Let me set the scene. It’s July 2021, and I’m curled up on the couch reading Quit Like a Woman, a book about quitting drinking (we’ll get to that story in a few weeks). In the book, she mentions that she meditates, and it piques my interest.
So, I grab my phone, type “meditation” in the app store, and download one of the first apps I see with decent reviews.
I embark on a one-year free trial with the Balance app. I didn’t actually think I would stick with it, let alone allow it to change my life.
What is meditation?
When I say meditation, what comes to mind? Maybe you immediately picture someone sitting on the floor saying “ohmmm” repeatedly. Or maybe you think it’s something reserved for specific types of people or religions.
It’s so much more than that. According to Wikipedia:
Meditation is a practice in which an individual uses a technique—such as mindfulness, or focusing the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity—to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state.
It’s the “emotionally calm and stable state” that pulled me in. (Can my fellow anxiety-ridden readers relate?)
Components of meditation
Meditation allows you to enter a truly relaxed state of being, and it does this through certain methods, like:
- Focused attention. Paying attention to something you feel, see, smell, or taste. It can even be as simple as focusing on your breathing.
- Mantras. Repeating words or phrases to yourself.
- Mindfulness. Increasing your awareness on what is happening in the present moment.
- Controlled breathing. Focusing on your breathing by deepening it and adjusting how long you breathe in and out.
- Body scans. Tuning into your body and seeing how it truly feels.
- Love and kindness. Extending positive thoughts to yourself and others.
What are the benefits of meditation?
Personally, the biggest benefits I have found in meditating are the ability to more effectively manage stress and an overall decrease in my levels of anxiety.
According to Mayo Clinic, the emotional and physical benefits of meditation can include:
- Gaining a new perspective on stressful situations.
- Building skills to manage your stress.
- Increasing self-awareness.
- Focusing on the present.
- Reducing negative emotions.
- Increasing imagination and creativity.
- Increasing patience and tolerance.
- Lowering resting heart rate.
- Lowering resting blood pressure.
- Improving sleep quality.
There is also research that shows that meditation may be useful to manage symptoms of certain medical conditions, like asthma, heart disease, and high blood pressure. (But of course, always consult with your doctor.)
How can I meditate?
If you’re interested in getting into meditation, but don’t really know where to start, I suggest downloading a meditation app (it worked for me!). Disclaimer: I’ve only used the Balance app, so I can only share my experience from that perspective.
When I first downloaded the app, I went through a series of questions to help personalize my experience. It asked me what I wanted to accomplish with meditation and how familiar I was with the practice.
There are 10-day “plans” you can enroll in, and I spent my first few months learning the basics of meditation in their Foundational plans. Then, I began exploring their other plans—like Relaxation and Happiness. There are so many to choose from, so you can really tailor it to your needs.
There are also one-off meditations, called singles, you can do. I have used the “Anxiety” single on days I am feeling particularly anxious. It’s a Godsend!
There are tons of other apps you can choose from too—like Calm and Headspace. Just pick whichever works best for you!
Meditation best practices
If this post has inspired you to begin meditating (or even if you’ve already dipped your toe in meditating), then there is one best practice that I want you to take away from this post. Over the past year, I have noticed that if I don’t do this one thing, my chances of squeezing in a meditation each day go straight down the toilet.
Ready for it?
Make meditation part of your routine.
It has taken me a lot of trial and error. I tried meditating first thing in the morning (I was too sleepy and it involved a lot of head bobbing), right before bed (same issue), and after work (I often got sidetracked with the dishes or taking Zoey for a walk).
I work from home, so now I use my lunch break as the perfect opportunity to meditate. I get up from my desk, sit on the couch, and do a 10-minute meditation before I eat lunch. It gets me away from my desk, and allows me to disconnect from work before I enjoy the hour to myself.
I’m still working on consistently meditating on the weekends, though… What can I say, I’m a work in progress.
A few other tips that will help you on your meditation journey:
- Choose a spot to meditate, and stick with it.
- Don’t be hard on yourself if you skip a day.
- If you don’t feel like doing a guided meditation, just focus on your breathing for 5 minutes. (Balance also has an unguided meditation option!)
- Do what’s right for you in that moment.
- Explore different ways to meditate to keep yourself interested. (Walking meditations are great!)
If you’re brand new to meditation, I hope this post helps! And if you’re a pro meditator, I’d love to hear some of your tips, too.
We all can use whatever advice we can get to decrease some of our stress and anxieties.
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