Time is money. Time is also making coffee, getting dressed, and catching the train. What’s missing? Time to meditate. You don’t think you have it, but you do. If you’re stuck between a to-do list and a hard place, you’re not alone.
What exactly is meditation?
You might think of meditation as putting your head in the clouds. It’s actually the opposite. It’s supposed to heighten your attention and focus. Think “living in the moment,” minus the cheesy Instagram quote. Like anything else, it takes practice. Meditation is like a muscle—the more reps you do, the better you get.
Are all meditation practices the same?
Nope. Meditation comes in many forms. Here are two big ones...
Focused... As in the one where you, yup, focus. This is when you concentrate on something specific, like a mantra or your breath. Everything else (that to-do list, noise, stress) is as extra as guac.
Open Monitoring… As in the one that’s all about being open to your mind and the thoughts that come and go. It’s the type of meditation designed to make you more aware of the present moment. Sounds broad, because it is.
How do you do it?
Just breathe. Thanks, Faith Hill. Here are some tips and resources to get started…
For when you don’t even know where to start….
Get horizontal. Not talking between the sheets. Turns out, the way most of us breathe is all wrong. If your shoulders move up when you inhale deeply, you’re doing it wrong. Join the club. We’re supposed to do “horizontal breathing” aka breathing from your diaphragm instead of your chest. Here’s how it works: sit or lie down, putting one hand on your chest and another under your ribcage. Breathe in through your nose, feeling your stomach fill up with air. Breathe out through your mouth.
For when you want to relax all over…
I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toeeees. A body scan is a meditation exercise where you focus in on every body part. First, lay down and breathe. Then start with your toes, examining how they feel, the texture of the blanket, thinking about the chipped polish...whatever it is, focus. Then move upwards until you get to your head.
For when your computer background is a beach but it’s covered by 10,000 open tabs...
Clear the clutter. Guided imagery can be surprisingly effective. Think: daydreaming, but make it productive. Close your eyes and think of a soothing scene or place in your mind that has personal significance for you. Put yourself in that place. This can help boost your confidence and feeling of ease.
For when you want a meditation whisperer…
There are apps for that. Skimm HQ loves Headspace (the voice is a soothing Aussie accent). Stop, Think, Breathe is another good option for getting your ommm on.
I still have no time. Why should I care?
Because meditation is good for your brain. Here are some of the benefits…
Forever young... A UCLA study found that people who meditated for an average of 20 years had more grey matter (the part of the brain involved in muscle control and all things sensory) than a non-meditator. And nobody wants 50 shades of grey (matter) to turn into 49.
Get out of your head... Ironic, since this is all about your head. A Johns Hopkins study showed that meditation can help reduce anxiety and depression at the same rate as certain antidepressants.
Hone in... We’ve said focus so many times in this article that it’s becoming a mantra. One study found that meditation training (after only a couple of weeks) boosted people’s focus and memory while taking the GRE. That’s GRE(AT).
Zzzzz... Meditation can help you sleep. It’s all part of a cycle that goes a little like this: If you can’t sleep, the lack of sleep might contribute to your stressed headspace. If you’re in a stressed headspace, you probably can’t sleep either. Meditation can help. Studies have shown that those who practice mindfulness meditation had reduced insomnia symptoms and fewer sleeping problems. So to say yes to more zzzzzzs, say yes to mindfulness meditation.
Meditation might seem like a “nice to have” for people who have the time. But once you start, it could become a “need to have” that you make time for.
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