VIDEO: 7 Mindfulness Tips For Meditation Newbies
Meditation has become such a buzz word in the health space and has been promoted as the wellness practice you need to do to elevate your wellbeing. But if you're a total newbie to meditation, the whole concept of sitting for 10 minutes in stillness every single day may seem a little foreign and a tough practice to incorporate into your busy life.
Well, you're not alone. Follow my journey through Recharge Meditation's 4 week Mindfulness and Meditation Course.
I chat with the creators of the course, Dr Richard Chambers and Ray Good, to suss out what meditation is all about and gets some valuable tips on how to get started!
- What is meditation?
- Why don't you need to stop your thoughts?
- How does meditation help your productivity?
- How often should you meditate?
- When is the best time to meditate?
- How do you make meditation a sustainable practice?
My 4 Week Journey
WEEK 1 - What is mindfulness?
Eager to get into this new practice of meditation, I was excited to learn how to get started. I'd given meditation a go a couple of times but could never get into a routine and would just forget to do it two days into a challenge. Sound familiar?
One of the key points I took away from the first week's class was that 47% of our time is spent thinking about something other than what's happening right now. Pretty crazy huh!? If you're like me, with a million thoughts running through your head, I find it difficult to stay present. Waiting for the train or going for a run, I feel the need to listen to a podcast or music. Waiting in line at the grocery store or for my coffee, I feel I need to check Instagram and Facebook. Even walking down the street I'm busy sending Snapchats of myself walking with some stupid filter. Always busy. Always looking for distractions from the present.
In our first week we practiced a meditation that involves counting the breath in and out up to the number 10. The point of this practice isn't to actually get to 10, it's to notice when your mind has wandered when doing something as simple as counting the breath. Each time your mind wanders, you start back at 1. I'd get to 4 or 5 before realising I was thinking about what I needed to do the next day.
Homework: Start a daily practice and notice how much time is spent being present. During my first week I meditated on all of the week days but managed to forget about it on Saturday and Sunday. To develop a routine, I chose to meditate at night time just before bed which I found quite difficult as I was falling asleep. I'd enter a dream like state (which I've heard is totally normal) however I found it hard to keep focused. In saying that though, I did fall asleep really fast and had a fairly restful sleep.
WEEK 2 - Reduce Stress & Anxiety
As animals, our body reacts to our stress response, the response that tells us we're in danger (fight or flight). When our lives are so busy and full of stuff, this can effect our physical and mental health. By giving yourself the permission to have time out via mediation, you're activating the rest and digest response, allowing your body and mind the chance to refresh.
This week, we practiced two meditations. The first, a chocolate meditation. Yep, we ate chocolate all in the name of learning to meditate (yum!) The purpose of this meditation was to tap into the five senses, to notice what the chocolate looked, smelt, tasted and felt like. By slowing down the process of eating the chocolate, it increased the satisfaction.
We also practiced a body scan meditation which is led through feeling every part of the body from the top of the head down to the toes. This meditation encourages us to act as the observer of our own body.
Homework: To eat more mindfully, something I personally struggle with. I find it hard to sit and eat, I think because I feel guilty there are emails to respond to and articles to read. I did this a couple of times throughout the week though, allowing myself the time to just sit and enjoy. I completed a meditation every night however one night I actually fell asleep, with the lights on! I decided that maybe night meditation doesn't quite work for me however I was concerned that morning might not fit my routine.
Week 3 - Productivity & Performance
Are you a list maker? I love a list of to-dos. I draw a box next to each one so I can enjoy the satisfaction of crossing each one off. The great thing about lists, is it helps you to focus on the task when you're ready to complete it, without allowing the fear of forgetting to take over.
This week we talk about productivity and the pressure to multi-task. While as humans we can multi-task when we're doing simple activities, like walking down the street and listening to music, we're unable to multi-task when doing more complex activities like listening to someone speak and reading emails. You either have your attention on one or the other. This is called attention switching where the mind literally blinks between focusing on each task. By doing this, our mind requires the time to find focus again making us way less productive than just listening OR reading.
We learnt that meditation doesn't always have to be a full 10 minute practice. You can find a one minute practice in between tasks to allow yourself to arrive in the present. This is a great tip if you've got back to back meetings or a full schedule of tasks. Take a minute in between to breathe and arrive. You'll find you're more focused for the rest of the day.
Homework: To make a point to uni-task (doing one task at a time) and see how much quicker the tasks gets done. I have found this an invaluable tool personally as I often catch myself working on a task, then get a notification for Facebook, then go back to the task then get an email, then click through to an article then somehow end up on Facebook again, then go back to the task and forget where I was up to. Sound familiar? Uni-tasking is something I am trying to practice more often.
I switched my meditation practice this week to a morning practice, however I found if I didn't do it as soon as I got up, I'd forget. I usually exercise first thing in the morning so I find it hard enough to get out of bed at 5.30am let alone waking up at 5.15am to do a meditation. Some mornings I said to myself I'd do it after breakfast which never actually happened as I'd be busy trying to get out the door. I want to stick with this morning practice though as I feel it will be most beneficial for me.
Week 4 - Maintain a Routine
We started the final class off with a gratitude meditation. I loved this meditation as I had started a gratitude practice (journalling) a couple of years ago and found it a really useful way to reflect on the wonderful things in my life.
I set up a commitment to continue my practice every morning as soon as I get up, and factoring this into my schedule. I found this week that it was much easier to focus when I knew it was something I was always going to do first thing. I also have committed to incorporating an informal practice in applying mindful moments into my day, whether it be a minute of deep breathing, waiting for the train with no distractions or eating mindfully. Along with an ongoing commitment to uni-task and focus on ticking off tasks one at a time rather than allowing myself to continuously attention switch.
If you'd like to try the free guided meditations I used throughout this 4 week course, click here.
Thanks to Recharge Meditation for allowing me to participate in their four week course. They did not pay for this review, I was just keen to share my experience trying meditation for the first time!
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