Although I’ve never been a very spiritual person myself, I have always liked the ‘idea’ of meditation, yoga etc. I am however, a very evidence based, research backed advocate when it comes to health and wellness. And the research now shows that meditation can definitely provide us with many health benefits.
These benefits include improved emotional health, stress reduction, reduced anxiety, enhanced self-awareness, increased attention span, reduced age related memory loss, improved sleep, pain management, decreased blood pressure – the list is endless.
At midlife, hormonal changes, life changes and general ‘am I getting old?’ changes create additional stress in our lives. For me, I recognised that my ability to manage stress was not so good. My dad died of a sudden heart attack at age 47 and I feel that his lack of knowledge about how to adequately deal with stress contributed significantly. I knew I had to create stress management habits and meditation has been part of that.
So, for the last few years I have played around with meditation. I’ve read books, tried a few different methods and joined online courses. I would meditate regularly for a few days, even a couple of weeks but then stop when my life got too busy and stressful (exactly when I should have been doing it!). In the past I would also say that I failed at meditation – I have a very busy mind and I’d often sit there thinking about all the things I needed to do and become even more stressed! However, over the last year, I’ve realised that you cannot actually ‘fail’ at meditation. Your mind will naturally wander. It’s part of the process. Learning to bring the attention back to the meditation is the key. For me, sometimes it doesn’t come back and I accept that and try again next time. Changing the way I view meditation has allowed me to embrace it – there is not right or wrong when it comes to meditation.
Micro habit creation has also become part of my health regime. If possible, when I want to add a new healthy habit into my life, I start small, very small and it must be super easy to incorporate into my day. Using this method has helped me create a meditation habit.
I am currently using the Insight Timer app and I mainly use the guided meditations, though there is also some great music/non-speaking options. I started with 1 minute meditations once a day. I then added a second 1 minute meditation each day (generally when I wake and and before I go to sleep). It is simple, easy and even after a minute, I feel calmer. Gradually, I have begun exploring longer meditations but if I have limited time then I return to my 1 minute meditation. In stressful situations, I now also often think about my favourite 1 minute meditation and try to slow my breath.
My app showed me that I achieved 90 consecutive meditation days recently (which I found truly amazing considering my past efforts) but missed a couple of days here and there over the festive season. This was a trigger for when I could possible stop again for an extended time. However, I actually found I craved my meditation sessions. For me, that shows that meditation has now become a habit. I need to meditate to feel ‘normal’ – like brushing my teeth, it is a part of my day and I feel like something is missing if I don’t do it.
Although I’m not sure whether I will ever be someone who will meditate for an hour each day, I am interested to see where my meditation journey takes me. It’s definitely something that I’m pleased I have successfully incorporated into my daily life and hopefully I’ll be meditating myself into a happier, calmer and healthier life.