Meditation Takes Practice

Have you been hearing a lot about meditation? Do you think its just some hippie way of living, and don't understand the benefits or why people are raving about it? I was one of those people. I heard all about meditation for a while, and just thought it was another fad.

The deeper I got into wellness and emotional healing the more and more consciously aware I became and I just wanted to learn more. I decided to finally tested out the meditation waters, and you know what? It wasn’t so bad. Painless actually. 

My first meditation experience was at a beautiful resort I stayed in with my family in upstate New York, and I went to a guided meditation class. After that experience I was completely hooked. If you have a wild imagination like me, you’ll have some great imagery come to mind. I had the most memorable and mesmerizing visuals. Throughout the hour-guided meditation I was in pure bliss, no worries or thoughts consumed my mind. I was in my element, literally. I felt calm and found the portal where my breath and mind were connected. I was silent, still, and my soul was powerless and taken on a serene journey. 

Guided meditation is a great starting point for beginners because it verbally guides your thoughts, and provides you with positive reinforcement throughout the experience. This helps you let go and relax. However, if you do become consumed with mental vomit, its ok, we all do, even in meditation! Awareness is key. Accept these thoughts. Don't force yourself to stop thinking, just redirect your train of thought to clarity. It's almost like the sunlight coming through your window in the morning, reawakening your mind. Allow the sunshine to come through. 

It's funny because many people that I suggest meditation to tell me, "I've tried it, but I don't think I’m doing it right." There are no tricks with meditation. There are different approaches and styles, but at the end of the day meditation is all about shutting off your mind, allowing yourself to relax, and being present in the now. We sometimes get used to being so hard on ourselves that ironically even in a time when we are supposed to be doing something good for ourselves we tend to think that it's still not good enough. We figure because we can’t do it “right” there’s no point trying again. Am I right? Don't rush the process. This is something that takes time and your investment in the time.

How did you learn to ride your bike? How did you learn to play baseball or an instrument? How do you learn anything in life? PRACTICE. Any habit or skill we have formed, we've developed through consistent practice. So keep meditating. Keep trying. Stay on the tidal wave, because you’ll stand up and be taken to shore, I promise. Sometimes you'll be able to clear your thoughts and feel at ease, and other times you may overthink and have to bring yourself back to the moment, and just breathe. This is completely normal and it doesn't mean you aren't meditating right, this just means you can practice more. Eventually meditation will become second nature, a habit.

Remember to focus on the good. Envision the energy you want to surround yourself with, the light that radiates from within. Take this energy with you throughout the day, this is your souvenir, this is your reward. You will notice a change in how you react to stress, the people you surround yourself with, what is important to you. You will gain so much clarity, and feel present, really present. You won’t be as consumed with the past or worried about the future, and you will feel more content with all that you have now and who you are in this moment in time. Does this sound terrible to you? I didn’t think so.

So what are you waiting for? A good way to integrate meditation everyday is making time to meditate for 5 minutes every day the first week then 10 minutes your second week and see if you can get up to 30 minutes. Attend a meditation class and try a different approach, just find what style works for you. I love going to classes as well because you are in a space where everyone is there to detach from their hectic lives together. This forces you to sit down and breathe with other likeminded people.

It takes 21 days to form a habit, so by the end of meditating every day for 3 weeks this should become second nature and a part of you. I hope you try it out, and please share your experience with meditation in the comments below; I’d love to hear how it has impacted your life. I know mine has completely changed, and its crazy to look back on how I stress ate, had so much anxiety and used to respond to stressors in my life compared to how I do now has significantly improved. When I was in college I would be so stressed that I would eat just about anything I could get my hands on because I just had so much to write and complete. I felt terrible afterwards but it was a habit I formed and I realized I needed to redirect that energy into a positive more beneficial habit not one that would make me feel terrible and breed negatively in my life.

I’m now fully in control of my reactions and I handle situations as they come. I’ve learned there’s no point worrying about if it’s going to rain or not. I’m not going to walk around in fear with an umbrella every day! The rain isn’t so bad anyway; it reminds me that I’m alive. This analogy just goes to show that its all about changing your perspective and learning how to adapt and handle what comes to you when it does. Meditation will help, I promise. 

I've included a simple meditation calendar to keep you on track. Print it out and check off each day you meditate. Set a goal for yourself. Every week you've meditated, treat yourself. Whether thats going to a yoga class, taking a day trip with a friend, or getting a massage. When you have a reward in mind it helps to motivate you.

Improve Your Health With Gratitude

After recently returning from my trip to Guatemala, where I visited beautiful rural areas on Lake Atitlan, I was filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude and happiness. Happiness from visiting such a welcoming country with friendly and loving people. Gratitude for being where I am today and having the opportunity and means to travel and see as much as I have. Many of the indigenous people living on Lake Atitlan don’t have much in life. They may not have an education, much money, or food to feed themselves and their children, or real homes to sleep in and protect them from the cold or rain, but they laugh, have families, and communities to support one another. The timing of my trip coincidentally fell before Thanksgiving. As I reflected about my my trip  over the holiday it gave me time to think about all the things in my life I’m grateful for. Gratitude is such an important part of life. It’s humbling, reflective, and provides a sense of peace and calmness.

Life can be overwhelming at times, and it’s so easy to take little things for granted, like having a warm bed to sleep in, and food on your table. It sounds cliche, I know, but without these kind of thoughts and without realizing how much we have, its easy to create a little bubble where only your small petty problems matter. This way of thinking unravels into selfishness and sadness most of the time. Not being able to see outside the walls that you have caged yourself in will only allow you to see the insignificant things compared to the big picture of life.

One way that I like to incorporate gratitude into my everyday life is keeping a gratitude journal. This not only allows me to have “me time” but it also allows me to reflect on my life and put things that may be stressing me into perspective. Okay, I know I have to work on a new project and do a number of meticulous tasks, then go to work at night, and run errands in between, but I also have so much to be grateful for at the same time. Like being able to have such opportunities and work for myself. You see, instead of feeling bad for yourself you can change your attitude to having a more positive outlook.

Living with gratitude has a multitude of health benefits. In an experimental comparison, those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events. Also, those who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based) over a two-month period compared to subjects in the other experimental conditions.*

Gratitude is also linked to sleeping better.* Researchers have also done studies and found that writing 15 minutes before bedtime about what you are grateful for, will allow you to fall asleep more easily and sleep for longer.

How else can you incorporate gratitude into your life? You can thank your friends and express how much you appreciate what they’ve done for you. Wouldn’t you like to know if you affected someone in a positive way? I know I would, and your compliments and positivity will spread. It will make your friend more happy and you will feel better for just doing that.

Another way is remembering the good times. Look back on experiences, people you’ve met, you’re childhood, and anything that will help reconnect  you to where you have been, what you learned and whom you have loved along the way. I always find myself reflecting on my childhood, when I had no worries about paying rent, and ran around knocking on my friends houses to see who could play outside with me. Remembering allows me to never forget and to forever be grateful about my past and upbringing because it has molded who I am today.

Place gratitude reminders around your room, house, office, anywhere you will see these notes throughout the day. Use visual cues that elicit feelings of gratitude and happiness. Putting them in different places where you will see them throughout the day and constantly be reminded of these good warm feelings will help support your feelings of gratitude.*

Gratitude’s value is intrinsic, but it also has many health benefits. Those who take time to be grateful may enjoy improved sleep, lower stress levels, enhanced overall well-being and even improved heart health. Practicing gratitude has also been linked with stronger personal relationships, higher self-esteem and greater life satisfaction.*

As the holidays are approaching I think we should remember to be thankful for what we have and give to others more than wanting so much for ourselves. Whether it be giving  toys, a hot dinner, or just some advice, it all is meaningful and appreciated, and whoever receives your gifts will be filled with gratitude.