“Breathe in…annnnd… breathe out”. We’ve all heard it, and we’ve all probably attempted to ‘let everything go’ just by doing heaving breathing exercises- knowing full well, it’s not going to fix the problem or issue at hand. While following your breath is the most famous part of meditation, there’s many other forms the practice can take.
Headspace defines meditation as ‘training in awareness and gaining a healthy sense of perspective’. It’s all about learning to observe without judgement. Learning how to practice mindfulness will also effective your meditation form. It is where you can be present, be in the now and to be immersed and engaged within the moment. Meditation isn’t easy. No, no, no, it’s a skill. It only becomes easier after practice.
Many of us ask ourselves questions similar to these from time to time…
– Am I stressed, unorganised, unmotivated, sad or everything in between?
– WTF am I breathing so heavily for when it isn’t FIXING MY PROBLEMS?
– Why don’t I look less stressed after ‘being in the moment’?
– I feel like I have a great perspective, why do I still have issues?
So, while I don’t have the answer to any of those questions, what I can say is that for me, meditation helps makes the complexities in life a little more manageable. Meditation can help with sleep deprivation, stress, anger, anxiety, focus and compassion. It is FREE, can be done anywhere and people won’t even know you’re doing it. Meaning, you don’t have to sit in lotus pose to meditate!
In fact, wherever you are most comfortable but alert is an effective position for meditation. There are no rules, but it’s best not to lie down – because ‘medi-virgins’ and or beginners usually fall asleep. Sitting up is most effective as it helps to maintain a balance between relaxation and focus.
My meditation journey started when I was feeling pretty flat, with my family and friends insisting I ‘relax’. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it’s incredibly frustrating when someone simply suggests you ‘relax’ or ‘chill out’ in a high pressure situation. If you’re anything like I was, meditation seems quite intimidating, complicated, and expensive. Personally, I’ve never been too keen on paying to attend a retreat where the only thing on the menu is green juices made with bamboo shoots, tumeric off-cuts and has the scent of freshly cut grass- all in attempt to detoxify my body and mind. I did want to improve my mood, though – and it wasn’t until I stumbled across a few phone applications that I began to find my zen.
Why should I meditate?
– Calming effects: EEG scans show evident decrease in brain activity.
– Increases blood flow to your brain: increasing the amount of grey matter and slows down the ageing process.
– Better sleep: people who meditate need less sleep.
– Maintains focus: feeling immersed and energised so you procrastinate less, and get shit done.
– Makes you smarter (because you procrastinate less, and focus more)
– Defragment thoughts: you can break down your thought process, and gain a clearer perspective.
– Teaches perseverance. Meditation can be boring and frustrating to some. The mind often wanders, and it becomes pretty noticeable that you are sitting on a chair that you find uncomfortable, you hate the fabric, and you then begin to write a mental list of all the furniture you need to buy.
What types of meditation are there? There are 7 primary forms of meditation.
- Loving-kindness meditation: promote feelings of compassion and love
- Progressive relaxation: helps with chronic pain, and promotes calmness and relaxation
- Mindfulness: encourages awareness of existing surroundings, to be present and engaged in the moment.
- Breath Awareness: encourages to breathe slowly, deeply and counting of each breather to ignore other thoughts and enter the mind.
- Kundalini yoga: improvement of physical strength and improve mental health by reducing anxiety.
- Zen meditation: mindfully observe one’s thoughts without judgement, and to seek a state of relaxation (Buddhist)
- Transcendental Meditation: repeating a mantra to determine and influence a person’s state of mind.
This is all easier said than done. These types of meditation take time and practice – I don’t have that kind of patience or time to practice.
So here’s what I started to do, and holy cow… what a difference 5 minutes can make every morning, during lunch or before I start to cook dinner. Here are MY top tips and tricks to increasing your chances of finding your zen, chilling out for 5 minutes and just collecting your thoughts.
- Turn your car radio off and take long deep breaths (like box breathing) when driving your car, sitting at the traffic lights. Not only will you have less road rage, you’ll feel calmer, less agitated by the traffic and your heart rate will drop down.
- Say a daily affirmation to remind yours
elf of what you want to achieve or what you are working towards – or simply say a positive thought to start your day right.
- Take a walk. Whether you’re at work, home or out for lunch. Walk around the block or a few kms to increase blood flow and refresh yourself.
- Stop looking at your phone every 5 seconds. You may fish your phone out of your bag in the elevator or on the bus to avoid awkward eye contact or silences. Stop it. Look up, stretch your neck, fix your posture and take in that moment of silence. It’s only awkward silence if you make it awkward.
- Write lists. If you like the satisfaction of crossing things off your ‘to-do’ list every day then this is for you. Writing to-do lists not only becomes incredibly satisfying when striking a line through the task, add 5 minutes of meditation to that list and you’ve got another task completed and one extra thing to cross off.
- Download Calm, an app that reminds you to breathe. It may sound dumb, but having both a reminder and a guide to meditation will change your life. Especially if you MUST fiddle on your phone in those times of ‘awkwardness’.
Mediation isn’t just yoga. Meditation is when you find a moment to reflect in the now, when you focus on your breath to calm your brains activity. Personally, mindfulness is the most effective form of meditation. I don’t have to do yoga, close my eyes or even say an affirmation. I sit there, be still, focus on my breath and no one knows I’m even meditating. It is five minutes of the day where I collect my thoughts, slow down and calm the f#ck down.