In today's world of deadlines, demands and a general desperation to create more time in our days in order to get more done, it can be very easy to believe that we feel overwhelmed because we’re just so busy. Yet there is much we can do to create more of a sense of calmness within us.
We understand that for physical fitness, we need to train our body - we can't just get up one day and run a marathon. The same is true for our mind - it requires a daily practice of 'training'. Here are two great ways to build a happy mind.
If you feel that you simply don’t have time to meditate, then you're the very person who should be considering it!
Meditation helps you to calm your mind, increases focus and helps with time management – in other words, a short daily meditation practice will allow you to be more productive with the time you are given. A simple 10 to 15 minute breathing meditation can help you to activate your parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for rest and repair) and find some calm.
For centuries, people have used meditation to move beyond the mind's often stress-inducing thoughts. Today the variety of meditation techniques, traditions and technologies astound me, but the core of meditation remains the same: to bring peace to the mind and body, and increase consciousness.
Meditation gives us the space to better understand our own mind. We can actively learn how to transform thoughts from negative to positive. It also teaches us how to overcome negative mindsets and plant constructive thoughts. Some people are drawn to meditation by a recommendation from a health professional to lower blood pressure and help with stress and restful sleep. Others find meditation as they're seeking transformation for the unhelpful emotions they are experiencing. While the purpose and intention of meditation depends on the meditator, anyone who meditates regularly will benefit mentally, emotionally, physically and even spiritually.
Here are just some of the benefits of a regular meditation practice:
- A reduction in stress and anxiety and the ability to activate the parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for rest and repair).
- Better clarity of thought or less mental clutter.
- Regulation of high blood pressure (stress induced).
- Improved breathing (particularly with shallow breathers).
- Improved sleep (typically more restful and deep).
Try meditating early in the morning - perhaps before others in your household get up - as often this is the most peaceful time of the day. Appreciate it's an active process; it's hard to bring quiet to your mind and focus your attention to a single point. If you find your mind wanders, be kind to yourself and bring your focus back. Create the most nurturing environment you can, perhaps even light a candle. It's also important you're comfortable. You don't have to sit cross-legged; you can lie down or sit on a chair, whatever works for you.
Change The Way You Breathe
Nothing communicates to every cell of your body and mind that you are safe better than your breath. If you breathe in a shallow way, with short, sharp inhalations and exhalations, then you communicate to your body that your life is in danger. How you breathe is also a fast track to the symptoms of anxiety and potentially panic attacks, regardless of what led you to breathe in a shallow way in the first place, whether it was an event, a deadline, the perception of pressure, the “need” to rush, or the lifetime habit of your nervous system. Long, slow breathing that moves your diaphragm, communicates the opposite message to your body—that you are very safe. Nothing downregulates the production of fat storage stress hormones or the alarm signals within your body and mind more powerfully.
Practice diaphragmatic breathing, making sure your tummy moves in and out as you breathe, as opposed to just your upper chest. You can begin your breath by allowing the lower part of your tummy to expand and then imagine as the breath slowly continues that the expansion of your tummy has now extended into the area where you can feel your rib cage meet. Keep the slow inhalation going until your upper chest feels like it is pushing your ribs out at the sides of your body. Then pause, rather than hold your breath, and slowly allow the exhalation to begin in the reverse order of the inhalation with the top and side of the chest emptying first, followed by the middle of your abdomen and lastly your tummy. Please be kind and patient with yourself as this takes practice! You may feel like you are unable to get parts of your body to engage at first but, in time and with practice, the parts of you that have become disconnected will be thrilled to be back in touch.
At first you will more than likely need to schedule regularly breathing time slots into your day until it becomes your new way of breathing (unless you literally do need to escape from danger such as slamming your foot on the brake if another car suddenly drives out in front of you!). Make appointments with yourself to breathe. If it is peaceful each morning while you boil the kettle for the first time that day (to make your hot water with lemon of course!), instead of racing around and doing eighty jobs while the kettle boils, stand in your kitchen and breathe. Link breathing well to a daily routine, such as having a shower, or to a particular hour of the day so that it quickly becomes a habit. Do it numerous times over the course of your day. Book a meeting into your calendar each afternoon at 3:00 p.m. If you work at a computer, have it pop up on the screen that it is time for your meeting with yourself to do twenty long, slow breaths. We keep appointments with other people, so be sure to keep the appointments you make with yourself.