You’ve probably heard by now that meditation is good for you (19 Reasons to Meditate Backed by Science). Whether or not you actually do it is a whole different conversation right?
“Suppose you read about a pill that you could take once a day to reduce anxiety and increase your contentment. Would you take it? Suppose further that the pill has a great variety of side effects, all of them good: increased self-esteem, empathy, and trust; it even improves memory. Suppose, finally, that the pill is all natural and costs nothing. Now would you take it? The pill exists. It’s called meditation.” – Jonathan Haidt from The Happiness Hypothesis
Science has shown that being able to focus our attention where we want and when we want is one of the keys to happiness. Meditation is the most powerful exercise for learning to train our focus and attention. It’s like going to the gym to workout our mind.
“Neuroscientists have discovered that when you ask the brain to meditate, it gets better not just at meditating, but at a wide range of self-control skills, including attention, focus, stress management, impulse control, and self-awareness. People who meditate regularly aren’t just better at these things. Over time, their brains become finely tuned willpower machines. Regular meditators have more gray matter in the prefrontal cortex, as well as regions of the brain that support self-awareness.” – Kelly McGonigal from The Willpower Instinct
[mks_highlight color=”#eeee22″]It’s common for people to think that meditation is about what you feel while you are meditating. It’s not. It’s about who you are the rest of the day. Remember: All life is meditation. Every moment of the day gives us the opportunity to practice being present and that’s what meditation is all about.[/mks_highlight]
How To Mediate
Instead of focusing on the “right” way to meditate, try to focus on making meditation a daily habit. Here is a simple method you can follow:
- Commit to just 5 minutes. Start simple if you want the habit to stick. You can certainly find 5 minutes in your day right? In the time it took you to read this article, you could have done a quick 5 minute meditation.
- Pick a time and a reminder. It doesn’t have to be an exact time of day. It can be morning, or when you wake up, or during your lunch break. The reminder should be something you already do regularly, like eat breakfast, or brush your teeth, or drink water. For example, I like to meditate at night, before going to bed, after I’ve brushed my teeth. Brushing my teeth is the reminder that I should meditate next.
- Find a quiet place. The place may differ depending on the time of day. A quiet spot in the morning might be too loud in the afternoon. It can be a bench in the park or the couch in your living room. It really doesn’t matter where as long as you can sit without being interrupted for a few minutes. I have some noise canceling headphones, so I can actually sit in the living room in the evening while my family watches a TV show and I can be free from all the distractions going on while being in the same room. Just find whatever works best for you.
- Get comfortable. Don’t focus on how you sit, what you sit on, etc…It’s really just a matter of sitting somewhere where you can be comfortable for 5 minutes without getting so comfortable that you fall asleep. The floor, the couch, a chair, a pillow, are all acceptable places to sit.
- Use a timer. If you can set a timer on your watch or on your smartphone, it will help you to relax more while meditating. Rather than being stressed about how much time has gone by and feeling like you need to check your watch or phone every few minutes, just focus on your meditation. The alarm on the watch or phone will tell you when the 5 minutes are up. At this point, it’s not about the time, it’s about developing the habit. If 5 minutes seems to short, you can to go longer. Try 10 minutes, then 15, etc.
- Focus on your breath. My favorite meditation technique is to focus on the breath. You sit straight, with good posture, and close your eyes (you can keep your eyes open and focus on a specific spot too if you want). Focus on your breath, follow the breath as it comes in and then goes out. You can try counting as you breath if that helps you focus. As your mind wanders (this is inevitable) just bring your attention back to your breath. You might not be very good at first, but you’ll get better over time.
That’s really all there is to it! Just try this simple practice every day for a month, and before you know it, you”’ have a daily meditation habit! Good luck and please let me know in the comments below how it goes.