Something I’ve been meaning to talk about on Sugarlaws for quite a while: Meditation.
About six months ago, at Chad’s suggestion, I started meditating for 15 minutes each day. I was skeptical at first — I’m one of those people who’s constantly multitasking, and the idea of taking fifteen minutes to think about nothing (when there is so much on my to-do list at any given moment) was, quite honestly, a little overwhelming.
But I started it anyway. New research comes out every day that meditation lowers blood pressure, amps up your immune system, and helps you concentrate, among other health benefits that are too numerous to mention. Since I’m always looking for ways to improve my overall well-being, I figured that fifteen minutes a day was worth it.
And it was the best decision I could possibly have made. Since starting meditation, my stress levels have fallen so dramatically, it’s astounding. We all deal with tight deadlines, uncertainty, and worries in our day-to-day lives, but meditation has helped me let go of the underlying layer of stress and worry that was part of my life for way too long.
Take driving: Houston has bad traffic, as many cities do. When I was running late to events or meetings, I used to sit in my car and just FUME at the traffic, getting myself more and more worked up. By the time I arrived where I was going, I was a frazzled mess, even if I wasn’t even late.
You know what sitting in my car fuming did? Nothing. It didn’t help me get there any faster, not one single second. The situation was completely out of my control, and yet I sat there, making myself miserable about it.
You know what I do in traffic now? I use it as an opportunity to relax. I accept that it’s out of my control, that I’m doing the best I can, and that getting upset won’t get me there any faster. And then I find a great song on the radio, relax my shoulders, and focus on breathing in and out until I get wherever I’m going.
Sitting in traffic is an easy example, but there are so many more ways that meditation has improved the quality of my life that I notice every day. I’m a calmer, happier, more patient and thoughtful person than I was six months ago, and I credit daily meditation for a lot of that change.
I’ve noticed physical changes too — I enjoy little moments more, and life doesn’t feel like it’s going by so quickly. My stress levels and diet have improved dramatically — sure, this eight-months-pregnant lady still goes for chocolate and cupcakes, but I also find that I enjoy nourishing my body in a way that I didn’t fully appreciate before. I’m more careful about the ingredients I use in our food and on my skin (thankfully, my favorite Simple Skincare products don’t contain dyes, artificial perfumes or harsh irritants, so nothing changed there!), and I’m more mindful of the way I treat the people around me, from random strangers to my own family.
So, since I think each and every one of you should give this a try, I thought I’d give you a few meditation tips for beginners!
Meditation Tips for Beginners
Set Aside a Time and Place
We have a corner of our dining room set up with meditation mats, but you don’t need a formal set-up. But do pick a time and a place that you can devote consistently to meditation, whether it’s your favorite armchair or the first ten minutes before you get out of bed in the morning. Pick a spot where you’ll be alert and focused, though — you don’t want to drift off to sleep!
Use a Timer
At first, it’s going to feel like those ten or fifteen minutes are endless – trust me, it gets much, much easier. The best way to keep yourself from checking the clock every minute or two is to use the timer on your cell phone. Set it and forget it — don’t let yourself keep checking to see how much time has gone by!
Focus On the Breath
But how do you do it? It’s incredibly simple and easy. Sit still, and focus on breathing in and out. Take a moment to really connect with your surroundings, experience the feel of the chair on your skin, and try to listen to the silence in the room around you. Count your breaths, starting at one and going to ten, until a thought distracts you — and if it does, start over again at one. (It took me weeks to make it all the way to ten, so don’t get discouraged if this is difficult at first!)
Do It Your Own Way
It’s tempting to think that you have to sit in a certain position or hold your hands a certain way to meditate properly. But my view is that the best position to be in is one that’s comfortable for you, whether that’s sitting straight up, lying down, opening or closing your eyes, or holding your hands any way you want. My most comfortable position is kneeling, eyes closed, with my fingers interlocked, even though that’s not “proper” form. But it works for me, so that’s what I do.
Let It Spill Into Your Daily Life
As you go about your day, try to find moments of mindfulness or awareness. In those moments, focus on being present and let thoughts about future actions or worries drift away. You’ll find that this is easier to do as you get better at meditating, but even taking a few seconds to focus on being present can have a huge impact.
This one isn’t specifically about meditation, but it does fall within the general mindfulness category. I like to take a few seconds each day and think about three things that I’m grateful for. They can be big (our health, our dogs, our new baby) or small (the sunshine, a great breakfast, a phone call to my mom), but it’s a great way of remembering and appreciating all the wonderful things that life has brought you.