by Jennell Evans
Forty years ago, the trending fitness evolution got Americans off the couch. Today, we again see a trending health and wellness market full of mindfulness articles, mobile apps, and a variety of fitness and wellness classes. Sports teams, business leaders, hospitals and even large corporations are shining a spotlight on meditation, seeing it as a special ingredient for greater performance and overall well-being.
We are on the cusp of an introspective evolution! Why? You may ask. Because thousands of valid research studies are showing that mindfulness practices yield amazing mental, physical and psychological benefits.
The best part? We can have these benefits by simply taking time out of our day to sit and breathe.
With our calendars full of deadlines, meetings and appointments, our lack of time and need for constant productivity is the major factor in never slowing down. This leads us to the main reason we now crave benefits like “a greater sense of calmness.” In turn, we have created an imperative and newfound need to better manage stress.
Known as the silent killer, over 73 percent of Americans report that they regularly experience physical and psychological symptoms caused by stress.
Thankfully, stress is diminished when we put in physical work. Additionally, our brain needs rest from the everyday pressure we
continue to exhibit. Meditation is the remedy we have been seeking. It is the antidote to stress and helps counterbalance the constant distractions and digital overload.
Furthermore, meditation is a simple practice that should be done daily to prevent stress from accumulating. It supercharges our ability to be mindful, fully present, and appreciative for each breath, as these are all a part of the practice. It enhances our ability to process information and focus on what is most important instead of scattered multitasking.
As a certified mindfulness and meditation instructor, I regularly hear excuses about why people don’t meditate. Many myths about meditation often discourage people from ever attempting it. But let’s address them here and now. Read on for ways to lose the overused excuses and get your mind right.
Myth #1: I CAN’T STOP THINKING SO I CAN’T MEDITATE. Meditation is not about stopping our minds from having thoughts. It’s impossible to stop thinking! That is not the goal. When we meditate, we’re striving to interrupt normal thinking patterns that will, in turn, create new neural pathways. We begin to make new habits and learn to meditate with focus. When our minds wander off, we practice returning to our focal point, which may be our breath, a mantra or listening to a guided meditation. It does not matter how many times we have to return to our breath during meditation because the process alone is releasing stress, despite the distraction of our minds wandering off.
Myth #2: MEDITATION IS TOO HARD TO DO. If you can sit and breathe, you can meditate. It does not have to be complicated or prolonged intense concentration. It does, however, need to fit you and your goals. Whether that means listening to a guided meditation on your phone or sitting comfortably in a chair to focus on your breath, the right approach is key. There are many different ways to meditate and one that fits each individual. The best approach is the one that enables you to easily relax and let go.
Myth #3 I’M TOO BUSY TO MEDITATE. Time is what we perceive it to be. When we take time to slow down, we become more present in each moment, allowing us to focus more easily. We become more efficient in how we use time because we’re not mentally scattered. Where there is a will, there’s a way. It’s easy to find five or ten minutes a day for something that yields such a high return on time investment. You can meditate at home or at your office. Find a quiet place and close the door. Try setting a timer or use a guided meditation app on your phone. No private office? Book a conference room and use that as your meditation space. Sit in your car for ten minutes before you go into your office and meditate. How you spend your time is merely a reflection on your priorities.
Myth #4 I DON’T HAVE A QUIET PLACE TO MEDITATE. Clearly it is easier to concentrate in a quiet place without distractions, but you can meditate anywhere, even in a busy airport! Meditation is accessible to everyone, so make it work with some props like headphones and a guided meditation app on your phone. Don’t let the distractions deter you from finding your focus, as this alone is a major part of the practice. And don’t let not having a perfect zen-like meditation room keep you from reaping the benefits of simply pausing, breathing and relaxing every day. If your daily routine is filled with busy and noisy surroundings, then your focal point will drown all of it out soon after you begin to meditate. Yes, you’ll hear the noise again, and you’ll just return to your focal point every time. After all, the purpose of meditation is not to escape anything. It’s purpose is to be present. No matter where that is.
So, if you’ve been avoiding meditation, haven’t tried it yet, or tried and stopped, you’re missing a major game-changer in how you experience life. Just drop the excuses and experience for yourself how meditating can amplify your mental fitness in less time than it takes to make a smoothie.
You have the ability to change your mental state. Do your health a favor and go from feeling chaotic and scattered to calm and focused. It only takes some practice. Now, go try it!