Happy National Women’s Health Week, ladies!
How perfect to follow up Mother’s Day with a reminder to care for our mind, bodies and soul.
So I ask you today: When you think about meditation and mindfulness, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Bogus? Boring? Ineffective? I’d never do it?
Well, let me ask you another few questions: Are you overwhelmed? Are you stressed? Are you short-tempered? Has the joy been sucked out of your life? Does life seem a lot like groundhog day? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you should meditate. Yup, you should.
Before I get into the nitty gritty, I’d like to give you the physiological benefits of meditation and mindfulness.
“Neuroscientists have found that meditators shift their brain activity to different areas of the cortex – brain waves in the stress-prone right frontal cortex move to the calmer left frontal cortex. This mental shift decreases the negative effects of stress, mild depression and anxiety. There is also less activity in the amygdala, where the brain processes fear.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, recorded the brain waves of stressed-out employees of a high-tech firm in Madison, Wisconsin. The subjects were split randomly into two groups, 25 people were asked to learn meditation over eight weeks, and the remaining 16 were left alone as a control group.
The researchers found that the meditators showed a pronounced shift in activity to the left frontal lobe. In other words, they were calmer and happier than before.” (Psychology Today)
But here’s what you need to know about meditation– there is no single way to do it, no right or wrong way to do it. Today, I’m giving you the 411 and the 101 of meditating for you to try. These tips are a combination of mine, and experts’, so please try what feels right for you.
And one more thing. When you first start meditating, IT WILL FEEL WEIRD. Yes. Your mind will tell you it’s a waste of time. Why sit there and think about nothing? You will twitch and you will itch (gee, that sounds very Dr. Seuss). You will get annoyed. May I say, stick with it anyhow. It gets better.
How to Meditate In 9 Simple Steps
1. Commit to 5-30 minutes a day. To begin, start with 5 minutes. Most people find 15 minutes optimal, but literally 5 minutes of meditation is beneficial. As for how often, it is said that meditation should be aimed for daily, like brushing your teeth. I don’t meditate daily, but I probably should.
2. Eliminate Distractions. Obviously if you’re a mom, the 3-5pm bewitching hour would not be a good time. Choose a time in your day where you have the least amount of distraction. Maybe it’s in the early morning. Maybe it’s lunchtime. For me, it’s been before bed when I am actually lying in my bed.
3. Relax and get comfortable. Some like to stretch before meditation, as it loosens the body and helps you relax. Remember, if you are a beginner, it’s hard to sit still, so stretching and relaxing gets your mind in the zone.
4. Choose Your Position. As for your position, whether lying down, or sitting up- that is a personal choice. Some like to sit, some like to lie down. The only rule is- you should be comfortable (with a straight spine, and not slouching). If you are sitting, relax and rest your hands on your lap. You can sit on the floor cross-legged with the support of a cushion or on a chair with your feet resting on the ground. It’s not necessary to force yourself into a lotus position if you’re not comfortable.
5. Focus Your Mind. Be prepared for your mind to wander. The key in meditation is to keep your mind ON THE PRESENT MOMENT, and not in the past, nor on what you have to do in an hour. This is your time to be still, to relax, to literally heal yourself. Once you’ve chosen the optimal time, you are comfortable and relaxed, you will be ready to focus your mind on your breath. You can meditate with your eyes open or closed. That is a personal choice. Sometimes listening to relaxing music can help in meditation. If you like meditating with music, then go ahead. There are lots of music options available on Spotify and iTunes. There are also mediation apps you can download which you may enjoy like Headspace or OMG I Can Meditate.
6. Breathe slowly and deeply. Close your eyes softly. Begin by taking a few slow and deep breaths — inhaling through your nose and exhaling from your mouth. Don’t force your breathing. Let it come naturally. The first few intakes of air are likely to be shallow, but as you allow more air to fill your lungs each time, your breaths will gradually become deeper and fuller. Take as long as you need to breathe slowly and deeply. When you are breathing deeply, you will begin to feel calmer and more relaxed.
7. If your mind wanders, bring it back to your breathing. If your mind wanders, know that this is NORMAL, and gently try and bring it back to the now- to your breathing. Your mind may wander as often as every 5 seconds. That’s totally okay. As you meditate more often, your mind will wander less, and your body and mind will truly relax. My mind STILL wanders and I’ve been meditating for years. It’s hard to sit still and focus on your breath, but make that gentle conscious effort to bring your mind back to the moment. That is what meditation actually is – bringing your awareness back to what you’re doing. On a side note, if you are falling asleep, consider changing positions (from lying to sitting).
8. Ending your meditation. When you are ready to end your meditation, open your eyes and stand up slowly. Good job. You did it!
9. Practice Makes Perfect. It’s not a race. Maybe you can only meditate for 3 minutes now. With time, you’ll increase your time, therefore increasing all the benefits you will experience from meditation.
(Henri Junttila and Wee Peng Ho)
So, in honor of National Women’s Health Week, if you’re wondering how you’re doing in the health department, there is a great quiz you can take now.
Mindfulness and meditation– the difference over time is remarkable. You will begin to feel peaceful, calm and happy. Stick with it- it will feel frustrating at first, and that’s okay. As a multi-tasking, busy career woman and mom, it has made all the difference for me. I know it will change you too.
If you don’t believe me, you might want to read an article from The Harvard Business Review. Fascinating research.
Have a healthy week!
I’d love to know, do you meditate? Would you try meditation after reading this post? Any tips that work for you would be helpful, please share ’em below.