Stressed? Feeling Anxious?
Getting my blood drawn at the doctor’s office has always been a traumatic experience. I tend to get increasingly anxious as the appointment approaches. Fears about all that could go wrong rush through my head. This process typically ends with me fainting during or right after the procedure (which always causes quite the commotion with the nurses). However, since I started meditating during the blood draw this no longer happens! Believe me, I was shocked that something like mediating could resolve such a flooding of mental and physical reactions – but it has!
Myth: Meditation is only for yogis
Fact: Anyone can do it!
So what is all the hype about meditation?
It is an excellent way to relax, recharge, increase mindfulness, and strengthen your mind-body connection. It sounds like it would be really complicated and take a long time, but it’s actually quite the opposite! Meditation can be as simple as taking a moment to focus on the feeling of your breath or can be repeating a personal mantra to yourself. A few mantras that I like are “I chose purpose over perfect”, “Everyday in every way I am getting better and better”, and ‘I am right where I am supposed to be”. You can meditate anywhere – at a stoplight, during an intense office meeting, or in line at the grocery store. I sometimes mediate when I am walking my dog!
Many of the long-term benefits of meditation are still being researched, but overall studies have found that meditation can improve both your physical and mental health. Benefits can include lessening feelings of anxiety and depression, being better able to manage stress, increasing self-awareness, reducing negative emotions, improving focus on the present moment, improving sleep, and can also include many physical benefits that promote cardiovascular health such as reducing blood pressure.
Myth: Mediation takes forever – who has time for that?!
Fact: It can take just a few minutes!
When I am at work or having an especially busy day I use meditation as a “recharge” – after a 5 or 10 minute meditation I feel better able to take on the rest of the day!
Starting meditation can be intimating. You might be wondering where to begin or how you could possibly find the time to meditate in your busy schedule. Luckily, there are many different ways to mediate so there are many options for you to chose from to find the best route for you!
When choosing a meditation ask yourself these two questions:
“What is practical for my life?”
Looking at the time you have available and what will be the most realistic is important. If you are taking care of young children at home and you do not have much time to yourself then an hour long meditation is probably not the best choice for you. However, a 5-minute meditation would be perfect to center yourself during the day. If you have time during your day to sit and reflect then a 20 to 30 or even hour-long meditation would be wonderful and be very re-energizing!
“What am I wanting to gain from this meditation?”
There are many different styles and types of meditation. Each one provides a path to increased awareness and attention to the self, so what you choose is largely based on personal preference and what feels best. If you are hoping to increase your focus on the present, then mindfulness based meditation may be a great fit for you. If you are wanting to increase your mind body connection, then body scanning meditation may be just what you are looking for. The important thing to remember is that any meditation is good meditation! Listed below are a few popular types of meditations.
Myth: You have to be in a zen garden or something close to that to mediate
Fact: You can meditate anywhere!
A Few Popular Types of Meditation:
Body Scanning Meditation
This form of meditation is all about bringing attention to different parts of your body. You can scan your body for areas of tension, pain, or other sensations. Body scanning can also incorporate tightening and releasing muscle groups starting at the top of the head and face muscles and traveling down each muscle group until you end at the muscles in the toes of your feet. As a child I used this type of meditation to help me go to sleep and had no idea at the time that I was meditating.
Mindfulness is a popular buzz word right now – it essentially means being aware of and embracing the present moment and limiting other distractions. For example, if you are taking a walk in the woods you are thinking about the trees you are seeing, the birds you are hearing, and how your body is moving along the path, and not thinking about the items you need to buy at the grocery store, an argument you had with a friend, or even about how much longer you have to go on the forest path. The goal of mindfulness meditation is to focus on what is happening at the very moment, without placing judgement or reacting.
This form of meditation is all about the process of breathing – how your chest rises and falls as you inhale and exhale and how the air feels as it enters and leaves your body. The idea here is to focus on the act of breathing and slowing down the breath. I personally like to breathe in through my nose to 4 counts, hold the breath for 7 counts, and breathe out through my mouth for 8 counts (sometimes I can’t hold for the 7 counts, so I will shorten that time!). The important thing is to have the long exhale.
For this type of meditation, you create mental images in your mind about places or things that create a sense of calm and relaxation. Often you are led through a guided meditation by a counselor or you can find many guided meditations on YouTube or through meditation apps on your mobile phone. Check out our blog on Teaching Children Mindfulness for some of our favorite mediations to incorporate into child therapy. My personal favorite meditation app is Headspace. Other great apps include Insight Timer, Atmosphere, Calm, Smiling Mind, and Mind the Bump. (These are linked at the bottom of this blog for your convenience!)
In this form of meditation the goal is to “transcend” your being and reach a higher level of consciousness. For this type of meditation you repeat a mantra which can be a single word or a personal phrase or you can focus on a sound such as a bell or the sound of a Tibetan singing bowl. Many apps on your phone can provide a variety of options for meditation through this method.
Myth: You have to be a really tranquil person to meditate
Fact: Anyone can do it! Even those who have especially chaotic or turbulent lives
How to Prepare:
For those beginning meditation, a quiet place might be best so that you are not distracted by what is going on around you. Some recommend that sitting in a chair in an upright position, with a straight back, feet firmly planted on the floor, and hands placed softly on the knees is the best position for meditation. However, I have also experienced great meditations lying on a couch! Ensuring you are comfortable and will not need to move much throughout the meditation is really the most important thing – everything else is just personal preference.
For starting out it can be helpful to find a time of day you plan to mediate. For example, right when you wake up or after you eat lunch, so that you can easily build meditation into your daily routine.
When I first started meditating, I felt really discouraged because I could never have a “clear mind”. It seemed that thoughts about what I had to do that day, or even seemingly obscure memories would come flooding into my mind no matter how hard I tried to focus. Then my entire focus would be me questioning why the thought was there and negative inner self talk about how I would never be the good meditating yogi that I wanted to be! But having thoughts come and go during a meditation is natural! The key is to acknowledge the presence of those thoughts without engaging them, push them aside, and then bring your focus back to your meditation.
Focusing your attention on an image, body function, or mantra can be helpful. I have found for calming meditations I like thinking about the night sky and rolling clouds. Or during meditation for mind body connection I concentrate on the sensations in my body as I inhale and exhale.
Myth: You have to have a completely clear mind to meditate
Fact: Having wandering thoughts during meditation is completely normal!
Helpful Phone Apps:
This app features hundreds of guided meditations on topics like relaxation, stress, anxiety, mindfulness, personal growth, and sleep. A free trial is available, but then you must subscribe for full access. Includes kid friendly meditations based on age!
This app has thousands of free guided mediations, talks, and sounds with new mediations added daily. Many different styles of meditation are available on this app, so you can try out numerous styles to find your favorite! Includes kid friendly meditations!
This app allows you to customize free calming background sounds for your meditation. Sounds include beach, forest, city, home, underwater, park, countryside, oriental, and instrumental. There is a timer option available, so you can customize your experience to exactly how long or short you need! Search for this app in your app store (direct link unavailable).
Numerous guided mediations are available in this app with specific time increments to fit with your schedule. Meditations include focus on anxiety, sleep, gratitude, self-esteem, forgiveness, and commuting to work or school. A free trial is available, but then you must subscribe for full access. Includes kid friendly meditations!
Provides numerous free meditations that are customized specifically to your needs. The app considers who you are (an individual, educator, or parent looking to do meditation with your child), your age group (ranging from 7-9, 10-12, 13-15, 16-18, and adulthood), and what you are looking to gain from the meditation sessions.
This app features mindfulness meditations focused on preparing for having a baby and becoming a new parent. Mediations are available for every point in the pregnancy – from the first day to 24 months after birth.
Mental Health Counseling in the Houston Area
As a Houston, TX child & family therapy clinic, Brittani Persha Counseling has skilled mental health clinicians who can help you learn mindfulness. If you want to have a skilled family counselor assist you in meditation or have mental health concerns that need further intervention, schedule a free phone consultation to determine how we can best help you. Our expert mental health therapists offer a variety of counseling services including play therapy, counseling for behavior problems, ADHD, anxiety, teen therapy, parent counseling, trauma treatment and more!
Source: Natural Healing: Prevent Illness and Improve Your Life. (2017) Mayo Clinic Reissue of a Mayo Clinic Special Edition. New York, NY: Time Inc. Books