The goals of meditation isn’t to control your thoughts, it is to stop letting them control you
Meditation changed my life. I kick myself for not making it a habit sooner. But this isn’t about me, it’s about you… and how you’re going to begin your meditation practice. What’s in it for you? Well I’m so glad you asked. Meditation has a long list of surprising benefits but some of the main reasons for meditating include:
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Helps control emotional responses
- Slows down aging of the brain
- Improves sleep and increases energy
- Prevents overthinking and negative emotions
- Improves blood flow
- Improves concentration and focus
- Creates mental clarity and reduces ‘brain fog’
This is not just spiritual belief promoted by yogis and spirit junkies. There have been study’s done by psychologists and neuro-scientists that support these benefits. More and more doctors are actually promoting and recommending meditation. Ultimately, taking time to step away from the external world and looking inward will improve your mental health, relationships, career, and goals.
Here are my meditation tips based off what works for me. Tailor these tips to whatever feels right, there are no rules… just let your intuition be your guide.
1. Set the mood
You can meditate literally anywhere… I’ve done it in the bathroom at work before. It was totally Zen (a girl got to do what a girl got to do right?). It’s so much more fun when you set the mood though. Light some candles or burn some incense, dim the lights… set the tone of relaxation. I like to make sure I have elements of nature around me such as plants or crystals, I turn on my Himalayan salt lamp, and for scent I either use incense or my oil diffuser. Buddha boom Buddha bing.
2. Pick a time
They say the best two times to meditate are in the morning as soon as you wake up and in the evening around 5 pm prior to eating dinner. I’ve personally found that meditating right before bed is a perfect night cap. It allows me to reflect and decompress from the day and acts as a sleep aid. Nothing says bedtime like a deep meditation.
3. Get comfy
Some people will argue that there is a specific posture that is best when meditating. I don’t agree, especially when you are first starting out and trying to form this new habit. You want to make sure you are comfortable so that you are less likely to get antsy or fidgety. Most commonly people will sit cross legged with hands on their knees. I typically lay down to meditate because it’s the main way I can relax and focus. There isn’t any problem with this except if you find yourself too comfortable and falling asleep (like my husband has been known to do).
4. Hand Placement
But what do I do with my hands?!?! I thought you’d never ask! You can place them palms up – a symbol of receiving to absorb the energies around you, or palms down – to ground yourself. If you are feeling fancy you can place them in ‘Gyan Mudra’ by touching your index finger to your thumb (as pictured below)… this is said to increase creativity, concentration and memory. If we want to get technical there are actually several less mainstream mudras (hand signs) commonly used in meditation but I would stick to the basics for now.
5. Start small
Don’t attempt to sit still for 10 minutes on your first try then wonder why it “just isn’t working”. Ten minutes might not sound like much but it can feel like an eternity. I would suggest starting with no more than three minutes. Once that becomes comfortable and easy for you increase it in 1-2 minute intervals. The ideal time is 20 minutes per meditation however it’s not mandatory. Andrew and I meditate for 10-15 minutes depending on the day and we are quite happy with that for now.
6. Find what works for you
There are lots of different ‘types’ of meditation but let’s keep it simple and discuss the two main options: silent and guided. Guided meditations are great for beginners because they literally guide you on what to think about/ visualize, how to breath, etc. It really takes the pressure off. Ultimately you will gain a deeper meditation from the silence but you can work your way to this. A few great options for guided meditations are:
- YouTube: You can literally type in ‘ten minute guided meditation’ and thousands of great options will come up.
- The meditation Minis Podcast: each episode is a 10 minute long guided meditation with a different theme or purpose. It is by far my favorite resource for guided meditations. Some of the topics she touches on are: anxiety, confidence, and releasing negative emotions.
- Download an App: there are so many mindfulness apps today that offer guided meditations. A few I’ve personally tried and enjoyed are Head-Space, Calm, and Stop Breathe & Think.
7. Set a timer
Seems like a no brainer but just in case… make sure to set a timer on your phone at the beginning of your meditation for the pre-determined amount of time. Be sure to change the alarm tone to something soft and soothing. If you have an iPhone ‘slow rise’ is my favourite. The last thing you want is to be peeking at the time to see if your five minutes are up.
8. Set an intention
If you have a concern you need clarity on, a question you need answers to, or a scenario you are trying to manifest then it can be incredibly useful to set that intention at the beginning of your meditation. Think of this as dedicating your meditation to something. Before setting your timer visualize or say to yourself what your intention is. For example, if I’ve had a bad day I would set the intention to release the emotions of the day and move on or if i’m trying to manifest something specific I would visualize myself getting it and how that would feel.
9. It’s okay to think
The main thing I hear people say is “I just can’t shut off my brain” well that’s good news, no one can. In my experience the more you try ‘not to think’ the more you are going to think. What I believe is that those thoughts are there for a reason and rather than trying to suppress them you should observe and acknowledge them. This is where that whole mental clarity thing comes in. Pay attention to what thoughts arise during meditation. You may even want to grab a journal afterwards and jot some of it down. I’ve had some of my best creative ideas while meditating and if I were constantly trying to shut off my brain that wouldn’t have happened. Sometimes thoughts that seem meaningless or irrelevant actually provide answers you’ve been seeking.
10. Use your breath
Letting your thoughts flow is fine and dandy BUT you don’t want to find yourself in a negative thought pattern during your meditation. It can be perfectly normal for this to happen. The mind can go to some dark and twisty places. When this occurs it helps to focus on your breath. Take 3 deep breaths in and out (or however many you need) and truly focus on the air filling your lungs then being released. Your breath will pull you back to the present moment and redirect your train of thought. The same works if you find your mind focusing for to long on things like your grocery list or the lyrics of a song.
11. Stop making excuses
Time for some tough love… if you truly want to experience the magic of meditating then stop making excuses. We can all say we don’t have time but the truth is you have time for what you make time for. If you can find time to scroll through Instagram, read this blog post, or watch TV then you have time to meditate. Make meditation a priority and a daily part of your routine… you won’t regret it. I’ve never heard anyone say “ugh I can’t believe I wasted all that time relaxing and tuning into myself”… just saying.
12. Remember it’s a practice
You aren’t going to meditate a few times and suddenly become Deepak Chopra (meditation guru extraordinaire). It’s called a meditation practice for a reason… it takes practice. So, don’t get discouraged if the first couple… cough, dozen, cough… times or so you are fidgety or bored and wondering ‘whats all the hype about’. Once you get over that initial hump I promise you will thank yourself… heck maybe you will even thank me (hint, hint).
That’s it guys! I think most people make meditation more complicated that it needs to be. The important thing is that you take a few minutes to pause every day without distractions of TV, other people, or cellphones and just hangout with your soul.