1.‘I DON’T REALLY UNDERSTAND THE BENEFITS OF MEDITATION’
If I’d truly known and felt the benefits of meditation years ago, I would have started a LOT sooner. Thing is, despite the fact that my parents meditated, I used to dismiss it as a load of rubbish (I was too cool, you see). I’d tell myself it was airy-fairy and I that I didn’t have the time to waste. But after having a bit of a meltdown a few years ago and realising I had to do something differently or I was going to lose my shit, I started meditating. The results were life changing.
I became calmer, happier, more positive and less grumpy (esp. at that time of the month). Studies have found time and again that it makes us more resilient to stress, more emotionally balanced, more creative (whoop!), more optimistic and calmer.
It creates real, measurable effects in the brain, changing the way our two hemispheres communicate and increasing our grey matter. The results are real and speak for themselves. No BS. It’s like working out, but for your mind and can do wonders for your mental health.
2.‘I CAN’T SIT STILL’
If you’re someone who is ALWAYS on the go, it’s hardly surprising that you might find it a little challenging to suddenly press pause and sit quietly for ten minutes or more. With endless to-do lists and the constant lure of your Instagram feed, the thought of sitting and doing nothing can be… troubling. Having a large amount of adrenaline pumping through your veins is hardly conducive to sitting still either. So what to do?
One of the best ways I’ve found to be able to sit more easily is to do some yoga beforehand. I like to think of yoga as the gateway drug to meditation (!) because doing yoga leads to much, MUCH better and easier meditations. You get the stress and fidgets out of your body and calm your nervous system down, so you can settle into meditation loads more easily. I love this 10-minute de-stress yoga sequence by uber-yogi Tara Styles (thanks Sarah Waite for introducing me).
If you reeeeeally can’t get into meditation, doing yoga by itself is still a great way to calm the mind and relax the body.
3. ‘I HATE THE IDEA OF BEING ALONE WITH MY THOUGHTS’
Eek, things can get preeeeetty scary in there right? Dark thoughts, worries, self-flagellation – it could all creep in if we slow down and quieten our minds, couldn’t it?! Well, that’s actually where meditation comes in. I’ve found that by meditating regularly there’s a sort of buffer between me and my thoughts. I can see them as just ‘thoughts’ and not actual ‘facts’ – as if I get some perspective from them and can take a step back. They seem less scary and I can allow them to drift on by without getting caught up in negative cycles of thinking.
So if you notice a lot of thoughts while you’re meditating; allow them to be there. You don’t have to make them stop. Just remember your thoughts are not ‘facts’, and the more regularly you meditate the easier it will become to dismiss negative thoughts and let them go.
4, ‘I DON’T HAVE THE TIME’
There’s an old Zen saying ‘You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day. Unless you’re too busy, then you should sit for an hour.’
Naw – I’m not really going to suggest you meditate for an hour a day – starting with 10 minutes is enough – and who hasn’t got 10 minutes day? If Katy Perry can find the time while on tour (she reportedly props herself up in bed and does 20 minutes of Transcendental Meditation each morning), so can you. You owe it to yourself.
**If you’re in London and want to learn Transcendental Meditation I highly recommend my good friend and meditation teacher Carla Berkers – contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Still don’t think you have the time? What if I were to pay you? Does fifty pounds for every time you meditate sound ok? I bet you’d be propping yourself up in bed pretty fast if I did! If you could find a way to make time for it for £50, it’s not a case of not having time. It’s a case of motivation and priorities. If your priority is to feel happier, calmer and more clear-headed (and who doesn’t want that) – meditation gives you a huge return on investment of your time. It can be hard to prioritise yourself and your happiness – sometimes we believe it’s selfish – but it isn’t.
The more you take care of yourself, the more you’re able to take care of others, and the better you are in your work and at home!
Getting into a routine can make it much easier to stick to – so try and do your meditation at the same time each day – stick it in your diary and let other people know so that you’ll be encouraged to stick with it. Can you entice a flatmate or your partner to join you too? Teaming up with someone else will make it much easier to stick to.
5.‘MY MIND IS TOO BUSY’
It’s called meditation ‘practice’ for a reason. You’re not supposed to be AMAZING at it (especially not at first). Be bad at meditation. Thoughts are completely normal and are actually a part of meditation. As soon as you find your mind wandering off into busyness, gently bring it back to your breath or your mantra. It gets easier the more you do it. Promise. Just stick with it.
A meditation teacher once told me just ‘do your duty’ (your duty to yourself and your peace of mind). Sit on your meditation cushion; some days it’ll flow more easily than others, sometimes you’ll want to scream, or stop, or jump back onto your phone to answer the million emails you have waiting – but just do your duty. It’s only a few minutes of your day.
Try a guided meditation or even a hypnotherapy recording (Get your FREE Hypnotherapy MP3 here) if self-guided meditation doesn’t work for you.
Also, think about the time of day you’re choosing to meditate. For me, my mind is calmer at the end of the day when the day’s work is done. In the morning I’m raring to go with my to-do list so it’s slightly harder. Other people are the opposite way around. See what works for you. Another must is to stick your phone or aeroplane mode and even put it in another room if you think you’ll be tempted to check it instead of meditating.
6.‘IT’S A BIT TOO AIRY FAIRY FOR ME’
If meditation all seems a step too hippy dippy for you – rest assured that it doesn’t have to be. Plenty of meditation styles focus on the stress and anxiety-busting benefits and have nothing to do with spirituality or religion. Try a mindfulness course for something truly grounded in solid research and has nothing to do with Omming or worshipping Hindu Gods.
7. I DON’T KNOW HOW TO MEDITATE’
It’s never been simpler to learn and there are a huge range of options. From quick and easy to download apps (Headspace is the most popular) to classes at your local Buddhist Centre (which are surprisingly un-religious and inclusive) to learning from a trained meditation teacher (I learned the Transcendental Meditation technique from a teacher, find one at http://uk.tm.org/), to learning at your local gym (yes, really!) or yoga studio – there are LOADS of ways to learn.
8.‘I TRIED MEDITATION + IT DIDN’T WORK FOR ME’
Because there are so many different styles, you’re bound to find something that does the trick for you. Mindfulness, TM, guided meditations, walking meditation, yoga, loving kindness, gong, the list goes on. Try out some different styles and see what works.
9.‘I CAN’T SIT CROSS-LEGGED’
No biggie (neither can I). You deffo don’t need to adopt any kind of lotus-yogi-bendy-pose in order to meditate. I do it sitting propped up on my sofa, with a little cushion under my bum. You could do it in bed with lots of comfy covers, or in a chair – but probably not lying down (you might fall asleep) – or even on the train to work (it can be done). It shouldn’t be an endurance test about how long you can bear having pins and needles in your legs! Get comfy and settle in.