We’ve all heard of the benefits of meditation, but that doesn’t mean we’re all naturally the “meditation type.” You probably know at least one person in your life who seems to have an easy time of zenning out and getting down with a meditation practice, but what about those of us with a million and one thoughts swirling in our heads, and no idea how to quiet them? Those of us who swear we could never get into a meditation practice?
Until very recently, I was a life-long self-proclaimed “non meditator.” If you’d asked me if I would ever become a regular daily meditator, I would have laughed. However, many of the best things in life are those we don’t plan for.
Despite my skepticism and past failed attempts, I’ve recently adopted a daily meditation practice, which has been totally lifechanging.
So even if you’ve failed at attempts to meditate in the past, or have no idea where to begin, I can tell you, it’s totally possible for non meditator types to pick up the habit! Here’s how.
In case you hadn’t heard, many of the world’s peak performances, elite athletes, and highest performers in every field swear by their meditation practice as a key contributor to their success and wellbeing.
For thousands of years, meditation has been a practice used around the world for stress reduction, increased awareness and mindfulness, and a sense of inner calm.
For the meditation skeptics out there, the science backs up the benefits of meditation in many ways. Studies have shown meditation can reduce stress and improve our overall emotional health – even lengthening our attention span and sharpening our long-term memories. Struggling to get quality sleep, or dealing with chronic pain? Yep, studies of regular meditators show it can help with these ailments too.
How exactly does such a simple practice of sitting in silence and breathing deeply have such tangible health benefits? The basic way meditation works is by soothing our nervous systems and helping to reduce the release of cortisol (more commonly known as the stress hormone.) If this hormone is allowed to flood our systems, as a stressful lifestyle will cause, it’s directly tied to a laundry list of unwanted health effects.
Meditation is a totally free, do-anywhere, do-anytime practice that borrows from ancient Eastern medicine with very applicable benefits to our Western way of life.
Knowing the benefits of meditation is all well and good, but again, what if you just can’t seem to get into a routine with it?
I’d tried over the years to meditate, but never made it more than 15 seconds into a meditation before my mind would go to that laundry I needed to fold, the looming test, what I needed to pick up at the grocery store, etc. I assumed I didn’t have a brain cut out for meditation, and that I never would.
Recently though, I began seeing a spiritual counselor. This counselor would begin each of our sessions with a brief guided meditation, where she would speak aloud phrases and mantras and instruct me to sit and listen with closed eyes.
At first, even silently sitting through her guided meditation felt forced and uncomfortable, but I began to notice a certain calm and grounded feeling afterward.
If you don’t have this introduction to meditation, I suggest doing what I did next, which is downloading a meditation app or soundtrack. There are many apps such as Insight Timer (what I use,) or Headspace, with thousands of free meditations. Having a guide instantly makes meditation so much less daunting than sitting alone in silence.
One of the first misconceptions that you can let go of is that in order to successfully meditate, you have to reach a totally focused, quiet mind. This seemed impossible to me, so it discouraged me from trying at all.
In fact, it’s totally normal for thoughts to come up and for your mind to wander. Like any practice, with consistency and repetition, you will become more able to let go of thoughts and get in the “zone,” but perfection is not the goal.
Know that any thoughts that come up are normal. Simply thank them, and gently remind yourself that all you need to do in this exact momentis simply breathe.
Another misconception is that sessions have. With a busy schedule and racing mind, the idea of sitting in stillness for 10 or 20 minutes can be intimidating.
But the truth is, there are thousands of free downloadable meditations of any length available through both Insight Timer and Headspace, some as short as just 30 seconds.
If you use an app, I suggest you begin with a minute, and once this becomes to feel short, try tacking on an additional 45 seconds.
There is no right or wrong length of time to meditate – there are still the same benefits in doing even a minute-long meditation each day.
It’s also entirely up to you when to add meditation into your daily routine. If you find yourself rushing and stressed most mornings, taking even the one minute to center and ground your energy will set the tone for your day, and this newfound calm will continue to benefit you all day long.
Not a morning person? If you’d prefer, closing off the day with a nighttime meditation is also soothing and helpful to shut down the mind after a busy day, clearing it of thoughts and setting you up for a restful sleep.
I’ve meditated in all sorts of places – from the passenger seat of a car, from an airplane seat, from hotel beds, and in my yard. Listen to your gut when picking a place that’s soothing to you (and like me, if you’re sometimes forced to meditate on the go, that counts too!)
Experiment with what feels good to you. There are no hard and fast rules here. Many like to have a designated floor pillow or cushion as their meditation space and feel free to surround it with calming tokens such as crystals or incense. Another option is to step outside each day and do your meditation among nature, where you might have an easier time connecting with the Earth and letting go of your thoughts.
With all these tips, keep in mind that meditation is a highly personal and individualized practice, meant to benefit you and lower your stress. Don’t add to the stress you’re trying to reduce by holding yourself to unrealistic standards of perfection, by striving to never miss a day or always have a “perfect” meditation.
Remember, done is always better than perfect, so get comfy, get as quiet as is possible for you, and enjoy your new meditation habit, one day at a time.
This post is brought you by Emmy (she is a health and wellness coach and blogger), check out her latest stuff at https://www.thenonjudgyvegan.com/.