Calm Your Mind

Do you feel like something is missing from your fitness routine? Or maybe things have been super hectic and stressful and you’re looking for a more productive way of dealing with the stress other than eating a whole thing of Oreos. Or maybe you have trouble focusing on simple tasks. It may be time to give meditation a try!

Meditation is pretty amazing. I’ve only been trying it for a few weeks, but it’s something I’ve been trying to make a daily habit. I still struggle with calming my mind, but the more often I try, the better I’m getting.

I tried to get in the habit a while ago after downloading an app on my phone. It gave some guided meditation for beginners. It started off with just a few minutes a day and then gradually added time. I think I would’ve stuck with it longer, but it was kind of like a free trial… after so long if I wanted to keep using the app I had to pay. Forget that!

I decided a few weeks ago that it’s something I really need to work at implementing. I searched through some more (free) apps and found Insight Timer. I love this app because it has a ton of stuff. It has a lot of guided meditations to help beginners, or you can just listen to sounds of nature, calming music, mantras, and so much more! There are some things to buy if you really want to, but there is so much on there for free that I don’t see the need. It’s also kind of like a social network. You can add friends, join groups, and see who in your area is also meditating.

I still have a ways to go before I think I will “get the hang” of it, but I have noticed a difference. The first minute or so of each of my meditation sessions, I focus on breathing deeply. I feel like when I do this, it helps clear my mind a little bit and it helps me settle down so I can focus.

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I know several people feel this way. When I meditate, my mind still wanders, a lot, and I have to continually bring myself back. Instead of closing the browser, I feel more like I’m closing tabs. Instead of having 100 things going on in my head, I have 2 or 3. Until my mind starts wondering. When I realize my thoughts are scattering, I bring myself back to whatever I’m focusing on (breathing, music, a candle, whatever) and I’m back to the 2 or 3 tabs.

One of my favorite guided things has a quote that I love. It says that

“Thoughts are not the enemy…and you don’t need to clear your mind of thoughts, rather you’re developing the capacity to recognize when thoughts are happening without getting lost in the storyline”- Tara Brach.

It was actually comforting to hear that. Up until that point, I always felt like I was failing at meditating because I couldn’t get my mind to completely clear out. When I heard that quote, it was like a lightbulb moment. I couldn’t keep my mind completely clear, but I was already doing much better at recognizing when my mind was wandering off and bringing it back to focus.

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As of now, I feel like I need to go about 15-20 minutes. It takes me about 5 minutes to really relax myself, so I need that additional 10-15 minutes to really feel like it was worth it. Everyone is different and every day is different, so you may need to go longer, or only a few minutes.

Now, why would someone do this? Surly it’s a waste of time to just sit there and do nothing. Well, there are several benefits to meditating. Meditation helps you physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, if you’re into that. While I was doing some research for this, I found a different blog post that quickly discusses 76 Scientific Benefits of Meditation. Here’s the link here… http://liveanddare.com/benefits-of-meditation/ but I’ll quickly touch on some of my favorites. I suggest you read this post for the explanations of the benefits!

 

  • It can help those with depression, anxiety, ADHD, and other mental disorders
  • Meditation can help reduce alcoholism and substance abuse
  • Meditation improves your focus and concentration
  • Meditation can help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke
  • It can help those who suffer with chronic pain
  • It can help reduce emotional eating
  • Boosts your immune system
  • It can help reduce inflammation

 

Meditation can also be extremely beneficial for children. Some of you may have heard about schools that replace detention and other punishments with meditation, like the one in this story here… http://www.cnn.com/videos/health/2016/11/04/baltimore-school-replaces-detention-meditation-orig.cnn I keep thinking that when my kids act up, I should just have them sit with me and listen to one of the things on my app, but luckily we haven’t had too many problems with them lately where I feel like this is necessary. I’m sure one of these days we will though!

So, how do you do this? Do you have to sit cross-legged? Say “Om” over and over? Burn some incense? Well, I’m no expert, but I say, do what feels natural. Typically I sit up in bed with pillows propped up behind me with my hands held loosely on my knees, but there have been a couple times where I was laying down. (I got so relaxed once that I fell asleep!) Really, do whatever is comfortable, but it’s usually best to have your spine straight and in a position where you can really breathe deeply.

You can meditate in complete silence, have gentle music playing, or have some sort of ambient sound like a waterfall or waves. I tend to like the water sounds. I feel more relaxed and I can visualize a small stream, rainy day, or waves crashing on the beach.

Most things I’ve read say it’s best to start off only doing it a few minutes a day, and I think I agree. It takes time to train your mind to settle down, and it is a time commitment. Just take maybe 2-3 minutes your first few days. Focus on your breathing. Once you feel like you have down, add a couple minutes. Then a couple more minutes.

Being honest and open here, there are some days where I’ve counted that I’ve meditating and I never actually sat down and relaxed like you’re “supposed” to. There have been a few times when I’ve been running that I kind of hit that zen moment. Or I was listening to a song and kind of got lost in the sounds and feelings it brought up. (Like right now, I realized I was focusing more on the song I have playing than writing this!) Sometimes we have those moments in everyday tasks like driving or doing dishes. Our mind just kind of magically calms down or clears out, or we kind of zone out. I’m not sure if that technically counts, but I say if it relaxes you and calms your mind, then it counts!

Some other everyday tasks that I would say could get you there include reading, coloring (which is why those adult coloring books are so popular now!), art work, knitting, cooking, etc.

With the new year coming up, you might really want to consider implementing meditation into your everyday routine. I haven’t gotten to the point where I do it every day yet, but I’ve already noticed a big difference. Usually this time of year I’m a big ball of stress trying to make everything perfect for the holidays. I do still have those moments where I’m like “Oh my gosh there’s still so much to do!” but I feel it more acutely. If a classic over-thinker like me can benefit from meditation, I assure you that you can too!

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