Mindfulness Series Week 2: How to Meditate

*This post contains affiliate links.

MEDITATION IS NOT WHAT YOU THINK

When I first heard about meditating, I imagined a bunch of hippies sitting around chanting, and frankly it weirded me out.

My ignorant mind had made assumptions of something I really knew nothing about. However, as I dealt with chronic pain, the practice of meditation kept coming up. I had already been a fan of yoga and was doing it regularly for years.

When you cool down in yoga, you end with a few minutes lying still on your back, eyes closed, focused on slow, deep breathing. Turns out, I was already doing a form of meditation–and honestly, this relaxation time at the end of my yoga practice was my favorite. It was the time when I could focus on completely relaxing every part of my body and calming my mind to prepare for the rest of the day.

Eventually it was the claims that meditation can help people deal with chronic pain that kept me interested. 

According to The Mindfulness Journal,  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.”

Mindful Magazine states that “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.”

LET’S GET STARTED!

It’s best to start with a guided meditation than to figure it out for yourself. Try some free sessions with Apps like Headspace, Simple Habit and Calm.

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.

Here are a few tips when meditating: 

  • Use sounds: 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.
  • Use scents: 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.

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.

2. VISUALIZATION

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.

FOR MORE ON MEDITATION: 

BEFORE YOU GO…

So call me a hippie, but I’m all in on this meditation thing.

Missed the first post from my Mindfulness Series? Read about it here or subscribe to be notified when the next one posts. 

If you take the time to soften your thoughts and slow down, I promise your mind will thank you for it. Have a relaxing day!

Leave a Reply