Meditation isn’t just sitting still for what can feel like forever; it comes in so many different forms. In fact, to meditate simply means to become familiar and aware of your thoughts. It’s great for taking back control of your mind and welcoming more peace and calmness into your life.
You may not even realize it, but when you’re walking, driving, hiking etc. you are typically in a meditative state. Have you ever had that moment of confusion when you snapped out of deep thought and wondered how you got somewhere without remembering it? It’s a pretty crazy feeling, isn’t it?
Nowadays with so much technology and easy distractions at our fingertips, focused and thoughtful meditation is incredibly needed to bring balance back into our lives. The thought of completely shutting off can seem difficult and intimidating at first, but just like anything, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. The secret to successfully slowing down is to start small and find what works best for you. You don’t need to commit to 45 minutes. to calm the mind. Even just a few minutes can make all the difference in shifting to an effective and clear state of mind.
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Here are a few ways to slow those thoughts and bring more focus, clarity and peace back into your life.
1. Begin with guided meditation.
Many people think successful meditation is about achieving an empty mind, but in fact, it’s almost the opposite. Easing into things with a guided meditation will teach you how to focus on your intention and allow fleeting thoughts to enter and then pass on by with ease. Start with apps like Headspace or Calm -- they offer free short beginner-level meditations that will help guide you through the process.
2. Practice yoga.
Yoga is a great first step in the practice of becoming present. In holding the asanas (poses), you develop mental strength, inherently becoming in tune with all the things in your mind that are telling you to bail out (but you don’t). Yoga is also the perfect practice for teaching us how to check in with our body and honor what it needs and what it’s asking of us.
3. Grab a journal.
Start putting your thoughts onto paper, get into the moment and feel your feelings. Jot them down: The best way to put together your thoughts is to write whatever freely comes to mind with no agenda. It doesn’t have to be complete sentences, grammatically correct, or even make sense. All that matters is that you start somewhere. Being able to see your thoughts on paper makes them a lot less overwhelming, less confusing and less scary than circling around in your head. It gives you a clear description of what’s actually going on and you may notice you were holding onto things you didn’t even realize. Five-to-10 minutes of quiet time dedicated to writing can put you into a calm and clear state of mind.
4. Incorporate breathing exercises.
Slowing down your breathing helps to slow down your thoughts. You can use this technique to calm anxiety or nerves, quiet recurring worries and soothe a racing heart. Here are a couple breathing techniques to help re-center and ground yourself in just a few minutes.
- The 4-7-8 technique - This breathing technique is great for regulating breath and acts as a natural relaxant for the nervous system
- Place and keep the tip of your tongue behind your upper front teeth for the exercise. Completely exhale through your mouth, making a whoosh sound. Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four. Hold your breath for a count of seven. Exhale through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight. Repeat this 3-5 times.
- Alternate nostril breathing - This breathing technique relaxes the body and mind, reduces anxiousness, and lowers stress
- Sit upright in a comfortable position with your legs crossed. Exhale completely and then use your right thumb to close your right nostril. Inhale through your left nostril and then cover the nostril with your fingers. Open your right nostril and release an exhale. Repeat on the opposite side. Close the left nostril with your fingers. Open up your right nostril, inhale, and then close your right nostril. Open your left nostril and release an exhale. Try to continue this cycle for at least 10 rounds.
5. Try a breathwork class.
If you want to dig even deeper, breathwork can be quite a powerful, eye-opening and transformative practice. In using this repetition of active breathing one can work through anxiety, depression, anger issues, grief and trauma, and achieve increased self-awareness, confidence, joy and developmental life skills.
Remember, if you’re going through a hard time, have a difficult decision to make, or are feeling overwhelmed with life, meditation is a great outlet to explore the things going on around you. It helps you to get back in touch with how you actually feel and let go of all the noise around you telling you what you “should” do. It’s great for tuning out others’ feelings, expectations and pressures coming from friends, family and society. We often forget to check in with ourselves, how we feel, what we want and what we need, but when we do, there’s no better feeling.