Find Your “OM”- Meditation Made Simple
Updated: Nov 10, 2018
You may have read the title of this blog post and thought “Who has time to meditate?!” Well the answer is NO ONE. However, MAKING time to meditate is one of the best ways to reduce both mental and physical stress. It has a direct effect on the nervous system by reducing the body’s production of cortisol (our stress hormone) and boosting production of serotonin (our “happy” juice). Not only can it help you kick stress to the curb, it can strengthen your immune system, reduce your blood pressure, improve your sleep, and make you happy! And that’s just scratching the surface…
Meditation is a well-known mind and body practice that has been used for centuries in numerous religions and belief systems. Since the 19th century it has expanded beyond its Asian roots and is now practiced by everyone from yogis to corporate business folks. In its simplest form, meditation is a way to focus the mind and achieve an emotionally clear and mentally calm state- something I think ALL of us could use a little more of in our lives!
Despite not having an overly prominent role in the field of conventional medicine, meditation has a slew of health benefits. Perhaps the most obvious benefit is a reduction in anxiety and depressive symptoms (1,2,3). It has also been found to be helpful in reducing burnout in the workplace (4,5), something that is a very real issue in a culture like ours that values hustle and prioritizing work over everything else. Not surprisingly, meditation can help to reduce blood pressure and heart rate through its effects on sympathetic stimulation (our “fight or flight” response) (6), decrease pain perception (7), and improve memory (8).
I could honestly go on for an entire blog post talking all about the benefits of a regular meditation practice, but you get the point. Take my word for it- it’s worth incorporating into your regular routine! And here is where the “how” comes in. As I alluded to at the start of this post, mediation is probably one of the last things that you have time for. And you’re probably right. But MAKING time for it is possible- believe it or not. I think it’s fair to say that most people think of meditation as sitting cross legged on a pillow in a quiet room surrounded by candles and incense. Um yeah, I don’t know about you, but that is a completely unrealistic scenario for me. But here’s the thing: Meditation doesn’t have to be that complex. In fact, it can be done in as little as a couple minutes in the middle of a busy day. No pillow or candles needed.
Here are a few ways that you can squeeze meditation into your already ‘busting at the seams’ to-do list:
Rise and “OM”– Simply set your alarm for 5-10 minutes earlier than usual. Ground breaking, I know. But in all seriousness, there is no need to complicate things. After going to the washroom and brushing your teeth, sit down in a quiet space and do a short meditation. Not only does it calm the mind and remind you to breathe before the day’s stress starts to pile up, it allows you to handle that stress better when it does, inevitably, come.
Post-workout– This is my favorite time to incorporate meditation into my daily routine. I am an early bird and usually exercise before the sunrises. Rather than get up any earlier than my already borderline inhumane wake-up time, I like to squeeze in a quick 3-5minute meditation session while I am cooling down and stretching. I usually either sit cross legged on my mat or lay in shavassana (on my back with my arms and legs extended for those of you non-yogis), close my eyes, and do a short meditation from one of the apps that I list near the end of this post.
Bed-time– Because what better way to wind down from an overwhelming day and prepare your body and mind for sleep. Simply sit in a comfortable position on your bed, play some soft music, and focus on your breathing. If you don’t use a guided meditation set your timer on your phone for 3-5 minutes.
One-minute windows– Still think you don’t have 3-5 minutes to spare? How about 1? We ALL can take 60 seconds out of our day- especially when it will help us regain mental clarity and be better equipped to handle stress. The key with this is not to make it complicated. You don’t have to have the perfect space. In fact, sitting in your car or at your office desk are fine places to meditate. Just seize any opportunity that you can and focus on your breath. Breathe in and count “1,2,3,4” and breath out and count “1,2,3,4.” It may not sound like much, but you will feel calm yet energized simply by remembering to breathe.
Last but not least, I want to share a few resources that not only serve as mediation guides, but can help you schedule your meditations and track your progress. I personally like listening to a guide as it helps me to reign in my chaotic mind and stay focused.
Calm– A smart phone app that includes hundreds of programs for beginners to intermediate and advanced users. Guided meditation sessions are available in lengths of 3, 5, 10, 15, 20 or 25 and have music along to help you focus and relax.
Headspace– Another smart phone app that includes a free basics course that teaches you the fundamental techniques of meditation and mindfulness. You can gain access to the full Headspace meditation library with a subscription.
Gabby Bernstein’s Guided Meditations– Four free themed meditations by self-help guru, Gabby Bernstein.
Chopra Center Guided Meditations– A collection of free themed meditations of various lengths from Deepak Chopra.
I do have to say that I love the phone apps for their simplicity and their ability to track my progress. But I would highly suggest that you try a few meditations from each source and find out which ones works best for you. Or perhaps you rather sit in silence and simply focus on your breathing. How you do it isn’t what is important here. It only matters that you do it in a way that serves you- whether that be with a 5minute guided mediation before your morning coffee or with a 1minute breathing exercise at your desk on your lunch break. Your mind and body will thank you.
Continue to follow your gut,