“Namaste! pick a spot and just sit” said a calming voice as I walked into a meditation room. My heard beating a little faster than usual and my palms beginning to sweat (hello social anxiety).
Just sit, ok, easy enough. What next? And for what exactly? For how long? Do I close my eyes? Or focus on the wall? Will I fall asleep? my thoughts began to race.
Have you ever meditated? Or thought about it?
Meditation comes in all forms and practices. It has been popularized in the mainstream media, showing famous artist and actors engaging in it and drastically changing their lives. But, what is it exactly? Meditation originated from Buddhist tradition many thousands of years ago. Meditation is a practice in which you, the individual, engage in a particular technique (i.e., mindfulness) with the goal of creating clear awareness of the here and now. Meditation allows you to have the ability to to focus, calm the mind, and even promote happiness. There are various forms of meditation that you can explore to find what best flows with you and can be adapted to the various lifestyles we live.
I don’t have time to meditate…
In today’s world the idea of being busy and stressed is applauded by many. It is a glorified behavior that is reinforced way too often. As if your level of stress measured to your level of success. Sure, that may be true in some instances. However, does that mean that is the only way to measure success? And on that note, where does a person’s well-being stand? Meditation is a key component to having both; success and wellbeing packaged in probably less time in a day than you spend mindlessly scrolling on Instagram.
It sounds simple, but is it?
Yes! It is. It is as simply as my meditation teacher said in that one class, just sit. Sit, and allow yourself to be. Start by taking a deep breath. Don’t set your expectations too high to begin with. Maybe the very first time you sit to meditate, you take a deep breath and that’s all you can do that day. That is OK. Just do it again the next day, and the next, and the next, until that one deep breath turns into 20 minutes of uninterrupted mantras and breathing.
Give yourself the gift of wellbeing by creating a habit of sitting. Watch how something so simple transforms a life of stress and chaos to a life of balance and happiness.
If you are still not convinced that this may be for you. There is a wonderful book called “Just Sit” that can further break down the process of meditation (and it’s just simply a really cool book to add to your book shelf!). It is a wonderfully written and illustrated starters guide to a meditation practice. The book is visually appealing filled with colorful pictures and descriptive illustrations merging both science and practice. It is full of fun practical exercises and most importantly a measurable timeline to create a meaningful practice. Oh! and if you are into how the brain works, you will love all the cool picture of neurons and learn about brain plasticity.
One of the coolest things I have learned over the years is that it takes only 8 short weeks of 20-minute meditations per day to make an impactful change on the plasticity of your brain. Wait, what?! You read that correct! If you stick to meditating daily, the physical matter of your brain literally changes, and with those physical changes come a very long list of benefits for your psychical and psychological well-being. Better sleep, increased concentration and creativity, lower blood pressure, less reactivity, higher levels of happiness, better digestion, and the list goes on and on.
As a behavior analyst data is a huge part of my life. I make everyday decisions based on data, so naturally when bringing meditation into my daily practice data has been a huge component of it.
Here is a simple set of steps you can start today to start enjoying some of the benefits of meditation.
- Download a meditation app (this is great if you have never meditated before as many apps offer guided meditations for beginners). Some great ones I like are Calm and Headspace.
- Find a comfortable space that is free of distractions where you will be comfortable to sit for various minutes per day. (Remember, you don’t need a fancy meditation room to practice, simply a space you can make sacred to you where you can sit on a pillow, the floor, or a chair).
- Start with meditating for only 1 minute. Do this for a few days.
- Once a minute feels comfortable, start increasing the duration to maybe 2 minutes, then 4, then 6, etc. until you are meditating for 20 minutes per day.
- Reinforce every small success! 20 minutes is a lot if you have never meditated before. Learning to be in stillness and silence is something that takes time. Be kind to yourself through this process. So, if 3 minutes was all you were able to achieve one day, that is OK! As long as you come back to it tomorrow is what matters most.
Here’s a list of different apps I have used and recommend:
Do you have any other fun apps you recommend? Let us know bellow!
Jessica L. Fuller, M.S.