3 EXERCISES FOR BEGINNERS STARTING A MEDITATION OR MINDFULNESS PRACTICE
I hate meditating.
There, I said it. I’ve always wanted to the kind of person who spends 10 minutes writing in her bullet journal every morning before getting out of bed (no thank you, I need coffee before I can complete basic human functions and you want me to spend 10 minutes searching my soul before caffeine? Just….No.) and is a Pinterest-perfect DIYer, but it’s just not me. And lately I’ve been working on accepting it instead of fighting it. As hard as I’ve tried and as much as I want to be the kind of person that meditating and all that, I just don’t. And I’ve decided that’s okay.
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Just because I don’t like meditating or journaling doesn’t mean I don’t understand the health benefits though – the mental, emotional, and physical of meditation and mindfulness are scientifically proven. I have battled anxiety pretty much my whole adult life and as such people love to tell me how I just “need to relax and breathe. Try yoga and meditation!” Like, has telling someone with anxiety to “relax” ever in the history of the world actually helped that person relax? Exactly.
However, meditation for anxiety can be extremely helpful. So how do you start meditating if you really don’t like meditation, if you get impatient and frustrated and antsy like I do? A good way to start meditating at home is by trying to practice mindfulness. I find I respond better to mindfulness exercises because mindfulness focuses your thoughts rather than trying to eliminate them.
The problem I have with meditation and the idea that you’re supposed to make your mind “still” and not be thinking of anything is basically that I find it impossible and then I get frustrated that I find it impossible and give up. Sounds familiar, right? So what I’ve learned is that I need to give my mind something to think about, but in a focused way that promotes a sense of calm.
Through trial and error though, I have learned a few exercises – tools, really, that help me to practice mindfulness at home and soothe my anxious, high-speed train of a mind without having to count a million breathes and being bored out of my mind or wanting to crawl out of my own skin.
I hope these tips for learning how to meditate and practice mindfulness at home are as helpful to you as they are to me!
MINDFULNESS FOR BEGINNERS TIP #1:
When I’m lying in bed, feeling restless, I do an exercise that I call senses observation using my sense of sound and sense of touch. I start by observing sounds. What do I hear? I identify and label each sound individually: my own breathing, the whirl of the air conditioning unit, a siren in the distance, etc. Then I move on to touch. I identify and label everything I feel: My limbs on the mattress, the weight of the duvet, my hand resting on my chest, my hair brushing across my cheek, and so on. This is a mindfulness exercise that can also be done anywhere and you can incorporate as many senses as works for you. For example, if you’re stressed at the office, start with sound and touch but then you can also try sight – pick a color and identify and label how many objects in your general presence have that color.
MINDFULNESS FOR BEGINNERS TIP #2:
Like I mentioned above, I’m not one for journaling, but one meditation exercise I like to practice at least a few times a week is a gratitude exercise. My “what if bad things happen” anxiety spiral likes to take over around 10:30 PM when I’m lying in bed trying to fall asleep so when this happens, I make myself repeat 5 things I’m grateful for – either generally or that happened that day. My gratitude list could be as general as being grateful for my health or my relationship, or as specific as my morning subway transfer time perfectly lining up or a nice email I received at work. I will either make the list in my head or sometimes even whisper it out loud, and repeat as needed until I feel calmer.
MINDFULNESS FOR BEGINNERS TIP #3: VISUALIZATIONS
I alternate between two different types of visualization exercises when I want to be more mindful and stop the anxiety spiral.
The first visualization is to help me stop obsessing or ruminating over whatever is bothering me. I call this the closed door exercise. It’s exactly as it sounds: I visualize whatever is bothering me – for example, a frustrating exchange at work – and then I visualize a huge heavy door closing or steel walls coming down all around me, blocking out the exchange, completely shielding me from it. Then I tell myself, that ‘thing’ is in the box over there, behind the door, wherever, and is put away. I’m “closing the door” on the thing that’s bothering me and keeping it out.
The second visualization exercise that I often do is to visualize myself in my happy place, which is generally lying on the most pristine white sand beach all by myself, with warm turquoise water gently lapping at my legs and the hot sun on my skin. I imagine that I can feel the sand, hear the waves and tell myself that’s where I am (mentally, at least). I remind myself how beautiful and calm it is and I can feel myself relax.
So there you have it! My top 3 tips for beginning a meditation or mindfulness practice at home, even when you hate meditating!
Do you have any tips to share? I would love to hear from you in the comments below!