While talking to someone about how bad they semi-constantly consider their nerves to be and how they also just can't seem to figure out a way to relax, I simply said to them, "Why not meditate more?" to which they replied, "Come on, Shellie. You really think that works? Whenever I've tried it, all it does is give me enough time to do more overthinking." Goodness.
First yes, I absolutely think that meditation is effective. I also believe that a lot of people would be a heck of a lot more calm, centered and self-controlled if they devoted, even 15 minutes of their morning routine, to doing it. Because while we'll have to get into the over-one-dozen forms of meditation at another time, what I will say for now is meditation is scientifically proven to reduce stress, control anxiety, lengthen one's attention span, promote self-awareness, encourage self-compassion, improve one's quality of sleep, reduce body aches and pains, make you more creative and oh so much more.
So, what if you know all of this and you're like, "I hear you but no matter how much I try, I just can't seem to do it"? If this is where you're at, first let me advise that you take a few really deep breaths and block out any noise that's around you (or at least, try really hard), so that you can devote a few minutes to some meditation hacks that could turn you into a meditation fan in no time. Ready?
1. Never Meditate “Just Because”
While this first point might sound a little odd, humor me and hear me out. Something that I tell prospective clients when they talk to me about counseling is if they're doing it only to appease their partner, it's not going to really work. In order to remain motivated, consistent and committed to real progress and change, you've got to have some solid reasons for doing…whatever it is that you decide to do.
When it comes to meditation specifically, beyond the benefits that I offered up in the intro, take some time to consider why you think it would be a wise practice for you to engage in. Are you looking for a way to spiritually center yourself? Maybe you're trying to learn how to be more present in each moment. Could it be that you really struggle with focusing and you're hoping that meditating more will help? Maybe you want to feel less rushed in the morning (and throughout your day) or you want to learn how to radiate more kindness to yourself and those around you. Knowing your "why" can make doing the "what" so much easier. So, definitely start there first.
2. Purge First
Remember how the person in the intro said that they struggle with overthinking? If that's your personal issue with being successful at meditating, think back to the last time that you attempted to do it. Was it after someone triggered you? Was it after a horrible day at work? Did you just get off of the phone, feeling some type of way, and so you tried to attempt it then?
While meditating does help to calm us down, it's kind of hard to do it if we're already frazzled, upset or distracted. That's why it can be super helpful if, before doing it, you actually "purge some of your emotions". By this I mean, take out your journal and write some of your thoughts down. Hit someone up you trust (who you know won't add more fuel to the fire) and do some venting. Hell, go into your bathroom, shut the door and scream if you need to. By letting out some of your pent-up energy, that will make it easier to get still — internally and physically.
3. Do It During Your Favorite Time of the Day
I'm pretty sure you've heard some version of the saying, the way you start your day predicts how you will end it. While that's not an exact science, I personally think there is a lot of truth to that. That's why I'm such a big fan of meditating first thing in the morning. The day is fresh. Life hasn't come at me at 70 MPH yet and it can help to get my mind in a good space before I start tackling my to-do list. That's not to say that there is anything wrong with meditating any other time of the day, though. In fact, if it's hard for you to meditate, it can be a really good idea to do it during your favorite time of the day.
For instance, if you adore the time between late afternoon and early evening (right as the sun is about to set), it could make meditating in your backyard (with the help of a yoga mat) something that you really look forward to; especially if you're not much of a morning person and you want to get in as many minutes as possible before your alarm goes off. Plus, scheduling meditation during the time of day that you enjoy the most can also give you something to look forward to — it can be just you, that moment and nothing else. Mindfulness at its best.
4. Pay Attention to Your Nose
One mistake that a lot of people make when it comes to meditating is they're not intentional about getting all five of their senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste) involved. I'll get into hearing in a sec; for now, let's talk about scent. Some scents that are pleasant and can definitely help to bring you into a state of tranquility include lavender, vanilla, jasmine, citrus, cinnamon, rose, bergamot, patchouli, frankincense and ylang ylang. You can light a scented soy candle, put the scent into an oil diffuser, light some incense — the options are totally up to you. I also recommend combining your favorite essential oil with a carrier oil like sweet almond oil or avocado oil and rubbing it onto your temples before you begin. Whether you know it or not, your temples are a pressure point and by massaging a soothing type of oil directly onto them, it can increase the chances of you feeling more relaxed, even before you begin your meditative practice.
5. Wear Headphones or Earbuds
One of the main things that needs to happen while you are meditating is you block out background noise — your television, the notifications on your phone, people. If, for whatever the reason, that seems close to impossible to do, invest in some noise cancelling headphones or earbuds. Or, if you'd prefer, put on some ASMR rain, ocean or wind sounds. Other than complete silence, nature sounds can be really good when it comes to feeling calm while you're meditating. YouTube has videos that last for hours as far as ASMR goes (just go to the site and put the kind of sound that you are looking for into the search field). If you're in the market for some great headphones, go here; earbuds, go here.
6. Go Outside
One of my favorite reads of all-time is The Celestine Prophecy. One of the points in it is we are able to receive a lot of the energy that we need from nature (trees, specifically).
In many ways, meditating cosigns on this because, when you choose to meditate outdoors — you can reconnect with nature; you are taking in a lot less pollution (indoor air pollution is around 3-5 times higher than outdoor air pollution is); you're able to take in a natural source of Vitamin D; the surroundings of nature can help to lower your blood pressure, and nature definitely encourages you to totally disconnect from the hustle and bustle of the world, so that you can embrace the more simple things in life.
7. Build Up over Time
As with everything in life, there are meditation experts. According to a lot of them, meditating is most effective when we do it for 45 minutes, in roughly 20-minute intervals, a day. I don't know if I've ever done that before, so don't let what I just said overwhelm you. Listen, even if you only get in 10 minutes, pat yourself on the back. Besides, the more you do it and see how it is "balancing you out", the easier it will be to find yourself sitting still, deep breathing and staying in the moment for more and more minutes at a time.
Bottom line, meditating really isn't as hard as you might think it is. Once you've decided that you deserve to sit still and "get back to the middle" in your life on a daily basis, you'll find the practice of meditation to be a treat more than an obligation. I can certainly testify to that.
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