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I discovered meditation last summer through my daily yoga practice. When you cool down in yoga, you end with a few minutes lying still on your back, eyes closed, focused on slow, deep breathing. The more I learned about the importance of mindset and breath control during yoga practice, the more I wanted to explore meditation and its claims of managing chronic pain.
The Mindfulness Journal says that pain in the body is also felt in the mind, and meditation can be used to lessen your discomfort. Meditation “can help decrease some of the stress and inflammation that often makes the hurt worse, while giving you some control over your reaction to pain and discomfort.”
According to Mindful Magazine, “science has confirmed that slow, deep breathing calms by reducing heart rate and activating the parasympathetic (calming) nervous system. The result? Your body relaxes and your mind quiets.”
HOW I USE MEDITATION
Meditation helps me wake up and set my intention for the day. It also helps me calm down if I feel anxious. It helps me relax and breathe slowly, reducing the intensity of chronic pain. It focuses my mind so that I can be more successful, patient, calm, cheerful, positive…whatever it is I want to tune into.
Meditation allows you to reboot your mind and relax your body. It’s a way to step back and breathe and then go on with your day and be a little more successful instead of so crazy busy…or in pain and pushing through…or anxious and continuing to unravel.
Remember, you’re new at this, so be nice to yourself. Not every session is going to be successful. Many times you’ll feel relaxed while others you’ll feel frustrated that you were distracted or anxious. You can’t force yourself to have a quiet mind, it takes practice. Don’t try to change your thoughts, just acknowledge them and let them pass on by.
LET’S GET STARTED!
1. OBSERVE YOUR THOUGHTS
Pretend you are sitting at the edge of a river and your thoughts are like leaves passing by in the stream. Observe them and then let them pass. Nothing more. Don’t engage them, don’t analyze them, just refocus on the stream when you find your mind wandering.
You can use the same concept with watching the clouds float by. Try to envision a sky full of clouds. Place your stray thoughts on the clouds as they pass. The more you are aware of your thoughts, the more you’ll notice them jumping from one thing to the next. Use your awareness to bring yourself back to the present. Close your eyes and continue to focus completely on the moment.
You may prefer silence when you meditate, while other times you may enjoy listening to music or nature sounds. Studies have shown that music therapy can reduce depression and boost your mood.
Try experimenting with different scents during meditation. This extra distraction is beneficial for me especially if I’m anxious or in pain. If you use essential oils, you can put them on your body or diffuse them. If you don’t have any, try spraying perfume or lighting a scented candle.
Mornings can be chaotic in my house. I have a seven year old who’s just like me in that he’s not a morning person. I’ve got to make sure he gets up on time…but what if he wakes up in a bad mood? Or if he won’t stop playing and start getting ready? Or loses his shoe/jacket/toothbrush/mind while doing so?
What tone am I going to use? Am I going to lay down the law or make it a game? Or am I just going to leave him alone and see what he can do on his own? What’s my plan? Sometimes I use my meditation time to come up with a plan and visualize it instead of trying to clear my mind of passing thoughts. It’s so rewarding to visualize success and then watch it play out in real life.
Other times I just want to chill out at the beach. So I envision my favorite vacation, drink in hand, sun on my skin, toes in the sand…and then go back to cleaning the bathrooms.
For days that you are feeling anxious about a situation, you can even repeat a mantra, which is a word or phrase set to focus you on your goals and attitude for the day.
Some phrases could be:
- I am loved.
- I am healing more every day.
- I am dependable.
- I am organized and self-disciplined.
- I am a leader and visionary.
- I am determined and hopeful.
- I am positive and encouraging.
3. FOCUS ON YOUR BREATH
In guided meditations about pain, you “breathe into the spot that has pain” so that you relax. I combine visualization with deep breathing. I envision my blood vessels, heart and lungs being coated with a red color while I control my inhales and exhales. With each inhalation, my breath fills my body with a beautiful green color and then pushes out the red more and more with each exhalation. I envision strong healthy breaths transforming my body and strengthening it more everyday.
According to Breathe Magazine, “Taking time to learn how to breathe effectively can help to alleviate stress, reduce anxiety, and maintain focus. Breathing is the link between body and mind just as your breath is influenced by your thoughts and emotions. They, in turn, are influenced by the pattern and speed of the breath. For example, anxiety, worry and upset cause the breathing to become faster. If you consciously slow your breathing to a gentle wave-like pattern, you can soothe your nerves, settle your thoughts, and begin to calm yourself down.”
4. BODY SCAN
Many times we don’t realize the origin of our stress or tension until we lay still for a minute. When I use guided meditation body scans, they help me relax even tiny places that hold tension. Until I practiced with guidance, I wasn’t able to fully relax. I am now aware of tension even in my eyes, lips, jaw, nose, forehead, fingers, shoulders, wrists, ankles and toes. If you just give yourself five minutes to breathe, regroup and assess what your body needs, you can make better choices for yourself.
- The Mindfulness Journal, Issue 23, 2018
- Mindful Magazine special edition
- Breathe Magazine, The Well-Being Special 2017
- Headspace App
- Calm App
- Simple Habit App
BEFORE YOU GO…
Take a minute or two for yourself today to see where you are physically and mentally. Then make sure to schedule in time for what you need–healthy food, time outside, music, reading, exercise, rest, or a hobby.
Self-care is not selfish, it’s the starting point for being able to do things well in life. Find what helps you recharge and make it a priority to take care of yourself so that you can be a better helper to others.
If you take the time to soften your thoughts and slow down, I promise your mind will thank you for it!
Now that you know the basics, check out 10 Ways You Can Use Meditation to Refocus, Recharge and Reorganize Your Day.
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Have a relaxing day!