 2018, Kersta and Plater realized their dream by opening Hoame, a wellness haven amidst the concrete jungle of downtown Toronto, offering the average stressed-out professional a much-needed break from it all through a plethora of unique elements like a room with a living green wall, and services like meditation classes, sound baths, a salt cave and an infrared sauna.
Mental Wellness Practices Gaining Traction
The rise in spaces — whether online or in-person — that are dedicated solely to mental, emotional and spiritual health serves as a testament to the public’s shift in awareness surrounding mental wellness practices.
Science is backing up the claims that have been made by mystics and spiritual leaders all over the world for millennia, and meditation is gaining traction as an essential component of a balanced daily health routine.
Kersta offered her perspective on why starting a regular mental wellness practice involving meditation could change your life for the better, and how to get started if you’re a newbie:
1. Stress Reduction
A reduction in overall stress and anxiety is generally one of the first major benefits people tend to notice when they begin a regular meditation practice. What’s more, Kersta says the practice can also aid as a treatment for more severe forms of stress like generalized anxiety disorder, phobias and social anxiety.
“Stress reduction certainly has been an incredible benefit we’ve seen firsthand,” she says. “It’s been an amazing augment to a clinical therapeutic practice, and we know the science says it can be an augment to a therapy or a monotherapy for the treatment of anxiety, so we’re seeing it being able to manage clinical anxiety and all different kinds of anxiety so generalized anxiety, phobias, social anxiety, it can help with all of them.”
2. Improved Sleep
Kersta is also a sleep specialist, and she notes that regular meditation can help treat sleep disorders such as insomnia.
“Meditation is a medical directive for the treatment of insomnia, so definitely the add-on of meditation for sleep is a huge benefit,” Kersta says. “And a lot of people, especially in the last year and a half, have struggled with insomnia, so it’s definitely something we’ve seen that can help.”
READ MORE: Four simple ways to get better sleep tonight.
3. Improved Focus and Clarity
Although the general aim of meditation is to do less and be more, the practice has also been shown to improve focus, clarity and creativity, which may ultimately contribute to a boost in productivity.
“Being able to quiet the noise is really helpful to focus for the day and it’s personally helped me to tap into my creativity, so I think focus and creativity are a really happy by-product of meditation,” she says.
4. Physical Health Benefits
Gone are the days of viewing the mental and physical as two separate components of overall health. The two work together in tandem, so as meditation helps to improve your mental and emotional wellbeing, Kersta says physical health benefits like decreased blood pressure and improved cardiac health may also arise as a result.
How to Start a Mental Wellness Practice
Looking to start a meditation practice of your own but don’t know where to begin? Kersta says to first reframe the situation and consider any time spent with yourself as a win in the meditation world. She says even a three-minute meditation can be beneficial.
“I always encourage people to start really small,” Kersta says. “With meditation, we see the best benefits if you’re doing it consistently, so I’d rather you meditate for three minutes every day or most days versus an hour once a week. So really starting small is a huge win and you will start to see benefits.”
Experiment with guided meditations, meditation apps or classes if you’re up for it, and make sure you’re practicing in a position and at a time of day that feels comfortable and sustainable for you.
Kersta also recommends incorporating intentional practices like gratitude journaling into your routine if possible, and regular exercise such as a daily 30-minute walk – there are several benefits to walking meditations and walking itself is a natural mood booster. All are key parts of a health and wellness routine.