For those of you who know me well, you know that I started this year with 3 pages of new years resolutions/goals. Ya, I know. A bit on the ambitious side (or crazy) 😐 Well needless to say I have definitely scaled back – goodbye January 1st, hello reality!
However, one of those goals was to start meditating everyday. This was an important goal of mine for a number of reasons that I will go through in this post. There has been so much hype around the benefits of meditation in the “health world” lately so I thought I would see what it was all about.
If you would have told me a year a go that I would be meditating (almost) everyday I wouldn’t have believed you. I am definitely NOT the spiritual type, nor have I ever been and I never really got what meditation was all about. I honestly thought is was a waste of time.
Well that is definitely not the case. After only 30 days, meditation has already had a pretty significant impact on my life and I am confident it can have similar benefits for you. Let me tell you a little bit about my journey and what I’ve learned so far.
1. Sitting and thinking for 10 minutes a day is easy right? Not so much.
Meditation is hard. Not physically, but mentally. I like to think of myself as a pretty motivated and dedicated person when it comes to diet and exercise, but when it came to sitting down and doing “nothing” but thinking for 10 minutes a day, forget it. It was so hard to sit still and stop thinking. Holy crap my brain has ADD! I felt like Allen at the park with all the thoughts and distractions “Oh look a Squirrel!”, “Oh look a ball!”, “Oh look a another dog”, “Oh wait, what was I doing??”
2. You need to do it earlier in the day or you won’t do it.
I think the same goes for most new goals. If it doesn’t get done earlier in the day before a million things pop up and distract you, you won’t do it. One of the big reasons I wanted to start meditating was to help with my sleep. I was having a really hard time falling asleep and staying asleep because I had so many anxious, racing thoughts going through my head but I’ll get more into this later.
So I thought that meditating right before I went to bed would help me fall asleep. Wrong. Turns out by the time I’m ready for bed I’m so tired and the process of thinking about all the things I need to do tomorrow has already started. I found it best to do it earlier in the day and then you can apply the tools throughout your day. I found it easiest to add right after my exercise.
3. It can be the shortest or the longest 10 minutes of your life.
When I first started meditating, I felt like 10 minutes took FOREVER. I just wanted the exercise to be over so I could get to the next thing on my to-do list. Now that I’ve been practicing for a bit, I am finally starting to get the hang of things and actually find that 10 minutes is almost too short. Once you start practicing everyday you will find that meditation is a skill where you actually do little exercises…which leads me to my next point.
4. You probably need guided meditation to start.
If you are like me then you probably have no idea where to start with meditation. I checked out a few sites and apps and landed on the Headspace App. They have a 10-session free guided meditation so you can try it out before you purchase the app. I wasn’t sure I would continue with the app after the 10 sessions but I really liked it and ended up purchasing a year’s membership. Once you have a membership you can choose special “session packs” depending on what your goals are for the meditation.
There are plenty of different apps out there that I am sure are great, this was the only one I tried and I found it super helpful. I think you can also find guided meditations on youtube for free if apps aren’t your thing.
5. You need to be consistent, but it’s OK if you skip a day or two.
Just like exercise and eating right, in order to get results you need to be consistent. But let’s face it, we’re not perfect and if you happen to have a bad day or two, don’t worry, you didn’t fall off the wagon completely and you don’t have to give up! Just jump back on and keep going.
6. You’ll start to notice (and appreciate) more of the “little things.”
These days it’s so easy to get distracted by everything that’s going on around you (traffic, cell phone, t.v. etc.) that it can be hard to notice all the beautiful and amazing things in the world. For example, when’s the last time you noticed how awesome the city looks at night with all the lights and sky scrapers? How about how cute your dog really is? 😉 How often do you really think about how lucky we are to have a real roof over our heads and food on the table? What about all the amazing things your body can do and recover from? And don’t even get me started with technology! The list goes on and on, but my point is it’s so easy to take these things for granted and if I have learned one thing on my journey to being happier and healthier, it’s that appreciating the small things in life can bring you a lot of joy.
7. It will help you get a better sleep.
This is huge for me. I’ve been struggling with falling asleep and staying asleep for quite some time now. I have a bit of an anxious personality, which seems to be in its prime right before I go to bed – awesome :\ And it wasn’t like I had a big presentation or anything the next day, it was just a vicious cycle of me being worried about not getting enough sleep and then that making me anxious and worry more about not getting enough sleep. I was my own worst enemy! I tried everything I could to help me sleep – from exercise, to avoiding caffeine, to not eating certain foods before bed, to drugs and nothing was helping (and not to mention the terrible side-effects of sleep-aid drugs).
The biggest reason I started meditating was to help me sleep. And it did.
It took a while before I started noticing the effects, but I was able to use some of the tools I learned in my meditation to help me fall asleep and get back to sleep if I woke up. After a while, it became almost second nature to me and I am now able to fall asleep pretty quickly and have a restful sleep (most of the time anyways).
Let’s face it. Focusing on one task at a time is hard. We’ve become programmed to multitask just about everything from watching the bachelor while also liking things on facebook or instagram and at the same time snapchatting friends, cheersing them with your glass of wine and if you’re really good, you’re probably eating dinner too. Not to say multitasking is necessarily bad, but it’s exhausting and you don’t actually feel that productive doing it (well, at least I don’t). Being able to focus on one task at a time and ACTUALLY completing it is quite satisfying and more satisfaction = more happiness 🙂
9. It will help you become more mindful (and less irrational).
This one is HUGE for me. I am the queen of irrational thinking: “Oh, I don’t like the way my hair looks today, well better shave it off and stay inside for the rest of my life because no one is ever going to love me!” That isn’t even an exaggeration – just ask Mike. When something doesn’t go my way or something is wrong, my natural reaction is to freak out and let it affect the rest of my day.
Meditation has helped me just take a deep breath, think about the situation, ask myself “Is this really a big deal in the grand scheme of things?” “Is this actually going to make a big difference in my life?” And the answer is usually NO. Recognizing that the way you react to a situation (whether it is in your control or not) is going to dictate how you feel. So if you respond mostly positive, then you will start feeling mostly positive as a result. Positive reactions = positive feelings = happier me 🙂
10. You will become more PRESENT.
If you’re like me then you have no idea what I’m talking about. Being present? I showed up, I’m here, how much more present can I be? Well, turns out even though I was physically somewhere, that didn’t necessarily mean I was mentally there. Let me give you an example: I am the type of person that when someone introduces themselves to me before they have even finished saying their last name I’ve already forgotten their first name. Does that sound familiar at all? That’s because I was too wound up in my own thoughts (usually thinking about what I am going to say next so I make a good first impression) that I didn’t listen to a word the other person was saying.
Trying to work on actually listening and being aware of my surroundings is something that I am working hard at everyday. I never realized just how “un-present” I really was. Once you start paying attention to where you are, what you’re doing and really listening to what people have to say, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at all the wonderful things out there you were missing before.
So there’s my journey and what I’ve learned so far. I realize that a lot of them overlap but hey, they are all good things that I (hope) you will find helpful.
I will be continuing my meditation journey and will be sure to keep you posted along the way! Please feel free to leave a comment about your meditation journey or if you’ve been thinking about it and want to learn more.