By Breanna Callahan, Marketing Coordinator at Southwest Health
I really hadn’t considered meditating before. But as I looked at my goals for 2019, one of the phrases that came up for me was “self-love.” What does that mean? My first thoughts had to do with arrogance and not taking care of those around you. Being selfish. But that’s not what it means at all. You can love yourself without being arrogant. And you can take better care of those around you if you feel well. When I researched the topic and how to love yourself, I realized it is more about “self-care.”
So I began focusing on how I can take care of myself. My whole self. Mind. Body. Spirit. A few of my favorite books talk about meditation. When I would read about meditation, some thoughts that would cross my mind include:
- I am a perfectionist. Unless I have someone to teach me and I know exactly how to do it, I am not going to meditate.
- There is no way I can sit quietly for a half hour. I already feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to get done what I want to.
- I don’t see how murmuring “om” to myself over and over is going to contribute to my wellness.
- I can’t get my thoughts to slow down for two minutes sometimes, how would I be able to do that for 20?
As I kept reading, though, I started to change my mind.
First of all, I have (finally) come to realize that sometimes you don’t need all the answers to start something new. You don’t need to know exactly what the whole process is, how to do it, how not to do it. You just have to decide you want it and do it already. So that’s what I did.
Secondly, I read that it is best to start with five minutes (or even two!) a day. Whew. I think I can handle that. Five minutes is much easier to find than 20 or 30 minutes. And if you are consistent about it, they say it can be life changing. Doing something for five minutes a day…life changing? Sign me up!
Lastly, meditation is not just about repeating a word that has no meaning to you over and over. The goal of meditation is to quiet the mind. Help you focus. Energize. Relax. So how exactly do you meditate? In my research I found these common steps:
- Find a quiet spot to sit. No distractions. Phone on silent. Screens off.
- Set a timer if possible so you are not worrying about how long you’ve been at it.
- Close your eyes (or keep them open, focusing on something).
- Try to keep your mind free from random thoughts and focus on your breathing. If thoughts enter your mind, take note and then push them gently away.
- Voila! You’ll come out of your meditation feeling balanced and focused, ready to conquer your next obstacle.
The part I have the hardest time with is not letting my thoughts run away, slowing them down, and being present. But I learned right away not to get frustrated. At first I felt like I my mind was clear for maybe a minute, but that is ok. When thoughts enter my mind, I gently push them away. If I don’t feel like I am able to quiet my thoughts, I do say a word over and over. A few words I tend to focus on are energy (if I am in dire need of it), love, or peace.
Another helpful tool is guided meditation, especially when you are first starting out, to help you learn how to meditate. Guided meditations have been very helpful to me. I have found guided meditations on YouTube, phone apps, and podcasts. I searched on the internet for “best short guided meditations” and a whole pile of results came back, a lot of them free. The guided meditations have helped because they give me something to focus on and have helped me gain confidence in what I am doing.
What are the researched benefits of meditation? Below are a few that I found listed:
- Stress management
- Self awareness
- Increased positivity
- Increased patience and tolerance
- Symptom management in those with a variety of medical conditions such as anxiety, asthma, cancer, chronic pain, high blood pressure, and irritable bowel syndrome
So, how does meditation make me feel? I have found that meditation, even for the short five minutes per day that I do it, helps me to clear my when I feel like my mind is rushing. In the middle of the day when I am thinking about the rest of the work I need to get done that day, what I need to make for supper, what I need to get done after work, etc., I am able to recognize that, and for a moment focus on my breath, clear my mind, and bring myself back to the present.
I have also found that I worry less. Sometimes during my meditation, I will think “inhale confidence, exhale worry.” It works, as crazy as it might sound. Then when I am needing confidence or am feeling stressed, I might take a couple of deep breaths and inhale the confidence and let the worry go.
When you sit by yourself with no distractions, you realize what you are thinking. I am at the beginning stages of realizing just how my brain works. What kind of thoughts enter my head? Do I like them? Do I want to change them? What are the patterns? Of course I don’t analyze them while I am meditating, but afterward I am able to look at these questions and have answers for them, which helps me to think better thoughts and attract more positive energy.
One of my favorite quotes that I heard recently is, “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present”—Lao Tzu. I am grateful for meditation, as it helps me to stay in the present, which brings me greater peace. And who can’t use a little more peace and tranquility in their lives?