Written by: Gabriella DeLorenze, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
CAUTION: Meditation has been known to cause extreme happiness. At a scientific, chemical level, meditation has been proven to cause an increase in everything that makes you feel the emotion joy aka happiness by decreasing cortisol levels in your blood (Turakitwanakan et al.)
Meditation is an activity that we typically think of as seated, no movement, no thoughts that creates instant mindfulness results. Fact is, like everything, meditation is a practice. A practice to quiet your mind, decrease your stress levels and other physical changes your stress causes. Meaning, meditation can: lower heart rate and blood pressure, boost your mood, improve your brain function and memory, recuperate your immunity and help you sleep better.
A study by Goyal et al. found that not only did meditation moderately improve anxiety, it reduced depression, physical pains, decreased stress and mental health-related quality of life symptoms.
Needless to say, meditation works. So, what are you waiting for?
Perhaps you’ve tried meditation in the past and have “failed” in your own opinion. Reminder: you can’t fail at something you’re practicing. You either do it or you don’t. It’s like going to the gym, some days will feel easy and you’ll feel strong and connected to your workout. Other days you’re going to kick and scream to even get yourself out of bed. Once you begin your meditation practice, you’re still going to have days you skip, days that feel easy like your entire being is able to relax and days where you feel every itch, swear there are bugs all over you and your mind never leaves your to do list...that’s okay.
Rule #1 of meditation (& life): Offer yourself and your practice grace.
Within these next 7 steps, you will find answers to every single excuse you have as to “why you can’t meditate.” What are you waiting for?!
1. Add Movement
Who says you have to be perfectly still to reap all of the benefits of meditation? Meditation is adding mindfulness into your day. Go for a walk without music and check in with your senses throughout: what can you see, hear near and far? What do you taste? Touch? Smell? Be conscious of where your mind goes and what you’re thinking as you walk. Try to stay positive in your mind and body: think positive thoughts, rerouting thoughts as they turn down a negative path. Remember to pull your shoulders back, look up to the sky and take full deep breaths as you walk. Note: movement can also be but not limited to dancing, yoga, exercise, hooping, etc.
2. Connect to your Breath
Yes, breathing is involuntary, and also, a magical thing happens when you consciously connect to your breath and slowly start to manipulate it to create a change in your physical body. There’s a lot going on when you breathe: your diaphragm contracts and relaxes, your lungs, which are perfectly pressure balanced, expand and contract, filter your oxygen, adds the oxygen to your blood and you exhale what your body no longer needs. It’s magical, really. And behind the scenes, you have the Vagus nerve being massaged by the diaphragm causing your body to relax even more.
Tips for adding breath: exhale longer than you inhale for – it doesn’t matter if you count your breath fast or slow; simply keep a steady pace. Your goal is to exhale for at least 1 second longer than you inhale for. Focus on counting your breath without the need to alter it too much. Feeling your belly fill up, up, up. And then slowly emptying your lungs, pressing all of the air out. Coming back to counting the breath will allow your mind to have a task aka keep your to-do list at bay.
3. Don’t Use a Timer
If sitting for any amount of time feels daunting, don’t put a timer to it! Pick your style of meditation, decide if you want to move, sit or lay and then just do it! Allow yourself to show up with no expectations besides doing your best and being as quiet as you can for as long as you can, even if [when] it feels uncomfortable. Relax into it, soften your jaw, the space between your eyes…and just be. Using a technique if you like or just sit and seek quiet. Your body will know when it’s time to come out. And if you really need to know how long you were able to be still for, set your stopwatch instead of the timer.
4. Add Music
Choose music with no lyrics but more of “sounds of nature” “sounds of meditation” style music. The tones will keep you grounded and will keep your mind from wandering off too far.
My favorites? The band Smoky and Meditate to the Sounds of Nature Playlist by Spotify.
5. Sit Up Tall
Grab a big, thick pillow to sit on so that your hips are on top of your knees. You should not feel stress or strain in your low back or between your shoulder blades while you’re sitting. Sit on the edge of the pillow and allow yourself to relax. If you can’t relax sitting on the floor, sit in a chair or lie down! There’s no right or wrong way to meditate, so throw all preconceived notions out the window! The reason to sit up tall is to align your spine. Meditation will help you relax and destress by finding alignment in your body and your mind. When your spine is aligned, all of the signals in your body are able to move more efficiently, with more ease. Imagine that the energy channels are open as you sit up tall and create length in your spinal cord so it can flow to your brain easier.
6. Add Meditation into your Life
Here’s the thing, do we all have 20min to spare a day? Maybe not without a little planning. Don’t let that stop you. Use any moment you can.
Wake up 2 min before the kids? Sit and breathe and find stillness in your being. Traffic light about to turn orange? Stop, close your eyes and find stillness. Don’t worry, someone behind you will be sure to inform you when it’s time to go!
Taking a bathroom break at work? Close your eyes and allow yourself to fully relax. Just got home? Take a few extra moments in your car, alone, before going inside.
Meditation isn’t just something to do. It’s a way of being. The more you meditate = the calmer you’ll find yourself which also means the more you calm yourself the more you’re meditating. Invite meditation into your life, don’t just let it be a check-off of your GET to-do list.
7. Simplify your Focus
Meditation isn’t thinking about nothing *especially right away! Yes, it’s a clearing of your thoughts, and also, it’s a way to quiet your mind by thinking of one thing at a time.
If you find your thoughts racing bring one thing to mind:
Imagine an object. What does it look like? How does it make you feel? What does it feel like? Smell like? Taste like? Sit with that object. Stay with it.
Find a short phrase in whatever language you choose. My favorite is “so hum” which, in Sanskrit, means “I am.” I simply inhale and think in my mind the word “so” and exhale “hum.” Inhale “so,” exhale “hum,” repeat.
Guided meditations that take you along a journey envisioning different scenarios, places, situations, body scans, memories, etc. There are so many available, my favorite is here.
Refer back to #2: Connect to your breath. Another favorite of mine is humming. It’s quite simple: Inhale and when you exhale, make an auditory sound (you can hum, sigh, pick a tone…there’s no right or wrong.) Repeat, inhaling and exhaling your sound, staying unattached to what it sounds like without the need to change or analyze yourself. Notice where you feel the vibration in your body, inhale again, try a different tone and notice where you feel it shift to.
So, I ask again, what are you waiting for? Begin your meditation practice today! As they say, in 100 days you would have wished you started today.
As my gift to you, please use the code GRATITUDE for 20% off!
Gabriella DeLorenze, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Gabby is an intuitive embodiment coach for coaches. She is an athletic trainer with a MED in Biomechanics, a life coach and an E-RYT/YACEP. Gabby has over a decade of experience healing 500+ souls and 1000’s of hours teaching the mind-body connection through coaching, anatomy and movement/yoga rehabilitation. Through mindset coaching and facilitating healing your emotional and physical bodies, Gabby will teach you to melt your stress and anxieties so you can start living your healthiest and happiest life. Together, we will find tangible tools to heal old relationships, cultivate self-love and create the space for an abundant life.