Hey you…yes you! Are you that person who thinks they are “too busy” and feels like there are never enough hours in the day?
I have a great idea for you!
Try sitting still for 10 minutes in the morning and do nothing else. Doesn’t that sound great? Aren’t you looking forward to it?
I didn’t think so. For those of us type-A personalities, the idea of meditating is about as appealing as a visit to the dentist: we know it’s an important part of “self care”, but twice a year is about as much as we are willing to succumb to the torture.
Let’s just for a moment pretend that we’re not talking about meditation. Instead, what if I tell you that I have a magic pill for you? And if you take this pill regularly each morning, you will start to notice the following benefits:
- Reduced stress
- Slower aging process
- Feeling happier
- Improves brain function
- Higher quality of sleep
- Improved metabolism
- Better immune system
- Increased attention span
- Feeling more connected
Sounds kind of great, doesn’t it? I think we can all agree that the benefits are desirable.
So let’s address the major obstacle: forcing yourself to sit still. If you’re like me, you are a low flying jet in the morning. Once I’m out of bed, don’t get in my way because I need to get sh*t done. It’s all I can do to force myself to sit long enough to eat a proper breakfast…and often I can be found multi-tasking on my phone while I eat.
For the past few months, it’s been bothering me that I have never been able to meditate consistently (I floss more than I meditate…for real), yet I am completely convinced of the benefits of this practice. So, I reached out to a few people who DO meditate regularly and asked them what they recommend for a beginner like me.
Here were their suggestions :
- Guided meditation (specifically, Tara Brach)
- Meditation app (especially HeadSpace)
- Set a timer for a few minutes at a time and work your way up to 10 minutes
- Writing meditation (like journalling, but with a specific structure)
Because I love to be a guinea pig, I decided to give each of these methods a try and see which of them I found most appealing — considering that none of them really sounded appealing, because I would rather be ticking things off of my To Do list. For the record I did I did try writing “meditate” on my To Do list…and some days that worked.
Experiment #1: Writing Meditation
This idea came from Jacqueline Wolven, who suggested that each morning I write three pages in my journal, starting with a prompt such as “I believe” or “I think”, and then writing whatever else comes to mind until I have filled the three pages. I chose this one to start , because being a writer I felt it should be easy to to fill up three pages before I officially started my day.
I have to admit that even though I scheduled this into my calendar for several days, I kept forgetting (okay…ignoring) until I finally forced myself to just do it whenever I remembered. I really liked doing this. It WAS easy to fill up the three pages, and I felt much more calm and centered after the exercise.
It forced me to slow my mind down, and I appreciated that it felt different than simply sitting still. Pencil and paper in hand, it still felt like I was doing something.
Experiment #2: Guided Meditation
I first heard Tara Brach on a podcast ,and I was immediately drawn to her. She has a calming voice, and seems so down to earth. Many of her videos offering guided meditations of various lengths can be found free on YouTube. I chose the 10 minute one and was surprised at how quickly the time passed … and I felt really good … like sitting in a hot tub and having a cold shower right afterwards, but not in a painful way. I felt Refreshed! Very refreshed.
At this point, I was tempted to stop my experiment because I felt that I had found something that worked for me, but I decided to keep trying other options to see if there was something that worked equally as well for me..
Experiment #3: Meditation App
The most recommended meditation app, by far was Headspace, so I chose to download the app and sign up for the free trial. Because I had loved Tara Brach’s guided meditation so much, I thought I’d really like this one .
Truthfully … I didn’t love it, but I didn’t dislike it either. I found the narrator’s voice less soothing than Tara’s , and actually had trouble sitting still for the 10 minutes, opposed to my previous experience with guided meditation.
I’ve since tried several sessions , and if I hadn’t previously tried Tara’s, I believe I would appreciate this format much more. That being said, the app is a really simple way to start. It’s like learning to run a 5K and doing a walk/run program. You start out mostly walking with only a tiny bit of running for the first week, and it feels pretty easy.
Experiment #4: Setting a Timer
EPIC fail on this one! I just couldn’t manage to get myself to set a timer for a few minutes and sit still. This is where the “how I am wired” worked against me. I just could not see the point! In the other experiments, I felt I had accomplished something at the end of my 10 minutes, unlike this one where I felt I had not.
Something that does work well, if I wake up and feel stressed about the day, is laying in bed for a few minutes extra and listening to one of the meditation songs that I have downloaded on my iPhone. This is as close as I get to sitting still with a countdown timer on (aka the end of the song).
Guided meditation with Tara Brach for the win!!!
I actually found myself looking forward to this. My best analogy is that it felt like having a 10 minute massage appointment in the morning. I would totally make time for my massage therapist (who I see once a month…and whose office is at the bottom of our condo building) each morning if she volunteered to give me a free 10 minute massage. Wouldn’t you?
Another thought about setting yourself up to do this regularly: If you find that morning is just too difficult, just pick another time during the day that works better for you. I found that first thing in the morning was hard for me to stick to, but taking a mid-morning break and listening to Tara’s soothing voice was better than any coffee break I’ve ever taken.
Try to work with your own wiring, instead of against it…and you will feel much happier with the results.
Pick the time of day you are most likely to sit down for 10 minutes. Set your phone alarm to remind you to take your 10 minute meditation break.
Commit to investing a bit of time in yourself: Before I scroll through my social media feeds this week, I will give myself the gift of 10 minutes. Why? Because it’s far healthier for me than catching up with everyone on Facebook, and Instagram will not decrease my stress level or help me slow down the aging process.
I’m sure that you have all heard the phrase, “We make time for the things that are important to us.” I wish that I could tell you that I am now meditating for 10 minutes everyday, but I am not quite there yet. I am however, meditating a lot more that I used to…and I’m going to celebrate that!
Doing something more than never doing anything, is progress. If the goal is to invest in your well being by starting to meditate, don’t set yourself up for failure by insisting it’s “all or nothing”. That kind of thinking triggers shame, and this is the opposite of what you are trying to achieve.
Good Luck on your “meditation” journey! Tweet me @2ndhandtherapy and tell me about your adventures/struggles in learning how to be calmer.
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