With over 70% of the workforce reporting they feel overwhelmed on a regular basis – with constant mental chatter being one of the symptoms – every day I hear people telling me they want to learn how to meditate.
In addition, two-thirds say they feel they live on autopilot most days and wish they could live more meaningful, on-purpose lives, which can be helped through an effective meditation practice.
The problem is, most of them either 1) don’t think they have time, or 2) tried it once or twice and quit because they ‘can’t do it properly’ – i.e. can’t switch off their mind.
Debunking Meditation Myths
Firstly, you DO have time! Some of the world’s busiest, wealthiest and most successful people meditate every day – from Oprah, to Bill Gates, to Arianna Huffington, to Sir Richard Branson, to Hugh Jackman and so many more. They all attribute their ability to maintain success and stay balanced amongst their hectic schedules to their regular morning ritual / meditation practice.
In fact to start meditating, all you need is 5 minutes a day! And quite frankly, if you can’t find 5 minutes in your day to improve your health, happiness and work performance, then you need to re-think your time management and priorities.
Secondly, you don’t need to ‘switch off your thoughts’ during meditation. There may come a time when you do actually feel your mind is a blank and you’re simply being. However, that is not the goal of meditation. The goal is to train your ‘focus muscle’ by redirecting your focus to 1 thing. That could be your breath, 1 particular thought (like repeating a mantra), watching something like the ocean or focusing on how your body feels. And whenever your focus wanders to something else, you haven’t failed (so please get that out of your head!) The mind will wander… your job is to simply notice when it happens and then redirect your focus back to whatever you were focusing on, such as your breath or a mantra.
Proven Benefits of Meditation
Meditation is now proven to help you with various aspects of your health and performance. This includes activating the parasympathetic nervous system which takes you out of fight or flight (that state where you feel constantly switched on and your mind chatters relentlessly) to a place where your digestive system functions optimally, your hormones can re-balance and you can access the executive function part of the brain. Meditating has also shown to increase your emotional intelligence, decision-making skills, focus muscle, memory and regenerate brain cells lost through chronic stress.
If you think you could use some of this… read on!
How to set up your own meditation practice in 4 easy steps.
Allocate 5 minutes of your day to the following practice – either as soon as you get up, on the train on the way to work, before bed, or any time in your day where you will have time to yourself with the least risk of distraction.
Then follow this simple framework:
Step 1 – Take 10 slow deep belly breaths
To be honest, you could simply take 1 minute a day to do Step 1 and that would actually be enough. Deep belly breathing is what reduces your stress hormones and activates the parasympathetic nervous system. This ‘diaphragmatic breathing’ moves your diaphragm to create a chemical and hormonal shift in the body, resulting in all the above mentioned benefits. Be sure to focus in on how your body feels as you breathe. Your mind may already start wandering here, which is fine. Just bring it back to focus on your body as you continue your deep breathing, feeling the body relax as you get through your 10 breaths.
Step 2 – Name 3 things you’re grateful for
If you want to reduce worries and feel happier in your life RIGHT NOW, then a gratitude practice can shift your focus from ‘chasing life’ to ‘living life’ fully and being present. This creates perspective so you can remember all the wonderful things in your life and continue to focus on what makes you happy, reducing anxiety and worries in the process.
Step 3 – Recall your Values and Desired Feelings
In my workshops, I take participants through a Values-based Goal Setting process which works wonders for helping people set authentic goals and create adequate motivation to stick to them! Ask me for more info if you’ve never done this practice with me. In short, come up with 3 to 5 big values or desired feelings you want to feel every day and focus in on them.
Once you come up with your list, you’ll simply recall the same words every day so you remember what matters to you (unless you decide over time they’ve slightly changed). For example, some common values / desired feelings are Peace, Balance, Energy, Real, Confidence, Respect, Fun, Love or Connection. When you recall your words, give yourself a few moments to feel into the words and visualise yourself feeling those feelings. Eg if peace is one of your words, imagine yourself feeling completely peaceful – even if it seems impossible for now, imagine you’re in a place where it is not just possible, but it’s actually the case. Use your imagination and have some fun with this!
Step 4 – Choose 2 actions you can take today that are in your control to feel your values and desired feelings right now.
Most people think about goals in a future tense and decide they will be happy WHEN they achieve something. In my view, this is not a smart way to live, because you’re robbing yourself of the ability to feel good NOW. We only ever live in the now, so if you constantly set new goals, you’ll never actually be satisfied. I’m not saying goal-setting is bad. In fact, quite the opposite. Goal-setting is important because it allows us to learn and grow and become more experienced people, which is part of human nature. However, don’t rob yourself of feeling good today just because you have a goal. You should have a goal with the intention of improving yourself, while simultaneously being happy now.
So the purpose of this step is to choose 2 actions that are completely in your control that contribute to feeling one or two of your desired feelings and values. For example, this meditation practice in itself may help you achieve Happiness or Peace, of one of those is a desired feeling. Or going to the gym will help with Energy or Body Confidence. Or completing a work project will help you feel more Competent if that’s one of your values. If you're wondering which values you should be prioritising, the answer is 'ask yourself'. What matters most to you right now? Which values do you feel further from and therefore you need to take more steps? Or which steps seem easier today and you'd rather work on them? There's no right or wrong. Just choose and as a result, you will have progress in your life.
This step has a dual purpose – 1) to help you get clarity, reducing worries and feeling more in control of your life, and 2) practically getting you closer to your goals. Win-win!
This framework is incredibly simple and anyone – no matter how busy or stressed – can do this. In fact, as you can likely tell, this practice will make you be more productive and likely to achieve your goals. So its 5 minutes very well invested!
So go ahead and schedule a recurring 5 minute appointment into your calendar for every day and print / write out the steps so you can read them until they become second nature.
If you want more help to create your own tailored meditation practice if you have a specific goal you're struggling with, contact me to set up a private session. This allows us to create for you a customised ritual that overcomes your concerns and suits your specific goals and lifestyle.
Don't forget our promotion – when you successfully refer someone to one of our corporate or private services, you get a session absolutely FREE! Click here for more details.
Remember… it’s up to YOU to set yourself up for greatness. So get cracking!