It’s something I am going to try daily, for just 5 minutes (to start!), to help with my hip pain. Also, I am striving to be more mindful and I think meditation will be a great way to improve my ability to be more present in the moment, more present with my friends and families, and more present with myself.
In a world full of distractions and a constant onslaught of media and responsibilities, I think we lose some of our connection with ourselves and with our environment. That’s why I did a digital media fast a while back – to truly disconnect for a bit so I could reconnect with myself, with nature, with my boys.
Being more mindful can help us reconnect with the things that matter most to us; our friends, our family, our inner child, our passions – our purpose! It can also help us restore our bodies and minds. By starting a regular meditation practice, you can improve your mindfulness not only during your sessions but also throughout your day; being more aware and engaged in your every day life.
And it’s not all new age wooieness or strife with religious dogma (unless you want it to be!). It is your own personal experience to improve your quality of life. Being more mindful and practicing meditation has been shown to positively impact overall health, physical performance, and cognitive function. We can all benefit from that! Whether we want to be better athletes, more productive at work, have less stress, improve our memory, lower our blood pressure, alleviate chronic pain, be more focused, or just relax for a bit!
But I don’t have time to meditate….
There is a saying that goes “You should meditate for 20 minutes a day, unless you are really busy, then you should meditate for an hour”. Sometimes it’s hard for us to break away from what we’re doing to take time for ourselves because we think we won’t get everything done that we need to.
But, as counter intuitive as it may seem, taking a break will actually give you more time to attend to your responsibilities because you’ll be more productive, more focused, and get more done in less time than if you just slog through mental fogs, distractions, stress, and exhaustion.
Just 12 minutes of meditation a day has been shown to increase productivity by improving working memory. so while you may think you don’t have time to meditate – taking a few minutes out of your day will actually give you a bit more time.
More reasons to make time to meditate….
And making time for meditation will not only make you more productive, it will help you to be healthier and happier as well. That is definitely worth a few minutes of your time everyday! Meditation has been shown to actually change your brain and your body in positive ways – you have more gyri (those folds in your brain that make it look like a walnut), improving your cognitive function, and it helps switch on genes that can protect your health, everything from infertility to hypertension.
Alleviate Chronic Pain
For a lot of chronic pain sufferers, whether from arthritis or due to injury or surgery or just from aches and pains in the low back, neck, and shoulders, a lot of the pain is generated because of excess muscle tension. Contracting our muscles around a painful area is a protective mechanism and a guarding response, but it can also exacerbate and prolong pain. By being able to relax those muscles we can give our central nervous system a break and decrease our pain levels. This is a big one for me and the ongoing hip and low SI joint pain that I have had since my injury and surgery.
Lessen Stress Levels and Improve Health
Meditation also helps manage stress, allowing us to feel calmer, control our emotions, and lower our blood pressure which in turn helps improve other health markers because our system isn’t so taxed. When our system isn’t stressed out (and we aren’t as stressed out), we can digest our food more easily and have less GI upset (think constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and gas), less inflammation (which contributes to everything from diabetes to joint pain), and sleep better at night.
Stronger, More Meaningful Relationships
Meditation also helps us be more aware and more present which enriches our relationships with our loved ones and friends and imbues our experiences with more meaning. By being more connected with our surroundings, people and the environment, we experience a bit more enjoyment, gratitude, and happiness.
None of us knows how many moments we’re going to have, so I want to make more moments matter.
So how do we start a meditation practice?
In my Applied Sport Psychology text this quarter I learned a simple way to begin a meditation practice, it’s what I’m going to start with.
All you need is a quiet environment, a comfortable position, a mantra (one or two syllable mantras work best, like “calm”, “ocean” or if your a yogi, “om”, or you can make up some other nonsense syllable that speaks to you!) and a “let it happen” attitude.
Sit in a comfortable position somewhere quiet.
Close your eyes and try to relax all of your muscles, either from your head to your toes or from your toes to head.
Concentrate on your breathing, focusing on each breath as you gently breathe in and out through your nose. With each exhale, say your mantra or nonsense sound to yourself (silently!)
Don’t worry about your mind wandering, it probably will. When it does, just use it has a cue to think about your breathing again and silently repeat your mantra with each exhale.
Continue this for five minutes.
When you’re done, sit quietly with your eyes closed for a couple minutes and bring awareness back into your fingers, your toes, your muscles, before gently opening your eyes. Remain sitting for a couple minutes while you become reacquainted with your surroundings before standing up.
A couple notes
Don’t set an alarm unless you must but you can check a clock periodically to see how long it’s been.
If you can do longer than 5 minutes, fantastic! To start, I’m going to just do 5 minutes a day and see where it takes me.
Ideally I’m going to work up to 15-20 minutes 1-2 times a day.
Don’t meditate right after eating – apparently the digestive process disrupts the ability to ease into the meditation. Try and wait at least hour after eating before you begin your meditation session.
I’m starting my meditation practice today!
I hope you’ll try it out, too! If you do, I’d love to hear your experiences and I will be sharing mine along the way.