The thing I hear the most often when I talk to someone about the possibility of trying out meditation is, “But Carrie, I CAN’T sit still and think about NOTHING for 30 MINUTES!! I just can’t do it.”
And my response to them is usually, “Yeah, me neither. And guess what? You don’t have to!”
Number one— there is no written rule that says meditating has to happen for a specific duration of time.
And number two— the point isn’t necessarily to think about NOTHING.
In reality, meditation can take on many different forms. People hold themselves back from trying meditation because of misconceptions around what they think it has to be. If the idea of meditating makes you start to sweat and sounds like a nightmare, don’t do it! But also know that it doesn’t have to look just one way.
I promise you that I am not going to force you to meditate.
Here are some VERY compelling reasons you might want to consider it:
- Reduces anxiety
- Increases resiliency to stress
- Reduces inflammation response
- Increases immune function
- Decreases blood pressure
- Helps control pain
- Improves sleep
- Sharpens and lengthens attention span
- Improves memory
- Improves ability to be creative
- Improves ability to problem-solve
- Improves ability to make decisions
- Increases positive emotions
- Increases compassion
- Increases emotion regulation
AND— every single one of these benefits is backed by research.
To put it in perspective, if there was a “vitamin” you could take, with absolutely no detrimental side effects, and it promised all the above benefits, would you take it?
Don’t let a distracted and active mind be thing that keeps you from trying meditation. I want to share with you four specific tools that I personally use when my brain is active and I’m struggling to stay in the present moment:
You do not have to mediate for 20 to 30 minutes. You might want to eventually, but that certainly isn’t a requirement. My daily morning meditation is seven minutes. When I started out, it was a whopping five minutes. You don’t have to sit in silence for 20 to 30 minutes to gain the benefits of meditation. Start small and as it feels good you can make the choice of whether or not you want to increase it from there.
Palms up versus palms down
Although you can have your hands in Jnana Mudra (that’s when your index finger and thumb form a circle with your palms facing up) I often choose to do a sitting meditation with my palms simply facing up or down. When I sit down to meditate, if I’m having a day where my brain is feeling active, I choose to start my meditation with my palms down. (If I want to be open and receiving then I put my palms up.) Palms down helps me feel grounded in my mediation and helps keep the distractions at bay.
If I’m struggling with thoughts popping into my mind (especially when they are activating me into “work mode”) I have a technique that helps me get calm and get out of my head. When I notice it happening, I shift my focus to a specific sound I can hear around me. Once I am able to focus on that sound for a few breaths, I then shift my focus to a different sound and repeat the same thing. Then I bring my awareness to the sound of my breath to bring me back into the present moment.
Change it up
If I’m having trouble on particular day doing my mindfulness meditation, I may choose to change it up. I might pair my meditation with a specific visualization. One of my favorite go-to images is one of me sitting alone in a meadow, on the top of a cliff, overlooking the ocean. Or I might try repeating a mantra with every exhale to set my intention of how I want to feel that day. Having different types of mediations to go to can help on a day where it feels like a struggle.
Meditation is a great tool to help develop the skill of mindfulness. Mindfulness is the key to living in the present moment. Living in the present moment makes us feel less stress, more joy, and allows us to more quickly adapt to the immediate challenges we face. And remember that it’s not really about any single session, it’s about how it makes you feel over time. Just like your workouts, some sessions feel AMAZING and some are a grind, but overall, it’s absolutely worth it.