Creating a Meditation Practice
Meditation was once considered something only hippies did. Now it’s a practice everyone is finding beneficial from CEO’s to stressed out college students.
Stress in our society is at an all time high, there’s no denying that. With social media and work at our fingertips, it’s easy to get wrapped up in emails or responding to comments when you’re spending time with your friends or family on the weekend or after hours. With the recent self care & wellness trend, stress management practices like yoga and meditation are becoming more mainstream than ever - and we couldn’t be more thrilled.
Before we dive into how you can create a daily meditation practice, let's get into the negative side effects stress has on our bodies and answer some questions you might have!
The link between stress and our health
Emotions play a larger role in our health than we think. Stress can cause disease and sickness. Which means meditation is considered preventative care for the longevity of your life. Prolonged stress can cause hive breakouts, fluctuations on weight, headaches, stomach aches, constantly being sick, breakouts, mental fog, and hair loss.
There are 5 frequencies the brain goes into throughout a day, ranging from being fully awake to deep sleep (beta, alpha, theta, delta and gamma). When you’re meditating, you’re able to tap into the theta state, which is where real change happens. Theta is the gateway to learning and intuition, it allows you to access different parts of the mind you can’t access in more awake states.
Being in theta helps regulate your cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone that is useful sometimes when we’re working on a project with a tight deadline or working an event. But when your body forgets how to regulate your cortisol and your body is in constant fight or flight mode, that’s when problems occur. With regular meditation, you’re allowing yourself to take a 10 minute break from the day to set yourself up for success.
How often and how long should you have to meditate for?
Some people meditate for 20 mins in the morning and evening. If meditating twice a day is too frequent, you can do it once in the morning or before you go to sleep. If you can commit to 10 minutes in the morning, that’s enough to make a positive change in your life.
How long before you notice benefits?
That just depends! There isn’t a clear cut answer because everyone is different. I personally find it difficult to sit in silence and not think. Meditation apps like Calm are great because they guide you through meditations and remind you to come back to the breath when you have gotten off track.
Meditation can improve in all areas of your life
There is something to be said about starting your morning with a positive message you can refer to throughout the day and your life. Many people start out using meditation as a tool to de-stress but discover after a while their mindfulness lessons become part of your daily thoughts and can help change your initial reaction to conflicts.
Tips to get started with meditation
1. Have a comfortable, quiet place
This can be your bedroom, living room, or wherever you want to meditate! What’s important is that you can be someplace quiet for 5-10 minutes. If you don’t have a cushion to sit on, that’s okay. You can lay or sit in bed, on the floor, on a couch or in a chair. Having a blanket might be helpful to have in-case you get cold and don’t want to move mid-meditation.
2. Be present
Instead of focusing on the thoughts in your head, be aware of your surroundings. Does your knee feel weird if your sitting cross legged? Do you feel your shoulders rise as you breath?
3. Focus on your breath
When you find your thoughts looping, just go back to the breath. Inhaling for 4 seconds and exhaling for 6 seconds three times is a great way to reconnect.
Try this visualization technique if you’re having a hard time staying with your breath: imagine a tiny flag at the ridge of your nostrils. When you inhale, imagine that flag is being sucked into one of your nostrils. When you exhale, visualize it blowing away.
4. Don’t beat yourself up
It’s normal for things to be difficult when trying something new. If you find you can’t stop thinking when you’re trying to meditate, just continue to calmly return to the breath. Meditation is supposed to help alleviate stress, not add to it.
Consistency is key. If you want to make a noticeable change in your life, practice is necessary. For a real change, you should try to dedicate 5 to 10 minutes everyday to getting quite. When you begin to notice the mindful meditation lessons coming to mind in your everyday life as conflict or stressful situations arise, you’ll know it’s working!