I know meditation can seem intimidating at first.
Not to mention carving out the time from your already overextended schedule can feel nearly impossible. But trust me, this habit is life changing and you'd be crazy to ignore it.
Being mindful improves everything your life touches.
Every day, researchers are discovering more and more health benefits from mindfulness. Whether it’s meditation, yoga or journaling, these mindful practices can help you reduce stress, enhance memory and focus, boost your immune system, and help you live a more content life in general.
This week, I want to give you some tips that helped me get in the groove with meditation.
If you're like me, you probably think (or have thought) that meditation is some woo-woo thing for Buddhist monks and the Goop crowd. But it actually offers tangible, research-backed benefits for everyone.
It’s easy to get started on your meditation practice.
You don’t have to move to a monastery in Tibet (although, Tibet is on my bucket list! Anyone else??) You also don’t have to do hours of yoga to reap the benefits. The benefits and positive effects on your brain and body actually begin to happen fairly quickly.
** Research shows that when people meditate every day, significant changes occur in parts of their brain [such as the hippocampus— the part of your brain responsible for forming new memories and also assists with learning, the prefrontal cortex— the CEO of your brain which manages executive functions like focus, self control, motivation, and problem solving, and the amygdala— where emotions are triggered, this is where our ”fight or flight” wiring lives] similar to people who’ve been meditating for years.
Alrighty, time to jump into my top 3 suggestions to help you get started with this powerful, brain changing habit.
1. You don’t have to sit still.
I thought meditation meant sitting criss-cross-applesauce with my hands on my knees, palms facing up, chanting ommm. Once I released those rigid expectations, meditation became so much more enjoyable.
I incorporate meditation while stretching, praying, walking around the neighborhood, or just lying on the ground in my living room. If meditation while sitting still is your preference, rock on, my friend. But I'm just saying, almost anything done with initiation and focus can be mindful and will help you reap the benefits of meditation.
2. Start small.
I encourage my clients to start with 3-5 minute sessions when they’re just starting out. One exercise I love is tracing your hand. I recently taught this to my son, niece and nephew (ages 8, 9 and 10).
Here's how it's done... use the index finger on your dominant hand to trace your opposite hand while focusing on your breath. As you run your finger up the side of the outside of your pinky finger, you inhale. When you run your finger down the other side, you exhale. Inhale up, exhale down. Continue this process while tracing your hand for a couple of minutes. If your mind wanders, bring it back to the finger you’re tracing in the moment.
Watch the video below to see how it’s done.
3. Let tech help.
If you’re having trouble meditating, try downloading an app. I used Headspace when I was starting out. Their slogan is: Meditation for Everybody - Meditation Made Simple. I mean c'mon, it doesn't get much better than that.
I found their guided meditations (that were under 10 mins) extremely helpful when trying to fall asleep, manage anxiety, and recenter myself when I felt overwhelmed.
Just remember to turn your phone on Do Not Disturb once you start meditating so you’re not distracted by pings and other notifications.
I also love Headspace because the founder and former monk, Andy Puddicombe, offers great mindfulness advice on his podcast Radio Headspace (which you may remember I mentioned in my last article: Best of 2020).
Before we wrap, here's one more thing that helped me understand meditation better.
There are two types of meditation and BOTH are uniquely important for our brain health.
Focused meditation enhances our ability to focus and can calm the brain. A couple of ways to practice this style of meditation is:
Repeating a mantra (out loud or in your head) – a word, a phrase, or even a sound over and over.
Visualization – picturing a place or focusing on a goal.
Observing an object – like fish in your fish tank or looking at a candle flame.
Open monitoring meditation enhances our brain’s ability to be creative and helps with the generation of new ideas.
When you open your mind you may find yourself watching thoughts, feelings, memories, bodily sensations, sounds or smells in your environment.
The key here is, instead of getting caught up in thoughts or feelings that arise, simply witness everything and be present to whatever is happening.
Don't Hesitate. Meditate.
Carpe diem, which means to make the most of the moment, is the key to leading a happy fulfilling life. And meditation can help you get there.
Again, I’m not suggesting you to strive for Monk-level zen. When you engage in meditation for a few minutes a day, science show you will receive the same benefits as a monk who’s been practicing this mindful habit for years.
Take this week to find a form of meditation that you vibe with.
It could be using an app, or listening to YouTube videos with an instructor guiding you, or 3 minutes of tracing your hand and just following your breath, or moving mindfully like going for a walk and paying attention to your environment instead of bringing your headphones.
Take charge over your mind and body. Meditation is one simple (but very powerful) habit that will help you find your focus, live each moment more fully, and ultimately change your world.
See you in the next post!