In today’s modern world, the phrase “free time” has become the laughing stock of the English language. How could someone possibly have a free minute to spare when everyday life revolves around kids, technology, school, work and other like-minded activities? The irony of it all is that stressing and worrying about the laundry list of things you still need to accomplish actually takes time away from what you’re trying to work on. We have the perfect, most basic solution for you: meditation.
Don’t be fooled by the stereotypical tree huggers or hippies that preach the Zen lifestyle, because meditation is actually for anybody and everybody. I too was once a skeptic, thinking it was all just mumbo jumbo, until I attended a meditation mob for the University of Florida’s first Mindfulness Day last year. As an obsessive-compulsive student stressing about assignments weeks in advance, meditating for the first time was life changing.
It has been equally enlightening for Nancy Lasseter, a mindfulness practitioner for UF Health. Lasseter said she wants to spread the word about meditation because she sees what a huge difference it has made in her own life. It allows her to let go of the wild “monkey mind” that so often gets in the way.
“It creates a great deal of stress in the body and it tires us out, causes illness and makes it difficult for us to find happiness,” Lasseter said.
Our busyness is a really huge issue, according to Lasseter, and the more technical we all become, the more that is expected of us. In this way, the modern world is our own worst enemy, leaving little to no time for relaxation or peace.
If you have never meditated before, we have some tips on how to get started and how meditation can benefit your overall health.
Getting into the basics
Find your happy place. This can involve more than one location, but choose a space in your home, at your favorite park or maybe even in your backyard where you feel most at peace. Make sure you can sit up straight with good posture, because we all know being slumped over leads to dozing off, lack of focus, etc.
Physically prepare. Typical meditation does involve crossed legs, hands wresting on the knees and closed eyes, but find a position that best suits your comfort level, as long as it is conducive to focus. This is something you can experiment with as you meditate more often.
Recognize where your stress is coming from. Whether it be writing in a journal or simply mentally analyzing your life stressors, figure out where your biggest problem areas are. Recognize why these things bother you and think of what can be done to lessen the impact. Put everything into perspective and realize that peace can be found.
Perfect breathing. Taking even breaths (you may want to try counting them) and making them slow and gradual can help hone in on the present moment, which is a huge component of meditation. Michael Murphy, clinical associate professor at the UF Counseling and Wellness Center, said the value of the present moment is in being able to recognize that worrying about something takes away from actually focusing on that activity itself. Paying close attention to breathing can be beneficial in anchoring your inner being to the present and forgetting about what you’ve done or need to do.
Thoughts, feelings & silence
Avoid thinking too much. It’s easy to let things flood your brain, especially when you are taking time to find peace during a busy day, but simply focus on breathing if thinking too much becomes an issue. For a more intense experience, bring your mind to something relaxing, such as crashing waves or palm trees blowing in the wind.
Ignore the past and the future. Rather than getting caught up in the feelings of yesterday and the “what ifs” of the unknown days ahead, be content in the present moment. Focus on happiness and peace, as well as comfortable body position and breathing.
Keep it quiet. It’s important it be silent while you meditate to have the utmost focus. Any noise can create distraction and, as a beginner, that is definitely not needed.
Begin your meditation journey
For your first session, you may only want to sit for 10 minutes. This is completely normal considering it can be stressful taking any amount of time out of your busy day. What is important is that you begin to meditate daily — when you first wakeup or at a specific time each day — and increase time as you become more accustomed to the idea. Many people end up reaching 25 minutes on a daily basis. As Lasseter said, it’s like rebooting. Just as your home computer often needs a fresh start, so too does your brain. A lot of time we need to just find a way to exhale.
Let’s be honest, some of us can’t sit still for more than five minutes without having a minor panic attack about the many activities we have ahead of us; but that is where meditation comes into play. Whether it be stress, chaos, the busyness of daily life, job issues or personal relationships, there are a variety of environmental factors that can cause a disruption of peace within the soul, and it is so important to refresh and refocus through meditating.
Candles & Diffusers
Check out Bon Bougie for scents like sandalwood, bamboo and amber that help relax the body and mind. Bonbougie.com
Music or Background Noise
For those who don’t like silence, check out apps like Meditation Music, Relax Meditation or Calm for access to soft waves, piano, morning sounds, etc. Calm – Android and iPhone Meditation Music & Relax Meditation – Android only
To help with proper posture, head over to Dharma Crafts for a variety of cushion and pillow choices, all based on what you want and what’s most comfortable for you. Dharmacrafts.com
If you need more help getting started with meditation to decrease your stress, check out the Huffington Post’s list of the 15 best meditation books for beginners. This list includes the national best seller “Turning The Mind Into An Ally” by Sakyong Mipham.
To enhance the experience of relaxation, wear loose clothing and draped garments. Spirit Voyage has great choices for both women and men including pants, blouses, skirts and more. Spiritvoyage.com
Photo by Allison Raber