Whenever I tell someone I meditate, the most common response I get is “ah, I tried that and just ended up thinking about what I was going to have for dinner”. Well, let me tell you, that’s totally normal.
I have been there! Hungry and also thinking about dinner because its on my to do list! But what I can also tell you is that meditation has also, fully changed my life and who I am as a person for the better. So, can you think about your dinner AND change your life through meditation? The answer is yes. So stick with me.
What is meditation?
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 such as their breathing – to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state.
What is so key about this is that you’re not trying to turn off your thoughts and feelings but observe them. There is a common misconception that you have to switch off your thoughts and have a completely clear and empty mind, thinking of nothing but your breath as you meditate. Whilst many can and will do this, it is not a one size fits all approach. For many including myself, meditation is a portal and a tool that I can choose to adapt based on how I am feeling and what I want to achieve.
Your mind is a muscle and so it can be trained. Like any muscle, with repetitive action, it gets stronger, things become easier and more comfortable. Your brain is very much the same, and there will be plenty of times where your mind wanders, you think random thoughts and find it a bit difficult, but it is all part of the process.
5 Key Tips for Meditation Beginners
Find a quiet space, away from noise and distractions – this plays a key part in helping you switch off and focus on what you want to, instead of getting your attention taken away by other things and therefore, steering your thoughts.
Find the best time that works for you – Meditating can be done at any time of the day, many prefer first thing in the morning as it sets their mood for the day, others prefer right before bed as it helps them wind down and sleep. Personally, I prefer whenever my son is asleep, and my partner isn’t flushing the toilet!
Find your style – We will talk more about styles later, but you can meditate in silence, or use a guided video/audio to focus on and some prefer repeating a mantra. Knowing your style will help you in finding what works for you and what you connect with the most.
Find a comfortable position – Sitting cross legged is the most common position that you will see, mainly as it helps open your lungs for breathing and facilitates the energy moving through your body more easily. However, sitting upright in chair with your hands on your legs or laying down with a cushion under your legs is also a great position. Wherever you feel the most relaxed, ideally without falling asleep!
Don’t be too hard on yourself – Meditation looks different for everyone, so don’t be annoyed it you feel like it didn’t work, just keep going, 5 minutes a day for a week and I can guarantee you will notice a difference from day 1. You will begin to notice the bits of it you enjoy, find easier, try out different styles and you will find you actually notice your breathing more and bringing your thoughts back around. It is called a practice for a reason.
There are a vast range of benefits to meditation, including physical, emotional and mental.
So lets touch on a few biggies…
Reduces stress and anxiety
When you are stressed you release hormones into your body called Cortisol and Epinephrine which are generated by the parasympathetic nervous system. These hormones negatively impact your body over time and even spikes in these can cause increased heart rate, blood pressure which then lead to impacting other areas such as sleep, your immune system etc. so increased stress levels over long periods of time, only negatively impact your body. Therefore, meditation helps reduce this by lowering your heart rate, when this happens it stops producing those stress hormones. Which naturally then lower blood pressure, cholesterol etc. so as you practice meditation over time, not only do you have lower stress and heart rate in your meditation sessions but you gradually begin to condition your mind and body to handle stress more effectively. Combined with positive self-talk and focusing on your breathing techniques this is also a perfect remedy for relieving anxiety.
Linked very much to stress, your emotions are tightly connected, and your levels will also impact your reactions to situations. Meditation helps you feel more in control of your thoughts and being conscious of your thoughts helps you see and be aware of what you are actually thinking. The tone of your thoughts, what you focus on and whether you see things negatively or positively. In return this helps you acknowledge your thought patterns and change them. By generating a calmer sense of self, you are less reactive to situations. By focusing on your positive thoughts, this too generates a calmer and less negative mindset to everyday life.
Do you ever wish you could see yourself how others do? Or do you ever reflect on situations and think, I would have done that differently? We all have from one time or another. Meditation gives you time to reflect, but in a way that we can learn from and also get to know ourselves and our minds better. Being self-aware is one of the greatest skills to have, we begin to have more trust in our decisions, reactions to situations and confidence in our behaviours. Self awareness also leads to self-discovery, this helps develop confidence, empowerment and liberation.
Clears mental fog & helps attention span
Any activity where your attention is focused, helps to clear the mind and also trains the brain to have an improved attention span. As you focus on your thoughts, breathing or concept, you are training your brain to reduce distractions and zone back in on what you are intentionally focusing on. This activity is then transferred and applicable to projects, completing work or anything that demands your focus or attention for periods of time. It also promotes thinking more clearly as your brain fog is lifted. Journaling is also a great way to empty your mind of your thoughts so you can focus your attention more clearly.
Re-wiring your brain
We have touched on thought patterns and positive thinking already. But it is possible to rewire your brain and change old thinking habits through meditation. Studies show that meditation has been linked to helping reduce addiction, aggression and depression. The level of attention required, and self-awareness generated can help you identify triggers, notice your thought patterns around triggering situations and reframe those thoughts into more positive ones. Alongside reducing stress and factors that may also contribute to these things you can redirect your thoughts and impulses for these areas through repetitively changing your thought patterns towards them.
Find your style – Guided VS Mantra VS Silence
I used to very much think that meditation meant sitting in silence. It wasn’t until I explored further and began actually practising that my style developed, and I found my own way of meditating that worked best for me. Now I genuinely look forward to it, not just for the health benefits, but because it is a style that I enjoy, and I feel as though I access I different part of who I am.
I love a guided meditation, 5-10 minutes each morning and one filled with positivity. I am a very glass half full, optimistic person anyway and these guided meditations take my thoughts on a specific journey. They have allowed me to not close out my thoughts but to channel them and effectively, find solutions to questions I may have been asking myself. It inspires my creativity and helps me generate new ideas, activities, approaches to work, fun things to do. It also helped me identify what I want to do with my life, a question I had been asking myself for years. I can only describe as my brain becomes like Pinterest board or YouTube video of my life. When an intriguing idea comes in, I follow it and develop more in my meditation and when it becomes a concept I will journal after and write it down. My best ideas and solutions come to me when I meditate. Its like tapping into that side of my brain that I don’t have time to day to day.
In summary, guided meditations support your meditation journey, the sounds, tones of voices help you relax and carry your thoughts through the vision, it guides you, reminds you to breath. Talking you through landscapes and helping you visualise calming places, scenery and views.
The range of guided meditations are endless, you can search Youtube or there are a vast range of apps that have different ones depending on what you’re looking for.
Silence, is golden. I mean if you’re a mum too, can I get an amen?! The basic idea is simple. Every time your mind begins to shift its focus away from your breath and you get lost in thought, you simply — and gently — bring your attention back to your breath. And then you repeat this again and again.
Or if you are like me and want to channel and explore your thoughts, then see what comes in and navigate them, direct and explore your thoughts, leading them from one to the next. I recommend this if there is a specific area you want to explore to help you achieve something you have been wondering. Exploring your dinner plate, again, I’d bring your thoughts back to your breathing. Over time, repetitively practising this will train your mind and this will become easier and easier. Or, just enjoy the silence.
Mantra meditation is prominent in many teachings, including Hindu and Buddhist traditions. This type of meditation uses a repetitive sound to clear the mind. It can be a word, phrase, or sound, one of the most common being “om.” Your mantra can be spoken loudly or quietly. Om or aum (pronounced ah-uu-mm) is a sacred sound considered by many ancient philosophical texts to be the sound of the universe, encompassing all other sounds within it. In Sanskrit, om is called Pranava, which means to hum, and is considered an unlimited or eternal sound.
Some find using a mantra as soothing and also the repetitiveness of the same phrase or word to be comforting and easy to relax and get into a rhythm with. Also, the act of saying the word helps focus the attention and therefore, quieten the mind too.
In summary, meditation is a practice for a reason, but one that will offer you an endless list of benefits in every area, even if it is 5 minutes of quiet out of your busy day, to yourself. Don’t be too hard on yourself, just stay consistent and you will notice a difference. Try out a few different styles and see what work for you. Don’t be afraid to get creative with it, meditation and your brain are powerful tools and the possibilities you can access through them both are endless.
The Spiritual Mamas x