What do you think of when you hear the word meditation? Someone sitting cross-legged up a mountain chanting ‘om’?
That’s what I used to think, and I knew it wasn’t for me. It sounded really BORING! Sitting still and doing nothing? No way. Give me a super whizzy gadget instead….
And then I went to a taster session. Not because I wanted to try it (I knew it wasn’t for me) but because I had just qualified as a Nutritional Therapist and I had seen so much research on how it lowers stress that I thought I had better see what all the fuss was about. Oh and I had just had my cortisol tested and it looked like I was heading for burnout!
So I sat still for the half hour session, still resisting like crazy. I tried to focus on my breath as instructed, but my mind wasn’t having it and I just kept getting distracted. What was I going to cook for dinner? What was I going to wear to my friend’s party? The list went on….
After a good 15 minutes of my mind jumping about, something happened. I started to relax. My breath slowed down and I could empty my mind for nano-seconds between my thoughts. I was starting to feel enveloped in a sense of calm and peace. This was what it was all about! I got it then and there. And I wanted more of those blissful feelings.
But back in the real world, it wasn’t so easy. As a busy mum and business owner, it’s not like I had any spare time to sit around and do nothing! The only time I could fit in some extra time was to get up earlier in the morning, before the kids got up and the chaos kicked in. Was I really prepared to do that? I wouldn’t know til I tried it. So I started getting up at 6am, which to be honest was a big deal for me, I’m not a morning person and it didn’t come naturally to leave my warm duvet!
But I created a morning ritual (this was before I’d heard of the Miracle Morning book!). I would go downstairs, light a candle and put some chillout music on. I started with some gentle yoga stretches then sat down to a guided meditation for 20 minutes. The first week was really hard, I’ll admit I nearly gave up, but I soon started feeling the benefits and after that there was no going back!
That was over 2 years ago and I’m still doing it every weekday (I still have my lie-ins on the weekend). And I wouldn’t give up my little bit of me-time for the world! It really has changed my life.
It’s not just me that has benefited from a regular meditation practice – here is what the science is saying about it;
- Lowers your heart rate and reducing your blood pressure
- Reduces stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline), switching on your parasympathetic nervous system – the rest and repair function
- Improves your mood
- Boosts creativity, focus and productivity
- Relieves pain
- Reduces anxiety
- Boosts immunity
- Increases fertility and sex drive
- Reduces IBS symptoms
- Reduces inflammation
- Improves sleep
- Reduces binge and emotional eating, promoting weight loss
- Reduces your risk of cancer and heart disease
The biggest win for me is that I’m more focused, can deal with stress a lot more easily and generally am a nicer mum, wife, sister, daughter, friend and coach!
So if you haven’t tried it, or if you haven’t got on with it before, I urge you to give it a go. There are so many varieties easily available to us now (just google or youtube ‘guided meditation’), including mindfulness, a form of meditation that focuses on being in the present moment and using your senses.
You don’t have to sit cross-legged on the floor, just sit comfortably on a chair, you need to be upright though with your back straight, feet on the floor. Sit for 10 minutes quietly with your eyes closed. You can listen to a guided meditation, or you can just focus on your breathing, or you can listen to sounds. Being in the present moment switches you into relaxation mode, turns off your cortisol response and sends a clear message to the brain that you are not in danger, no need for all those stress hormones and their negative effects (fatigue, mood swings, brain fog, belly fat, etc!).
And if you’re worried that you’re not ‘doing it properly’, you might want to read Russell Simmon’s book ‘Success Through Stillness’. He says the misconception that often stops people:
“is the belief that they’re not “good” at meditating. These people make the effort to sit down and meditate but then don’t stick with the practice because they feel like they’re “doing it wrong” or somehow aren’t having the same experience that “real” meditators do. Meditation does not mean the absence of thoughts. Meditation does not mean going into a trance. Meditation does not mean forgetting who or where you are. If you’re worrying that you’re not “doing it right” because none of those things happen when you meditate, then please stop worrying.”