These are stressful times we're living in. Thankfully, there are some things that we can do to immediately relieve ourselves of worry, anxiety and built-up feelings of being completely overwhelmed. One of those things is to meditate. Now, before you try and find a billion of reasons why it's something that you should put off until, who knows when, it's important to keep in mind that it's very easy to do. It's all about finding a quiet spot, getting into a comfortable position and sitting in silence for 10-30 minutes at a time.
If you commit to doing this, even just a couple of times a week, there are scientific studies to support that it can (also) improve your ability to focus, cause you to be more empathetic to those around you, inspire you to be more creative, help you to make wiser decisions and strengthen your immune system. There is even research that states meditating can reduce symptoms related to phobias, help you to work through various addictions (like alcohol) and reduce your sensitivity to pain; meditation can even make you a more positive person.
If you just read all of that and was like, "I hear you Shellie, but meditation is just so boring to me," yeah, I hear you too. First, let me say that sometimes meditating can be a struggle because some of us don't know how to freakin' be still sometimes. Second, sometimes meditating can feel like it's on the ho-hum side of life. To that I'll just say that 1) it's not supposed to be like a day at Six Flags (remember that) and 2) there is not just one way to meditate.
In the spirit of that, below, I've enclosed a few things you can do to help make meditating less of an "ugh" (less boring) and more of an "oh!" (more fun) activity for you.
Buy Yourself a “Meditation Outfit”
It's funny. Kinda. What I'm referring to is the people I know who struggle with meditating are also the people who tend to struggle with getting a good night's rest too. When I ask them what their routine typically consists of, if there's one thing that they have in common is, they go to bed looking a hot mess, only to roll out of bed in the same tired leggings and raggedy T-shirt to attempt to meditate. SMDH.
Purchasing some new pajamas and an outfit to meditate in isn't about being frivolous. On the sleep tip, you are going to be in, whatever you're wearing, for 6-9 hours a night. You can be cute while you're comfortable (especially if you're sharing your bed with someone else). As far as meditation goes, I'm sure you've heard that if you dress for success, you tend to perform better. The same theory applies to meditating. If you have an outfit that's specifically reserved for meditation, not only can it make you feel better about doing it, it can also get you excited in a way. If you get a couple pair of yoga pants (like these knit yoga ones, girrrl) and some cute tank tops, you might be surprised by the pep that comes in your step as you sit down on your yoga mat.
Incorporate a Scent That You Enjoy
As I was checking out an article that shared some of the reasons why our sense of smell is so important to our everyday lives, one of the things it shared was it helps us to tap deeper into our emotional state. It even went so far as to state that, a part of the reason why the perfume industry is such a lucrative one is because, they spend a lot of money researching what scents will provoke certain feelings and desires. So yeah, making sure you've got just the right scent happening during your meditation, that can also spark some additional interest in meditating.
For instance, the woodsy scent of sandalwood has quite the reputation for igniting inner spiritual work and chakra balance. The musky scent of patchouli can keep you calm and grounded. Lavender is a fabulous de-stressor. The combination of frankincense and myrrh will help to purify your senses while encouraging you to release anxiety. The floral scent of neroli is not only an aphrodisiac, but it also helps to remove negative emotions and can even decrease depression-related symptoms and insomnia.
All you need to do is purchase these essential oils to put on your wrists or in a diffuser, or you can buy some soy candles that are made up of these scents.
The more you study essential oils and aromatherapy, the more you'll find yourself looking forward to picking just the right scent to go along with whatever you want meditation to provide for you, on any given day.
Play “Non-Triggering” Music
When it comes to meditation and music, different "experts" have different perspectives. While some think that sounds will do nothing but distract you, others believe that it's all about selecting the right kind of music. When you do, it can calm your mind, release stress, improve your level of concentration, make you feel more positive and, if you meditate before turning in at night, it can help you to sleep more soundly too.
The key is to avoid the kind of music that will trigger any type of negativity. Like, if you recently broke up with your man, you probably don't need to meditate to the playlist he made for you. Instead, instrumental music, soft jazz, even nature sounds are things that can definitely put you in good spirits and keep you from feeling like you're just…sitting around and doing nothing but listening to yourself breathe (especially if you're new to meditating).
Switch Up Meditation Spots
No one said that you've got to be in the same spot, every time you meditate. If you like the sound of rain, on rainy days, sit in front of the biggest window in your house. If sometimes, you want to meditate in the nude (a lot of people do it), find a spot in your home where you feel the most comfortable and the least self-conscious. If you and your partner are trying to get into meditating more, on the days when you do it together, maybe have some morning sex first and then meditate in your bedroom after. By not always being in the same space, this also can make meditating feel a lot less…monotonous.
Count to 100
The site About Meditation has a great tip if you're someone who is always thinking about all of the other things that you could be doing as you attempt to meditate. It says that you should try counting to 100. By focusing solely on the numbers, it will keep your mind from wandering. It will also get you used to sitting still for longer than a couple of minutes because, you know that you at least need to get to 100, right? You can read more on why this is an effective tip by clicking here.
Write Your Own Mantra
In Hinduism, a mantra is simply a word or phrase that you sing or chant in order to get into a space of peace and calm. Based on the word (or phrase) that you choose, it can also be pretty empowering. So, why not come up with your own customized mantra?
Think about a goal that you want to achieve, a habit that you want to break or an area where you want to feel better about yourself and then find a word (or phrase) that suits that desire. Knowing that there is time you are planning to set aside, on a daily basis, to make you feel better about yourself—what could possibly be even remotely boring about that?
Get a Meditation Partner
No one said that, just because you are meditating, you have to do it alone. In fact, there are several benefits that can come with getting someone to meditate with you. They can hold you accountable to the days that you plan to meditate. Meditating with someone can teach you how to be comfortable being in the presence of others and being silent at the same time. Another perk that comes with meditating alongside another person is they can teach you meditation tricks and offer tips that you might have never heard before. And, if you make plans to get together before or after your meditation session, it can give you something to look forward to as well. You can get together to meditate in the same space or you can hit a friend up on something like Skype or Google Hangout and do it that way.
Journal About It Before and/or After
If you're someone who is very goal-oriented, you might struggle with meditation because you're like, "OK, so I'm sitting here not doing anything. What is the friggin' point?" Since you may not automatically see the health benefits that come from this kind of practice, it might help for you to get a journal that is completely devoted to meditating. You can either jot down the things that are concerning you before doing it, write down the thoughts that immediately come to your mind after you meditate, or you can do a combination of both. It doesn't have to be a novella; a few sentences are fine. But if you get into the habit of writing down your thoughts, feelings and experiences surrounding meditation, you may start to see some documented proof of why it was such a good thing for you to do. And—surprise, surprise—how it stopped being so "boring", after all.
Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:
7 Apps For Guided Meditation For The Woman Fighting To Find Peace Of Mind
The Best Meditation Practices For Your Zodiac Sign
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (firstname.lastname@example.org) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
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What Are Intrusive Thoughts & How Do We Manage Them?
TW: some depictions of intrusive thoughts may be disturbing for readers.
Have you ever caught your mind drifting off to entertain the most disturbing scenarios imaginable? Maybe you can’t stop thinking of all the ways a loved one could pass away or worrying that you left every candle lit in your apartment to which you’d return to a home in ruins. If distressing ruminations like these have crossed your mind, you may be experiencing an intrusive thought.
What Are Intrusive Thoughts?
Intrusive thoughts are unwanted or distressing thoughts, images, or impulses that pop into your mind without your control or consent. These thoughts can be repetitive, unsettling, or even violent in nature, and can cause anxiety and frustration for those who experience them.
“Generally they're unwanted thoughts that come up in our head that interrupt what we're doing or thinking, and can feel very foreign,” says Adia Gooden, PhD, licensed clinical psychologist and host of the Unconditionally Worthy podcast. “It’s any thought that intrudes or interrupts what you are doing. They can be distressing and upsetting for us because it feels like we are not in control of them, and they're coming up out of nowhere and aren’t in line with how you normally think.”
What Causes Intrusive Thoughts?
Certain trauma or stress can contribute to the development of intrusive thoughts, so having a challenging experience from the past or current life situations may trigger them to form. “An intrusive thought could come in the form of a flashback, image, or a thought about something that's happened to you,” Dr. Gooden tells xoNecole. “When it gets to the point where you feel like you can't function or make clear decisions, that's when intrusive thoughts become really challenging.”
While some of the 1 billion videos found under the #intrusivethoughts hashtag on TikTok would lead you to believe that these thoughts are nothing more than casual displays of our imagination going untamed. Intrusive thoughts are more than sticking your hand in a soap dispenser, wanting to cut all your hair off at 3 a.m., or having a random impulse to eat fake bread in public.
The Anxiety & Depression Association of America reports that approximately six million individuals, equating to roughly two percent of the American population, encounter intrusive thoughts. Intrusive thoughts are often linked with obsessive-compulsive disorders, but they can also manifest in individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, or anxiety.
Examples of Common Intrusive Thoughts
Because of the explicit nature of intrusive thoughts, they tend to cause shame and internal conflict in those who experience them. Although these thoughts can differ from person to person, these ideation can consist of:
- Violent or aggressive thoughts towards oneself or others, such as harming or killing someone;
- Sexual thoughts that are unwanted or inappropriate;
- Repetitive thoughts, such as a song or a phrase that keeps repeating in your mind;
- Contamination or germ-related thoughts or the fear of contamination and getting sick;
- Religious or blasphemous thoughts, such as questioning one's faith or having thoughts that go against religious beliefs;
- Doubts or uncertainty about one's own actions or decisions, such as fear of making a mistake or fear of not doing something right.
Intrusive Thoughts and OCD
That’s why Dr. Gooden encourages everyone to understand the difference between our fleeting thoughts and impulses and true, intrusive thoughts. “What level of distress does it cause and is it something you would never consider,” she says. “If you're finding that these thoughts are getting in the way of you living your life and that you're controlled by the thoughts, those are some signs that it would be good to get some support in navigating it.”
She also emphasizes the importance of understanding that while we may not always have control over our thoughts, we can control our behavior. “On TikTok, people are sort of blaming intrusive thoughts on their behavior, and our behavior is always a choice,” she says. “If we are in our right mind and we're not having a psychotic episode, our behavior is our choice — we are not obligated to follow any given thought that we have.”
Are Intrusive Thoughts Normal?
With intrusive thoughts, it’s natural to question whether these thoughts are “normal” to have. However, these thoughts are not meant to define who you are as a person but simply indicate that you have a functioning human mind with automated thoughts that you, or any of us, can’t control. These thoughts may come, but they don’t have to be acted upon, nor do they define who you are.
“I've worked with clients in the past who say, ‘Why am I thinking these things? What's wrong with me?’ But if you're not acting on the thought, then it's probably not a huge issue,” Dr. Gooden says. “If you are thinking a harmful thought towards yourself or someone else and you are making plans to act on that thought, then yes, we need to do something about it.”
How To Manage Intrusive Thoughts
If you are struggling with managing unwanted thoughts, Dr. Aida suggests taking these tips to help manage your mindset when they occur:
- "Recognize that it's a thought and thoughts are just thoughts. We often put a little bit too much weight on our thoughts, and that can create a lot of distress. But remember that thoughts are not facts."
- "Having a thought that's disturbing or upsetting doesn't make you a bad person, and it doesn't mean that you are suffering from a mental illness."
- "Sometimes the best thing you can do is say, 'Huh, that was an interesting thought. I'm going to let that go. That thought is not helpful for me right now."
- "Ask yourself: is this helpful? Is it helpful for me to buy into this thought and believe this thought? Asking that question can be really helpful because we are not at the mercy of our thoughts. If it's not helpful, you can let it go."
Intrusive thoughts can feel bizarre and foreign when they come up, but they aren't inherently "bad." Our minds can sometimes be filled with random and inappropriate thoughts, but that's what our stream of consciousness does: it thinks. Fortunately, we can release those thoughts at any moment; you don't have to follow through with them.
And ultimately, not every TikTok diagnosis is one that we should label ourselves with.
"It's important for people to acknowledge what they're experiencing but not run too quickly to diagnose themselves with some mental illness or disorder," Dr. Gooden advises. "It ends with confusion, and we miss the opportunity to understand the people who really do have that mental health challenge."
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