How I Took The Stress Out of Meditation In 5 Steps
For some, I'm sure the title of this blog read quite ironically! I don't blame you if it left you feeling confused, but I'm sure there are also people who can relate to this a lot- especially at the moment. With everything that goes on in our busy, technology fuelled and often stressful lives, it all sounds good in practice to 'take time out' and 'meditate'. We've heard the success stories, maybe even been given recommendations from others about trying meditation... but in practice, sitting still and letting go of all your conscious thoughts is HARD work.
There's something about meditation that is reminiscent of childhood for me- when you were told 'don't do that' or 'don't touch that' and the instructor may as well have written you a signed invitation with a big red button to do the exact opposite of what they were telling you! I personally ended up in burn bandages that needed changing daily for an entire holiday when I was 3- for touching a toaster at our hotel breakfast which was in fact, like my mum had warned me, very hot!
In my experience, something about my childhood brain that wants instant gratification really struggles to switch off when I try to 'meditate'. As soon as I close my eyes in a silent room, it's as if I have sent a formal invitation to all of my stressors and anxiety-ridden thoughts from the day to come and party together in my conscious mind. An experience which is far more comparable to a nightmare than any type of 'relaxation'. Unsurprisingly, I tend to last about 2 minutes before opening my eyes and grabbing my phone to scroll through Instagram or TikTok to keep my mind busy, shooing away the negative thoughts.
BUT... despite my frustrations, I stuck out attempting daily meditation for some time. Alongside this, advice from a professional and lots of googling has now got me to a place where I can, and do meditate successfully! No eye-opening or gram-scrolling for me anymore, and I have found it has benefited my mental state and ability to sleep deeper and for longer too. So I want to pass these tips onto you in the hope that you too can improve your mindfulness.
1) 'Bin' unnecessary thoughts:
Firstly, before beginning any meditation of any kind, we need to clear your head as much as possible of anything that may stop you from relaxing fully. I call this 'binning' but this is because my brain is quite literally, full of absolute rubbish. For others, stressors may come in the form of thoughts that are important reminders for things you need to do. Therefore, you may want to draw up two lists:
1) A To-Do List- Write down necessary things that you need to complete at a later date or time
2) A Brain Bin- Draw a bin if you like or just jot down any random/distracting or distressing thoughts that have frequently dominated your mind throughout the day. You're going to then screw this list up into a ball and bin it. Goodbye!
2) Find a quiet and uncluttered space:
Maybe this is obvious to others, but for me, I never realised the impact on my MH of having an untidy room. A cluttered space = a cluttered mind... not what we need for meditating! Even if you take 10-15 minutes to put things away and make space, it will benefit you greatly in the long run. Ensure you're away from loud noises, ask others you live with to give you some space, and put your earphones in/earplugs in if you need to. I would not recommend meditating in the bath as you can fall asleep as that would be very dangerous. Making sure that you're in a safe place and space in case you do fall asleep is so important- the train home from work, for example, may not be the best spot for meditation!
3) Dress comfortably:
When meditating, we want to rid of anything that could cause distraction or discomfort as it will naturally make it even harder for you to relax. Tight, itchy or uncomfortable clothing is therefore off the menu. You could always wear your PJs or birthday suit and lie under your duvet in bed for ultimate comfort!
4) Focus on your breathing:
Many guided meditations will take you through this but as a starting point, once you've closed your eyes, take a few minutes to just focus slowly on your breath. Take a deep inhale through your nose, expanding your belly, and then exhale slowly, elongating the out-breath as your belly contracts.
5) Use a guided meditation:
A great starting place with meditation is to use guided audio to help you stay focused. I would personally recommend either YouTube videos or Spotify podcasts as they're all free to use and I've included some of my favourite channels and examples below to get you started- but there are also some great apps out there too. So find something that works for you!
https://www.youtube.com/user/calmdotcom (These are from the app Calm and they're a great starting point)
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKpgm5zQQxURc5PZowtzqAg (Dauchsy is great for manifestation meditations)
https://www.youtube.com/user/Lavendaire (These are great for all-round mental wellness! Her videos are really calming and accessible)
https://www.youtube.com/user/PowerThoughtsclub/videos (This channel has a variety of guided meditations, each aimed at tackling different stressors/to heal different symptoms)
https://open.spotify.com/playlist/37i9dQZF1DWSrs5oeMZmlR?si=8_xyAqcVTRu5CHhukeCZ1A This is a playlist created by the popular mediation app HEADSPACE. These are a great starting point for someone who has never meditated before as you can try a variety of different guided meditations.
https://open.spotify.com/playlist/37i9dQZF1DWVS1recTqXhf?si=URMBFxqMTzK9sy2HHqz5Hg (This is a playlist created by Spotify themselves which is a collection of guided meditations by various artists- great for working out whose works best for you)
https://open.spotify.com/show/4YfDM1kGnepG5NG4poCwK0?si=vyYGbgPXTtu2fbDSJ3B0HQ (These are perfect for helping you get into a nice relaxed state before it's time for bed, and time to sleep)
https://open.spotify.com/playlist/37i9dQZF1DX1tuUiirhaT3?si=MXI_8z1kQRalEeoF2vy7dw (This playlist contains nature sounds to meditate too as many people find it a lot easier to relax when they can focus on the sounds of nature!)
I hope everyone found something useful in these tips to take away and utilise in their relaxation at home! Sending loads of love and positivity to anyone finding themselves struggling during this really uncertain time- remember, you are not alone.
Thank you for reading and please do let me know if you'd like me to cover more on this topic,