Growing Your Meditation Practice
Life can be hectic. Our days are filled with juggling work, school, commitments, a social life, relationships, family, and trying to be fit and healthy all at the same time. It’s exhausting! And many of us wind up feeling burnt out way too often (hi hello me). In a world where we are constantly on the go while simultaneously being distracted by our phones, thoughts, and never ending To Do lists, taking a moment to stop and pause does a world of good for our physical and mental health.
Meditation has been scientifically proven to contribute to many benefits including reduced stress and anxiety, improved sleep, emotional wellness and a longer attention span. It allows us to take a moment away from all of the noise that surrounds us and simply be. And best of all, you can do it anytime, anywhere.
Interested in growing your own meditation practice? Here are my tips for finding your routine zen:
Find a good app
Apps make our lives a heck of a lot easier, and meditation is no exemption. There are a number of great apps that offer timed and guided meditations that really help to improve your practice, and I’d especially recommend guided apps for anyone new to meditation. You can pay for affordable subscriptions to meditation apps like HeadSpace or Calm, but there are some great free options as well! I primarily use Insight Timer - it allows you to browse tons of guided meditations, follow plans, and set timed meditations with calming background noise. I also like to use Simple Habit, which offers guided 5 minute meditations for everything from mid-day work breaks to settling down to sleep.
Designate the time
If you have a few spare minutes you have the time to meditate, but finding one or two habitual times helps to keep your practice routine. I like to meditate before I go to bed, or in the sauna after working out.
Practice different meditation techniques
If you’re looking to explore solo outside the realm of guided meditations, you’ll find that there are many different ways to meditate! Here are a few techniques that I have tried and enjoy:
Breath: Focus on the simple act of breathing. Inhale...Exhale... what does this look like? Picture your breath moving through your body. Bring your awareness to the gentle rise and fall of your chest. Don’t get irritated when the inevitable thought pops into your head, just acknowledge the thought and bring your attention back to your breath.
Body Scan: focus on each individual part of your body beginning at your toes and working your way up through the crown of your head. Notice how each body part feels. Are you keeping tension in your lower back? Maybe your shoulders? Can you relax the space between your eyebrows more? Scan, notice, relax, repeat.
Intention: Set an intention for your meditation. What do you want to attract more of in your life? Love, Harmony, Energy, Clarity, Acceptance? Whatever your intention may be, begin to meditate on it in your heart’s center. Feel the characteristics of your intention within you. Picture your intention radiating within your body until it has no choice but to spill out and fill the entire space you are in.
Visuals: Meditating on a peaceful visual is a great practice for anytime you’re in need of immediate stress reduction. Close your eyes and picture the most calming and beautiful place you can. This could be somewhere you’ve been, or not - it may not even exist in real life. In your mind, arrive, sit, and notice. What are you sitting on? What are you looking at? What are the colors, the temperature, the sounds and the smells around you? What do you feel if you place your hand next to where you’re sitting? Simply sit and experience all of the senses in this peaceful place.
Gratitude: Gratitude is scientifically proven to improve your physical and mental health. Think of all of the people, things, experiences, etc. that you are grateful for and let the warm feeling of gratitude flow within you. I also personally enjoy listing the things I’m grateful for in the form of a written meditation in my journal.
Get hands-on with Mudras
Mudras are simple hand gestures that help to channel your body’s energy flow. They can be used to channel clarity, concentration, intuition, and much more. Mudras are a great addition to any meditation, and can be especially powerful when paired with a similar intention. Check out these 10 Powerful Mudras for ideas.
Don’t give up!
No one is “bad” at meditation, it just takes some time to become more comfortable with it. I recently participated in a mindfulness workshop at work and our instructor gave a wonderful analogy. She said to think about practicing meditation like training for a marathon. You can’t expect to run an easy 26.2 miles after only training for two weeks, a month, or even six months. Like running a marathon, meditation takes time and practice for it to begin to feel routine.
I’m a newbie to mediation myself! Starting a habitual meditation practice was a 2018 goal of mine, so I’ve been building my practice over the course of the year. I can certainly attest that some days it’s easy, some days it’s a bit more difficult - but every time it is definitely worth it.
Until next time!