There are countless well-documented studies out there to back up the benefits of meditation. To name just a few of the perks, meditation can lower your cortisol levels, limit the effects of depression, and increase your ability to regulate your emotions. Still, getting into meditation can feel like a bit of a daunting task.
In case you need a refresher, meditation essentially involves attuning or training your attention to focus on a singular point of reference -- like, for example, focusing on your breath or a mantra. This is meant to help you control your thought patterns by helping you detach from the thoughts themselves.
There are tons of techniques for meditation, and there's almost no real wrong way to do it.
Some people meditate while sitting; some people do walking meditations, or use breath techniques. Buddhist monks, for example, attempt to live in meditation, considering everything they do, every task, as a pathway to greater consciousness.
Personally, while I've always wanted to, I've had a difficult time making meditation a daily practice for any great length of time. Whether it's because I "don't have enough time," or I can't seem to still for more than a minute, I always find a reason not to incorporate the practice into my day.
Until this past week, that is, when I finally put myself to the task of meditating for 20 minutes every night before going to bed.
The first technique I tried was super simple: I put on a timer, sat on my bed, and focused on my breath -- in and out, from deep in the belly.
Focusing on just my breath felt really challenging at first, as I kept getting easily distracted by sounds, text alerts, and my racing thoughts.
I kept glancing back at my timer, feeling a slight sense of embarrassment that my mind seemed so unable to find comfort in stillness.
But, instead of holding onto the judgment, I switched techniques after two days and used guided meditations instead.
Each night, I closed my eyes, turned off my lights, and listened to the meditations, allowing myself to be guided through breath techniques and visualizations.
Something about having a guide made the whole experience feel a little less intimidating and impossible.
And when I noticed my mind drifting from the meditative state, I tried to do just that -- notice my mind was drifting.
It became easier to kind of “look” at my thoughts as tangible objects, and realize I had a choice to start focusing on my breath again, or repeating a mantra.
After a full week of this practice, I'm happy to say the benefits are honestly real AF. Maybe it's a coincidence, but I have fallen asleep quickly and with ease each night, getting a solid eight to nine hours of restful shut-eye.
In the past year or so, this has been more or less completely unheard of for me.
In addition to my newfound ability to sleep soundly, I've felt calmer, and I've had an easier time focusing on my everyday tasks.
So, will I keep going?
I'm certainly going to try, guys.