A Month of Meditation + My Favorite Ways to get Mindful
Welcome to my blog, I am glad you are here. Since July 2017 my household and I have been participating in 30 day challenges, these challenges are usually fun and interesting things that keep us on our toes. Check out my explanation of them here.
So February's challenge was “Meditate Every Day”..I triumphantly posted about it on my social media sites, encouraged others to follow along, and thought it would be cool to interact with people about their meditation/mindfulness practices. You can imagine my surprise when I had several people reach out and ask what meditation was. So while I want to tell you how my month went, let me first begin by giving you some definitions.
I understand that some people already know what meditation is and may actually dislike or even hate it, so my hope is that through this post you can learn new tactics for developing mindfulness that actually do not entail chanting while sitting in a cross-legged position on the floor. Sidebar: If you dislike meditation you will enjoy John Mulaney's assessment of meditation (skip to 1:46 if you want to get to the meat of his feelings about it).
What is Meditation?
- Meditation is the conscious practice of focusing your breath and mind on a simple concept to induce a state of quiet and rest to your brain (my definition). Or as webster says "think deeply or focus one's mind for a period of time, in silence or with the aid of chanting, for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation."
Why Should I Give it a Shot?
- It can improve working memory/cognitive function.
- It works in the long run to reduce anxiety.
- It helps kids too.
These are just a few of the studies out there proving that mindfulness is a powerful way to increase your overall health and wellness!
What is Mindfulness?
- Mindfulness is a way to focus on the present moment without judgement. Through mindful meditation you can follow your breath, and get into a calmer state through simply noticing how you feel in the present moment. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) at UMass, has described mindfulness as: "paying attention, on purpose, to the present moment, curiously and non-judgmentally".
K, so what is the difference between meditation and mindfulness?
- As I see it, there isn't much of a difference here (I might get some hate for saying that). Both utilize the mind to focus and calm the body. Meditation has been happening for hundreds of years and is used by many major religions and communities throughout the world. "Mindfulness" is all about being present in the moment and it is thrown around a lot in the mental health world. Dr Dan Siegel has written a lot of books on the topic and Jon Kabat-Zinn is the OG of mindfulness. Your therapist probably uses mindfulness in your sessions as a way to calm your mind and help you stay in the moment during therapy.
My Favorite Ways to Meditate/Be Mindful/Be Present/Breathe on Purpose/Calm the F down:
Headspace-Costs money but dang they are good at what they do. I love this app.
- Insight Timer-Free app! But it is not quite as predictable as headspace.
- When I feel really stressed and overwhelmed I will calm down by tightening and relaxing my body, beginning with my toes and moving up to my head. The idea is to tense up an area (curl up your toes while holding your breath) and then breath out and relax->move up your body and notice if there are areas that feel tighter than others.
- Take a walk while focusing on your breath, notice what thoughts come in and out of your mind without judgement.
- Focus on your breath using a cadence of 1:2. This means that your exhale is twice as long as your inhale, I use this to down-regulate before sleep. Often I will do a 3 count in and a 6 count out. Pro tip, do this while lying on your back with you feet up the wall.
There are literally hundreds of ways to practice mindfulness, if you use your imagination and give it a shot you can figure out what works best for you!
A big thing I learned while I integrated mindfulness into my life for the month of February was that sometimes it was very easy to practice and other days it was frustrating as hell. I would sit in a comfortable position and my breath was off, I couldn't calm my brain, and even in a seated position I felt some random ache or pain. Achieving mindfulness isn't easy, but I believe it is worth it. Through increasing my mindfulness I feel a difference in my body and spacial awareness, I feel as though I can calm my system down with more ease, and I have also noticed that I am quick to go to my breath when I feel frustrated or out of sorts.
Utilize mindfulness to increase your awareness and get in touch with your body! If you try out the challenge or work on your mindfulness as a regular practice, let me know! I would love to hear about your experience.