I started meditating a year ago. At first, it was a strange experience. I mean, at yoga class there is always a few minutes at the beginning and end of the class to clear our minds. So I thought it wouldn't be a big deal to start meditating at home. But it was. I found that being at home is a very different experience than being at a yoga class.
I had to get into a routine, I had to figure out how to meditate by myself and I had to make sure that when I am meditating, I will not be disturbed. With a year gone by, I wanted to share my experience with you and help you start to meditate as part of your daily routine. But first, there are so many reasons why you should meditate. Below are just a few.
#1 STRESS MANAGEMENT
Since I started meditating, I've noticed a big difference in my ability to handle stress. Meditation helps our bodies reduce the constant fight or flight syndrome that we experience daily. I've noticed that when I am at work, I don't fly off the handle as often. The days I do explode or fly off the handle, I didn't have time to meditate and the fight or flight syndrome got to me!
Stress plays a huge role in our ability to stay healthy. If you have digestive health issues such as bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea and an urgency to get to the bathroom, stress is a trigger for many of the symptoms. Stress interrupts our sleep patterns and can lead to serious health issues such as IBS, Chron's, Colitis, Heart Disease and Obesity. How many of us turn to comfort foods in times of stress? I know I do.
#2 BETTER SLEEP
I used to get up at various times in the middle of the night and chalked it up to aging. Can you believe we have fallen into the mind-set that as we age we are bound to have health issues? This shouldn't be! Ageing is a natural part of life and we can stay healthy as we age. We just need to work at it and create new routines. Meditation is a new routine.
With consistent meditation, I sleep through the night! No more waking up in the middle of the night. In fact, the only time I wake up now is when I do something that as a result will wake me up. Like drinking wine! But no one can be 100% healthy all the time. It is OK to indulge when you want to, in moderation of course. Just recognize that the indulgence will impact you negatively in some way.
Meditation helps us sleep better because the time we spend meditating helps us relax. By training our brain to relax, not think beyond the current moment, we can more easily bring relaxation to bedtime with us. The relaxation we experience when we meditate reduces the fight or flight feeling, which helps our brain realize that we can shut off the stress and sleep. (Source: Harvard Health Publishing)
#3 IMPROVES FOCUS
In our daily lives we are bombarded with information and activities constantly. We believe multi-tasking makes us more productive. We believe we can handle the constant barrage of information but the results are rarely good. When we aren't focused on the present, we are missing out on relationships, family activities, experiences that will only happen in the here and now. Always working on two or three things at once means we aren't doing any of them effectively.
Psychology Today reported a study done on meditators and non-meditators. The people who meditated had the ability to complete tedious tasks more easily than people who did not. The researchers studied the brains of both groups and discovered that while mental focus is always active, people who meditated were able to more easily reign in their thoughts so they could focus at the task at hand. This makes sense since a big part of meditation is to quiet the mind and allow thoughts to come and go, not to concentrate on the thoughts for any length of time.
HOW TO MAKE MEDITATION PART OF YOUR ROUTINE
To make meditation part of your daily routine, it doesn't take much. Just a commitment to yourself, a schedule that you can stick to and accepting that you won't always be able to meditate when you want to. Let's get into it.
#1 FIND A COMFORTABLE SPACE
A designated space for meditating is a must-have. Allocating a specific area for meditation will make you comfortable, relaxed and more likely to meditate. It doesn't have to be a large area. Just a place where you can be comfortable either sitting or lying down. In my living room, I have a comfortable winged back chair that I've designated for meditation. Since I meditate in the early morning hours, no one is up in the house yet so it is quite and comfortable.
#2 SCHEDULE IT
Like any new habit, it takes time to get used to doing it consistently. When I start something new I schedule it in my calendar. By writing it down, I am making myself accountable to the new activity. The added bonus is that once meditation becomes part of your routine, you'll have a record of how often you meditated.
#3 TIME THE SESSION
I use the microwave timer to set the amount of time I will meditate. I do this because I like to meditate in quiet. Sometimes I listen to a free meditation online but usually I sit in the quiet. If I didn't set the timer, then I would be stressed that I may not stop meditating or that I would stop way too early. Using a timer helps remove the stress and allows me relax. You can use your cellphone alarm if you don't have another way to time the session.
#4 LET THOUGHTS COME & GO
No matter how experienced you are with meditation, thoughts will interrupt your meditation. The key is to let them come into your mind and then let them go. Do not dwell on the thoughts. Just return to listening to your breathing or repeating a mantra that you are using to focus your mind or listening to the online meditation you have chosen. It is OK if you get distracted and can return to meditating. But if the distraction is too big, do not be afraid to stop the meditation. There have been plenty of times I stopped meditating because I simply could not get into it that day. You have to be willing to tell yourself that it is OK to try another day.
The best way to get into a meditation is to relax. Don't put pressure on yourself to meditate perfectly. Every day is different. You will have different experiences and different stressors throughout your meditation practice. Figuring out the best way for you to relax so you can meditate is half the battle. Maybe you need soft, relaxing music played in the background. Maybe you need to burn incense. Maybe you need to focus on a light within your 3rd eye to relax. There is no one way to meditate. It is as individualized as each of us are.
I hope this post inspires you to make meditation part of your self-care routine. As you gain more experience meditating, you will reap the benefits of the practice.
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