Ok, who has been stressed out lately? Raise that hand!
Between the internal mind-chatter of thoughts, worries, judgements, mental-to-do lists, criticism and our almost constant intake of information online, we are causing our brains a lot of stress.
That’s because our brain is hardwired to find and assess threats and that brain of yours has got plenty to keep it busy these days. I want to tell you that YOU can help your anxious, overwhelmed brain out by just spending five to ten minutes every morning giving it what it needs.
How? Well, one of the best ways to give your brain a break is to learn how to meditate. It trains you to minimize your thinking, stop scrolling and breathe deeply.
Managing stress helps your ability to focus which makes you way more productive. When you meditate you have more patience and are more relaxed. People who learn how to meditate report that they have reduced stress levels, improved sleep quality and a reduction in pain. Who doesn’t want those benefits???
Harvard Research has also found that meditation can “permanently rewire the brain to raise levels of happiness, lower stress, even improve immune function.” We could ALL use more happiness, less stress and better immune systems!
Finding the Right Meditation for YOU
There are a million different kinds of meditation so finding the right fit for you will make meditation feel a lot easier. To keep it super simple, here are the three common types of meditation:
- Insight Meditation
This, in my opinion, is the hardest kind of meditation. I’ve tried it and just doesn’t work for me, but some people absolutely love it. During Insight Meditation you sit and notice your thoughts. You let them drift by you as if they were clouds in the sky. You don’t immerse yourself in the thoughts you’re having, you simply notice them. In noticing your thoughts without getting caught up in them, you’ll have some insights. You’ll be calm and at ease and full of wisdom, or so I’ve heard.
- Concentration Meditation
This meditation is my favorite! During Concentration Meditation, you find one thing to focus your mind on. Some people focus on their breath. Other people use a word or phrases to concentrate their mind on. I take any negative thoughts I have and turn them into positive thoughts and focus on those. In addition, I focus on Bible verses and affirmations which gives my brain something to focus on so it can’t run away with planning out my day or having conversations in my mind or all of the other things it likes to get up to.
- Moving Meditation
You can do moving meditation simply by going for a nice slow walk and noticing the fresh air and your breath flowing in and out of your lungs. You can also do yoga or Tai Chi or Qi Gong or just dance around your living room, as long as you are totally present to what you’re doing and whenever you notice your mind wandering, you bring it back to your movement.
How to Meditate
Start with ten minutes a day. Seriously. Don’t do anymore until you are able to. Set yourself a timer so you know when ten minutes is up. Find a comfortable seat, in a chair or on a cushion on the floor and sit with your back straight. Take a few deep breaths and begin your practice of either insight or loving-kindness or moving meditation.
Spend at least one week trying one type and then if it doesn’t feel like the right fit, switch to another type. If you’d like some guided meditation options, try the free app Smiling Mind or Calm.
When to Meditate
I personally like to meditate first thing in the morning because I start my day in a calm, relaxed state so I’m better able to handle whatever comes my way (cranky kids, client issues, changing deadlines, etc).
During a really busy or stressful day, it’s a great idea to set aside ten minutes at lunch as meditating recharges your brain and improves your ability to concentrate. Meditating before bed is also lovely and can set you up for a great sleep! And sleep is INCREDIBLY important for us!
Make it a Habit
Meditation sounds easy but it can take a while to settle down your monkey mind. Find the time that feels right for you, set your timer and do it every day. Like so many things in life, it takes practice to find that still place within but once you get there, it’s worth the effort. When you notice the good results you’re getting, that will motivate you to keep meditating.
When times are stressful, it’s important to step up our stress management strategies so we can stay calm, relaxed and healthy, no matter what’s going on around.
Please share your stress management techniques and meditation stories!