When you think about meditation, what comes to mind? Is it the image of someone sitting cross-legged, eyes closed, hands resting on the lap and wearing a very serene look on their face? Are they surrounded by nature?
Up until about three years ago, when I thought about meditation these were the types of images that it would be called to mind. Meditation was, in my mind, something that was not accessible to someone like me and was something that was on a very unattainable spiritual level. Then I experienced a case of burnout that left me searching desperately for something to bring some calm to the anxiety and other stressful feelings I was experiencing daily. Along with seeking support from health professionals, I decided to give meditation a try.
Now nearly three years later, I’ve completed over 440 hours (900 sessions) of meditation at just 10-15 minutes daily. It hasn’t been easy. It’s taken a serious commitment to show up consistently every day and, just as importantly, to trust the process. I’ve missed some days, but those times have been few. Meditation is now part of my daily wellness routine because the benefits have helped me through an incredibly challenging time and find a calmer way to start each day.
Meditation is more accessible to you than you think
You might also be saying, meditation is just a little too ‘hippy-dippy’, or “I don’t have the time to just sit there and try not to think about anything for hours.” Or maybe you’ve tried it once or twice and gave up because you kept getting lost in your thoughts and found it too difficult to maintain focus. For many people, including myself, meditation is something that seems inaccessible on several levels.
Here’s what I’ve learned about meditation as a result of my wellness journey and experience with doing a daily guided meditation practice using Headspace for nearly three years:
- Meditation is more accessible now than ever with access to free apps, videos and social media.
- Meditation is both easy and challenging at the same time. Sitting still and paying attention to your breath sounds easy enough but when you bring your thoughts and feelings into the mix, well then it becomes a little trickier.
- You can meditate just about anywhere. Ideally, you want to find a quiet spot where you will not be disturbed.
- Meditation doesn’t require that you sit cross-legged on a special mat or cushion. You can meditate while sitting, standing, walking, writing, repeating a mantra, or laying down.
- If you only have a few minutes in your day, you can meditate.
5 Reasons to Make Meditation Part of Your Selfcare Routine
With so many daily distractions in our lives, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we can slow down, even for a few minutes or learn to focus our attention with fewer distractions? Meditation is about training in awareness. Awareness of your breath, of your body, of your thoughts and how you relate to others. It’s about learning to be more focused and pay closer attention to your daily life.
Meditation can help you relax and find a sense of calm, but it can help you to listen better, pay more attention and be present with your loved ones with less distraction. In one of the lessons from Headspace, Andy Puddicombe, co-founder of Headspace says, “meditation is an opportunity to let go of that idea of trying to influence the result in some way, of trying to achieve something.” Meditation, rather, is an opportunity for you to take time out for yourself. It is an opportunity for you to “simply be ok, at ease, with the moment as it is, right now.”
Here are just five reasons mindfulness meditation is beneficial and should be a part of your wellness routine:
1. Reduce brain chatter, including negative thoughts: According to research, we have over 6000 thoughts a day. Meditation is about training the mind to become more aware of distracting thoughts about the future or past events and then letting them go so that you can focus on the present moment, which helps to reduce the noise and busyness of our minds.
2. Improve focus: Learning mindfulness meditation requires that you practice improving your ability to focus. You are required to focus on your breath, bodily sensations, your thoughts and your emotions as soon as they arise. This, of course, sounds easier than it is given how our minds tend to wander and we get easily caught up in thinking without realizing it.
However, improving your ability to focus, realize when you’re distracted and then coming back to the task at hand can be applied to tasks in your daily life (for example, while at work, in your relationships or doing leisure activities).
3. Improves your connection with others: Meditation teaches you about kindness and self-compassion. If you begin with being kinder and more compassionate with yourself then you will be able to be kinder and more compassionate towards others – you bring a different, more positive perspective to your interactions. Meditation is beneficial for our relationships.
4. Helps you gain insight: With meditation, there is an opportunity for you to pay closer attention to your thoughts and explore more deeply how you are feeling and what might be causing feelings of anxiety or mental stress you’re experiencing.
5. Lower stress: Some studies show that meditation can help decrease stress and feelings of anxiety by helping to calm the mind and put you in a more relaxed state, which improves your ability to cope better.
There are many other benefits to mediation on our emotional well-being such as sleep, pain management and physiological health.
Final thoughts – The Daily Meditation Struggle is Real
I still struggle with my meditation sessions on most days. At times I hear myself saying, “you suck at this!” or when my mind is particularly active, “that was a terrible practice this morning”. At other times I simply want to give up partway through for whatever reason. During these times, I remind myself of the teachings from my meditation sessions; meditation is a skill that takes time before you can get to a place where you experience a feeling of ease and calm and be kind to yourself and less critical of yourself while you practice.
I hope you found this helpful if you were thinking about trying meditation as part of your self-care practice or wellness routine. All the good feelings won’t happen immediately but when they do, it will be worth it. So, give it a try!