By contributing writer, Alexandra Maul
You’ve probably heard a lot about meditation lately. With studies showing that meditation is associated with easing anxiety, depression, and pain, managing stress, and even reducing blood pressure and stress hormone levels, it’s become all the rage – and with good reason.
However, if you’re not already in the meditating groove, it can feel daunting to start.
I used to meditate regularly, but in the last year or so, somewhere in the midst of a cross-county move, starting a new job, adopting a puppy, and buying a house, I got out of the routine.
In the midst of so many transitions, my health began to suffer and I lost my usual focus on self-care. I was run down and over-stressed, having flare-ups that were causing me lots of pain and fatigue, and knew I’d lost my glow.
Sometime over the summer, I reached my tipping point. I got desperate.
Something had to change, and I started feeling the urge deep down to refocus on myself and my health, more than ever. I decided I had to run with this willingness to change, but have to admit it took a good bit of time to get myself to actually take 5 minutes (just 5 minutes!!) each day.
Once I started, it felt great and I was noticing that throughout the day, I felt clearer and able to handle life’s stresses easier.
And, once I incorporated the five minutes as part of my daily routine, I was hooked again.
The only thing was that sometimes I began to feel like I was forcing myself to meditate, so I started taking the time to do what felt good that day as long as I was quiet, alone, and focusing on myself.
Yes, meditation is wonderful, but so is taking 5 minutes for yourself to do focus on your body and breath, even if it’s not a formal meditation. It’s all about taking time out for ourselves each day. Do what works for you.
For me, sometimes, it’s repeating a mantra, sometimes it’s stretching, and sometimes it’s taking a few long deep breaths and letting my mind wander then gently bringing my focus back to my breath. It’s all okay, and encouraged! This is time for you, so do what feels right that day.
I know my story is not different than yours – we all have busy schedules, others to take care of, multiple requests of our time. I’ve heard from many of my clients and friends about a feeling of being out of control, and watching the days whiz by without stopping to slow down and smell the roses.
By taking just a few minutes for ourselves, we ground our minds and bodies in the present moment, give ourselves a little TLC, connect with our bodies, and have an easier time coping with stress.
How much time? Try to take at least five minutes each day. I know, I know, five minutes sounds like so little (or maybe a lot), but when you’re running around 24/7, it can be tough to even make yourself stop and take a seat! Start with five, and increase to more.
When to do it? I do it each morning because I feel like it grounds me and starts the day off on a calmer note. I’d recommend doing it first thing as it’s easier to fit in before you get sucked into your day and find it too hard to do.
Make it part of your routine. Whenever you do it, make it part of an already established routine. After I eat breakfast each morning, I set my timer before I even get up from the breakfast table.
If you don’t eat breakfast or your breakfast time is full of little kiddos running around, try ‘attaching’ it to when you brush your teeth. Since you brush your teeth every morning (hopefully), why don’t you set your timer as soon as you put your toothbrush down.
This is your ‘me-time’ – take it! Relish the quiet. Relish the stillness.
It’s only 5 minutes. Your phone, to-do list, and inbox will still be there when you open your eyes.
Set a timer. I use my phone timer, but you can explore meditation phone apps as well.
Do what feels good: here are some examples of how I spend my five minutes – I’d love to hear your favorite ways!
- Set an intention for the day
- Try a sensation meditation
- Try soft belly breathing
- Repeat a mantra
- Meditate on a scripture verse
- Do a body scan
- Try some yoga or stretching – here’s my favorite sequence
- Try a heart-centered meditation
- Ask yourself what you need to feel healthy today (see what I mean in this post)
- Write in a journal or make a gratitude list
Do what feels good to your body that day. Whatever you feel like doing when you turn on that timer, go with it.
Accept that some days, you’re not going to be in it. And, that’s okay.
Some days, I just want to skip it. My mind wanders, and each time I bring my focus back to the present moment or my breath, I’m right back to planning my day, preparing for my work meeting, or thinking about my to-do list.
Just accept it and know that by even just taking a time out from your daily duties, your children, or your , you’re giving yourself a gift. And doing your body a favor by slowing down.
And, if you skip a day or two (I find weekends can be tough because I’m out of my weekday routine), don’t worry and just get back to it the next day. It’s all good.
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Abigail C Smas
Wonderful ideas based in ancient traditions. I particularly appreciate prayer as my “meditation” because it is time for me, yet not exactly ME focused. As I have gotten older – and wiser! – the advantages of the daily morning prayer ritual have been not only multiplied, but made much more clear.
Terrific to hear, Abigail! Love that you have your ‘me’ time in a way that works for you. I really appreciate your comment. – Alex