Chances are that you've seen articles about mindfulness and meditation. While these aren't new topics by any means (think centuries), they do seem to suddenly be trending everywhere. If you enter those words into google, there are literally millions of search results. If you are anything like me, when hearing the word meditation you may think of a Buddhist monk hovering above the ground in the lotus position while being locked in a trance. While transcendental meditation is certainly possible(as far as I know floating is not), this is definitely something that most of us probably won't ever achieve in our lifetime. This is like the holy grail of meditation. Who has time to sit in the lotus position for hours a day trying to float, and shut out the world?! Here's the thing. Meditation, in its simplest form, is simply concentrating on one thing.
When was the last time any of us concentrated on only one thing? How many times are you on your smart phone while watching tv? What about when you eat a meal? Do you concentrate on your food, or are you checking the latest trending topics? Do you ever look down and feel a little surprise that you have finished your entire meal, but really can't remember any of it? How often do you spend your down time looking ahead to the next thing?
When it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, with a healthy balance, mindfulness is the key. Being mindful just means to stop and think. For someone trying to start or maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle this is the epitome of putting your health first. How does meditation help with being mindful? Anytime that you meditate you are training your brain to stop everything else that it is doing, and concentrate on one thing. In other words, you are teaching your brain to calm the heck down. Meditation, according to many articles, can help limit the release of cortisol in your body which you've probably heard by now is a stress hormone, and can cause fat to store itself in your body. Outside of that doesn't stopping and just being sound great? So, what counts as meditation? Believe or not, there are many things that count as meditation besides the lotus position. You can meditate while driving. All you have to do is shut off the radio, breathe, and concentrate just on driving. Don't think about work, family problems, or anything else other than what is happening on the road.(That's great advice for everyone) Some people take up art, or crafting as a stress reliever because they are only concentrating on that one thing. I myself craft for this purpose which is how I got the idea to start my online store. Exercise is a proven stress reliever and can be a form of meditation if you focus. (Exercise also has many other benefits which we'll talk about later)
But why not try meditating the way the monks do? Find 10 minutes and sit in the lotus position, shut your eyes, and just breathe deeply in and out through your nose. When a thought pops in, let it go, and just keep breathing. If many thoughts come to your mind at first that's okay. You are retraining your brain to concentrate on one thing and let everything else go, and this takes time. Keep your focus on your breath. On the days where I wake up before everyone else, I sit up in bed and meditate on the spot. It's a wonderful way to start your day. The best part of getting started is there isn't a wrong way to do it. As long as you are trying to meditate, you are meditating. You just have to make it a priority.
When you start being mindful, stopping before you do something and thinking about it becomes easier. For me, if I feel stressed instead of reaching for whatever food is on hand, now I stop and think about why I want the food, and remind myself that I am not hungry. I just take a few deep breaths and move on. Want to stop finding yourself at the bottom of Ben & Jerry's when you feel depressed? Stop before you grab it in the first place, and breathe. Do something more productive. The same for when you are angry (or hangry), feel the midnight munchies, or decide to enjoy a little treat. Use mindfulness to exercise portion control. If you are reaching for Ben & Jerry, and you know it's just because you want it and not to feed some emotional need, then get a bowl and have a scoop. (Not the whole pint) When you are eating a meal, put away everything else and just eat. Not only will you eat more slowly so that you are less likely to overeat, but you will actually taste and enjoy (hopefully) your food.
Learn to let negative emotions go by being mindful of what you can and can't change. Take a few minutes to breathe and gain a little clarity. I challenge you to be unapologetically selfish about finding time for yourself to breathe. Stop and say, "ommmmm."