I was scrolling through my Facebook feed the other day when a video suddenly grabbed my attention. It contained a whole host of hugely successful people that were all describing their experiences with the ancient practice of meditation.
Honestly, meditation is not something that I had considered before. I previously saw it as a waste of time exercise. As far as I was concerned, sitting around ‘umming’ all day was not going to help to get me to where I want to be.
I know that of a lot of people in the self-improvement circle practice meditation, but I’ve previously just dismissed any thought of it. But after watching this video on Facebook and after listening to all their raving testimonials, I thought I’d give it a bash.
The awareness of mental health, as a whole, has helped us understand that even though we may be physically fit, we may still be unwell. Conditions such as depression, stress and anxiety are becoming much more talked about.
Recently, meditation has started to become much more mainstream as scientific research has begun confirming its benefits to health.
The health benefits of meditation
- Reduces stress
- Improves concentration
- Encourages a healthy lifestyle
- Increases self-awareness
- Slows ageing
- Increases happiness
- Promotes cardiovascular and immune health
- Increases acceptance
- Lowers blood pressure
- Eases inflammation
- Cultivates willpower
- Promotes focus
- Builds self-knowledge
- Increases relationship satisfaction
- Improves empathy
- Cuts emotional reactivity
- Eases anxiety
- Helps sleep
You’ve got to admit it, that’s a pretty impressive list for an activity that only takes a few minutes, that anyone can do, that doesn’t need any fancy equipment and that’s completely free.
But don’t just take my word for it. I curated that list of benefits from two other articles on meditation that were published on the Huffington Post blog.
My experience with meditation so far
To get me going, I found a ‘5 Steps to Learn How to Meditate‘ mini video course on YouTube by a lady called Audrey Sutton.
This was perfect for me because I could ease myself in gently. Each video was only a few minutes long and the meditation that we practised together was only 1 minute – and anyone can do a minute.
It was a small commitment of time and Audrey helpfully explained some of the basic principles of meditation.
I’ll be honest, when I started I felt a bit silly. But I was on my own in the privacy of my own room, it’s not like I was sat in the middle of a shopping centre, so I quickly got over it. By the time I got to the third and fourth video in the series, I felt much for comfortable and it was easier for me to relax.
As I followed Audrey’s instructions the first thing that I became aware of was how tense my facial muscles were. As I relaxed them I felt an enormous difference – and who knew there were so many muscles in your face!!
On the fifth day, when I had finished the end of the video series, I felt a small sense of accomplishment.
And in a way, I almost wanted to make some sarcastic comment to myself and be like, ‘yeah, congratulation, you watch 5 x 4-minute videos. Well done you.’ Because in truth, it wasn’t really an accomplishment. Anyone could it. It wasn’t difficult.
But my small sense of accomplishment didn’t come from watching all five videos. It came from taking something that I didn’t understand and being open enough to learn more about it.
Meditation was a subject that I previously dismissed as a waste of time, slightly weird and slightly stupid. But I managed to put my uneducated opinions about it one side and to take it upon myself to learn more about it and to try it out for myself.
That’s how you grow as a human being.
And I was proud of myself that I had taken the initiative to do that… and it has changed my opinion on meditation.
Twice a day
I continued to practice meditation daily in the morning before I began working. But I’d had a lot of problems sleeping. As in, I just couldn’t. My brain just wouldn’t switch off.
I have created so much freedom in my life that my mind is constantly racing with new ideas. Thanks to my creativity, I am forever adding more and more things to my to-do list.
I, therefore, decided to add a brief meditation session before bed, as well as in the morning.
On the first night, I plugged my earphones into my phone and after a quick YouTube search, I manage to find a suitable bedtime guided meditation session lasting about 10mins.
I turned my lights out, climbed into bed, laid out flat on my back and began to relax and listen.
It prevented my mind from running around all over the place. I guess it was similar to removing a hyperactive child from a theme park, giving them a bath, putting them in their pj’s and reading them a bedtime story.
On the second night of pre-sleep meditation, I had the best sleep that I’d had in a very long while. I remember the meditation programme ending, removing my earphones and getting comfy. And the next thing I knew, I was waking up the next day.
Usually, it takes me a while to go to sleep. I try and name a country, or a colour, or a fruit for every letter of the alphabet to try and get myself to nod off (which is my alternative to counting sheep). I’d wake up several times throughout the night, check the time, change positions and fall back asleep again.
But none of that happened.
I always wear my fitness tracker on my wrist which also tracks the amount of activity in my sleep. That night it recorded minimal activity. And where my sleep is usually made up of light sleep, this time I had a predominantly deep sleep.
I have continued with my bedtime meditation, and I am noticing that it’s much easier for me to go to sleep, and I have a better quality of sleep.
It’s a win-win.
Why I recommend that you try learning to meditate
We take the time to make sure that we eat well, exercise and look after our bodies. We should take the time to look after our minds.
Our mind is our main operating system – kinda like a computer.
If you fill up your laptop with loads of different pieces of software and try to run too many programmes all at once, then it’s going to struggle and it’s not going to work to its full capabilities. It may even crash, have a breakdown or react out of sorts.
But if you clear out any unwanted programmes and fully optimise your laptop, then it’s going to be able to perform much better. Carry out tasks to a higher standard and be able to handle more.
That is how I like to think of meditation.
You’re taking the time to check your hard drive and your operating system – aka, your brain.
You’re clearing away any junk. Creating space between your thoughts. And making the internal effort to self-regulate your mind.
How you can start practising meditation
Meditation is just that – a practice. And in order to get the full benefits out of meditation, it’s best to practice it daily.
In other words, you need meditation to fell into the same category as brushing your teeth. You need to make it a daily habit.
To help get you started, I highly recommend that you dip your toes in the water with the YouTube video series by Audrey Sutton that I started with.
Each video is only a few minutes long and therefore it’s only a very small micro-commitment that you are making. The first video is an introduction, and the rest contain a brief explanation of what you are trying to achieve, followed by a short guided meditation lasting 1 minute.
After completing all five videos, I recommend that you download the app Headspace. It’s free to download and it gives you free access to ‘Take10’, which is the first level of their foundation course. It teaches you the basics of meditation in 10 x 10minute guided meditation exercises that are designed for complete beginners.
After which, you can subscribe to the headspace app for $12.95 per month (or less if you choose annual subscriptions).
From here, you can get access to meditation exercises ranging from 2-60minutes, as well as specific audio series focusing on areas such as performance, relationships, motivation, anxiety, communication, creativity and more.
I know that it took me a while to start, but there is really no excuse not to try meditation.
There are countless scientific studies that have proved the numerous benefits that meditation has to offer.
The usual excuses of, ‘I don’t have time’, or, ‘I can’t afford it’, just won’t cut it this time. It can take a little as 2 minutes out of your day and it can be done completely free of charge.
I still don’t fully understand meditating. I’m not sure that I am doing it properly (although I don’t think that you can do it wrong). And I most certainly haven’t experienced the full benefits of meditation – yet.
But for the tiny taster amount that I have done, I have really enjoyed it and I have noticed huge differences already in such a short amount of time.
I will be continuing with my daily practice of meditation, and I hope that you’ll give it go.
Don’t do it for me. Do it for yourself. Give yourself them few minutes per day where you can check in on your operation system.
Remember that you can’t pour from an empty glass.
P.S. Still not convinced? ..check out this video I stole from YouTube explaining The Scientific Power of Meditation.