Meditation has been something I have recently incorporated into my daily routine, and although it was hard to get started, the benefits are oh-so-worth it.
Meditation and repetitive mantras are considered a powerful remedy in Ayurveda and Tibetan medicine. These practices have deep ancient roots, and have been relied on for centuries. Meditation has a plethora of benefits, which is why there is so much buzz surrounding it. A scientific study conducted by Harvard Medical school showed that by incorporating relaxation techniques into our everyday lives, positive changes take place in our bodies on the genetic level. Researchers found that practitioners of meditation have far more “disease-fighting” genes, than those who did not. The genes that help fight inflammation, kill diseased cells and protect from cancers were turned on and activated, after two months of a regular meditation practice. Regular meditation increases one chances of remaining free from joint pain, it boosts immunity, leads to healthier hormone levels and lower blood pressure (Source).
The following tips are useful for beginners, who may view meditation as daunting and impossible. I still consider myself a beginner at mediation, but these tips would have been really great to know when I was just beginning. Just a reminder; meditation is not supposed to feel easy. That’s why so many people struggle with it and make excuses for why they cannot do it. Here’s the thing, if you think that you could never meditate, or it’s the last thing you want to do, you are the person who probably needs it the most and can get the most benefit. ANYONE can meditate. You just need the willpower, and once you start experiencing the benefits, you’ll understand why so many people rely on meditation every day.
1. Use an app.
By far the best meditation app I have come by is the Calm app. There are an abundance of different meditations, stories, programs, and music to choose from in this app, and it’s based on your needs. There are programs for sleep, happiness, anxiety, gratitude more. I am currently doing the 21 days of Calm, after completing 7 days of sleep, 7 days of gratitude, and 7 days of happiness. None of these recordings are over twenty minutes, but I still often have trouble concentrating, staying still, and focusing my breath for even ten to fifteen minutes. This app has allowed me to realize how important it is to take time to be in the present moment. Throughout the day I am always on go, go, go mode, without ever taking time to relax. It can feel like we are just going through the everyday motions of life. By listening to the recordings, and following the instructions, I am giving myself the space to tune into how my body is feeling, my thoughts and state of mind.
2. Eliminate distractions.
It’s a good idea to turn your phone on airplane mode and make sure you have no distractions nearby. Choose a quiet place to sit where there won’t be a ton of people or noise around you. I like to wear noise cancelling headphones when I listen to this app to ensure I won’t be distracted by any noise I can’t control. Make sure you are wearing comfortable clothing, items that won’t itch and bother you. Sometimes I like to wear an eye mask so I’m not tempted to open my eyes during the meditation and break my tranquility.
3. Choose a time that you can stick to.
It is recommended that you pick a time for meditation that you can adhere to, so it becomes a daily practice, not a weekly practice. For me, I meditate at night during the weekdays because I don’t have time in the mornings. During the weekends, I mediate in the mornings, shortly after waking. It doesn’t matter when you meditate, but it needs to be a time that you can make habitual.
4. Pay attention to your posture.
This is very important because you want to ensure that the posture you hold while mediating allows you to have full, deep inhales and exhales. Sit with a straight spine. Do not slouch. Many people sit on cushions, or chairs, to ensure a straight back. I just ordered this mediation cushion off Amazon. Keep your hands gently in your lap or on your knees. Your posture should not feel strained, but it should not be lazy either.
5. Create an environment of tranquility.
There are several different ways to do this. Maybe you light a candle, diffuse some essential oils, and dim the lights. When I’m meditating, I like to have my crystals surrounding me (click here to read my post about all the crystals I have), dim my lights very low, and apply some essential oils to my temples. I love lavender for it’s relaxation properties, and I recently purchased this blend of essential oils, curated specifically for a meditation session. When you make an effort to create a relaxing environment, you will find it easier to relax and focus internally.
6. When in doubt, return to your breath.
Something that has really helped me with meditating is to focus on my breathing. When I take a full inhale, I mentally count “one.” And when I release it and exhale, at the end of the breathe I count “two.” This is a technique I learned from the Calm app that helps you stay with your breathing, and in the present moment. When you’re meditating, you’ll find that your mind will start interfering with the practice. You’ll experience thoughts about what you should be doing, what has happened that day, what’s going to happen in the future, and so on. It’s important to realize that when you start meditating, these irritating thoughts will not just magically disappear. In fact, they will probably amplify. It doesn’t mean you’re not meditating correctly, or the practice is failed if you get side tracked. All you have to do is NOTICE yourself being side tracked, and gently redirect your focus back to your breathing. That’s it. It’s not about being perfect, it’s simply about accepting whatever is happening. Understanding this key concept about meditation has allowed me to relieve so much pressure I had on myself, and in turn, experience the benefit from the practice instead of becoming stressed that I’m not doing it “right.” Fact: There is no “right” way to meditate.