Let's breathe 🧘♀️ How 5 minutes of meditation a day could change your life
Well, hello 🙏 So... full disclosure. I had a bad week last week. The first week of September is both a time of renewal and anxiety for me.
When I've been unemployed at this time of year, I resented the idea that even school kids were going back to a meaningful routine each morning, while I was still grinding to find a reason to get out of bed.
Thankfully, I've started practicing something over the last two years that has completely transformed my daily mood and outlook - meditation.
How has it changed my life?
My stress reactions are calmer. I no longer go from zero to panic in 60 seconds.
I think through problems more clearly. Meditation trains you to slow down in order to think through challenges, step by step.
I genuinely feel better. There's no quantifiable way to describe it, other than my mood is infinitely better, day by day. It's a wonderful feeling.
It makes job hunting (and other times of adversity) much easier to cope with. Life is full of ups and downs and this won't be the last big challenge of your life, so the best way to power through is to strengthen your mind.
The bottom line for me is that in times of anxiety, stress or depression, I lean on my meditation practice and it works.
I want to highlight the word practice because that's what this is all about - practice. The full benefits don't reveal themselves until you've given it a few tries.
My first meditation
When I first started meditation, I was working at Big Awesome Media company.
They'd just converted two meeting rooms at the office into dedicated Wellness Rooms so anyone could book some time to rest, meditate, stretch, nap, or whatever.
I booked 30 minutes in one of the rooms, sat down cross-legged in the middle of the floor and put on some soothing music.
As I sat there breathing deeply, my mind started to drift.
I still have to finish that project.
I could be working on that project but instead I'm in here.
What am I even doing here?
This is a waste of time, isn't it?
What if my boss wonders why I'm not at my desk?
No, I booked this room, so i'll show up as a meeting in my calendar.
It's almost lunch time, right?
I still have to finish that project, though.
I should really get back to that...
On and on the train of thought went. I didn't feel any more relaxed and after about 10 minutes, I abandoned the room.
Clearly meditation was a giant hoax and I'd done it wrong.
The thing I didn't realize at the time though, was that your first meditation is supposed to go like that.
It's supposed to be awkward, you're supposed to be restless, you're supposed to let your brain run amuck.
When's the last time you just sat still, without doing anything for 10 minutes straight?
We are conditioned to always be doing things. Working. Achieving. If you're sitting idle, it's a "waste of time."
The next day, I gave it another try and had the same restless result - but I noticed that the routine of practicing it, was nice.
I figured as long as I was taking a break away from the stress and work I was doing, it was still worth my time.
Then the magic began to happen.
With each sitting, my mind started to focus more, my breathing calmed and I was leaving my meditation with a clear mind, ready to tackle the rest of my workday.
I can't remember exactly how long it took, but it was in less than two weeks that I started to really get this whole meditation thing down.
If you power through, you too can unlock the benefits of this skill.
Here's how you can get started
Find a quiet spot where you're unlikely to be interrupted 🤫
If you're at home, hopefully it won't be difficult to find a quiet space. If you're at work, book a meeting room (or Wellness Room if you have one.)
Treat this time with as much importance as any other meeting you'd take.
Start with five minutes ✋
No need to go beyond this. You'll likely find your stream of consciousness running to wild places in all that time anyway. So just commit to five minutes today - and commit the same five minutes every day for the next week.
Just focus on the breath 🌬
Don't worry about how to breathe. Just breathe normally. Don't spiral into worrying about whether you're breathing correctly.
Sit comfortably 🧘♂️
Pick a cushion, pillow or a chair. Sit up straight with your back lengthened (don't slouch.) You don't have to be cross-legged, if you don't want to.
Rest your hands wherever they feel comfortable.
Don't block out your thoughts 🚫
I falsely assumed that proper meditation meant being so at peace, that your brain was impenetrable. No thoughts were coming in to disrupt your flow. Wrong! Let your mind wander - it's going to whether you like it or not.
Identify your thoughts, hold space for them ❤️
The key here is to take a moment to admit the thought is there. "Laundry, work, stress..." Identify that there's a thought crossing your mind, then gently return your focus back onto your breath.
Don't get upset that you're not focusing the way you should.
Keep an open mind 🧠
I went into meditation with curiosity. No judgement. What I expected was to simply feel myself calm down in moments of panic or stress.
What I eventually got was brief moments of catharsis and the ability to problem solve much better.
Remember it'll get better with practice 🏆
You may find yourself frustrated with how your meditations are going and want to call it quits. Sure, it may not be for you, but I'm confident that there are benefits for you to uncover.
Just have some patience - and in the worst case scenario, treat it simply as quiet time for yourself.
Need a little guidance?
I'm a regular user of the Calm App and have found their series of daily meditations, masterclasses and sleep stories incredibly beneficial.
Calm offers a 7-day free trial, if you're interested in giving it a go.
Let me know how you make out with your first meditation practice.
What crossed your mind?
How did you feel?
Did you complete a full five minutes?
Wishing you an excellent rest of the week ahead!