Meditation and mindfulness have become all the rage. These terms are popping up everywhere, from magazine articles to elementary and high schools classrooms. There is extensive research on the life changing benefits a regular practice can provide such as stress reduction, decreased anxiety, increased attention span, a greater sense of kindness, and increased overall emotional well being. So why would anyone not want to experience these things?! I could definitely use some more emotional well being in my life, especially during the holidays.
The thing with mindfulness and meditation (I’ll explain the difference below) is that in order for it to work you need to practice it regularly. The difficulty for most people is not finding the desire to practice, it’s finding the time. I’m not going to lie, it was much easier to incorporate a mediation practice into my day before children. A busy life style doesn’t mean it’s not possible, it’s just life challenging you to find a way. Here are my tips for making mediation a part of your everyday.
- Do your research. Mindfulness and meditation, although I used it interchangeably above, are actually two different concepts. Meditation refers to formal seated practice where focus is placed on opening your heart, expanding your awareness, calming the mind, experiencing inner peace, etc. Mindfulness refers to being aware of the present moment. This might look like focusing on a particular object or aspect like ones breath. It can be practiced anytime, anywhere. You can literally do it brushing your teeth, taking a shower or even drinking your morning joe (seriously, find the Mindful Coffee Meditation here). Usually, people end up doing a combination of both. There are a ton of mediation apps out there that you can download to guide your experience. Headspace is a great one that takes you through the basics. You get 7 free meditations, but anything after will cost you. Insight Timer is a great one that is free. YouTube is flooded with meditations. Simply search for the mediation type you are looking for (i.e. mediation for anxiety, sleep mediation, etc.) and you will find plenty to choose from for free. Meditations can be found on Podcasts (Hay House Radio is a personal fave) and for free on Audible if you are a subscriber.
- Find the time of day that works best for you. You might have read that mindfulness and mediation are most effective when practiced upon waking. However, if you find the best time to practice is while walking to the train station in the morning, blow drying your hair or those 3 minutes you get in the bathroom before someone comes knocking, do it. You can focus on the feeling of your feet hitting the ground as you walk, the sounds your hear, and the colors you see. You can focus on where you feel the warmth hit your body as you blowdry or count your breaths as you sit on the toilet for those 3 precious minutes of solitude. Even just a few minutes a day of intentional practice can make a difference.
- Set a goal and make the commitment. Once you have discovered which form of practice works best for you and when you will do it, take the leap and make the commitment. My favorite goal setting secret is to write it down. Did you know that the only difference between those who achieve their goals and those who don’t is that those who achieve their goals write them goals down? Crazy but true! The first time I learned about this I decided to give it a shot by writing out my goals for the New Year a few years ago in a notebook. Twelve months later when I opened up that notebook I almost fell over when I realized I had accomplished almost every goal to a T, even those that I had forgotten I even wrote. Write down your specific goal to practice and keep your promise to yourself.
- Be patient. It’s extremely common to feel frustrated when beginning your practice. People often report that their minds cannot stop buzzing and that it almost seems worse. Give it some time and don’t give up. Try different ways of practicing. Some find it easier to listen to guided meditations while others prefer to sit in silence. When I teach mindfulness to children and teens, I often hear them say that the first time was hard but each time after got easier. If the teenage brain can manage this and succeed, so can you.
- Relish the benefits. It shouldn’t take long before you notice that when you see the sink full of dishes your husband left you don’t totally want to jump out the window. You start to manage toddler meltdowns more smoothly and don’t take it personal. You actually find a speck of joy in your morning commute and arrive to work calmer. Maybe you just feel more in control of your emotions and well being. No matter what little improvements you see, know they are real and they are worth it. Imagine what a year of practice could bring!
I’m guessing you don’t have time to feel crappy, so what are you waiting for? Get started today!