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Meditation, but make it less airy-fairy - here's your simple guide to getting started

Ask anyone whether they meditate and I bet the majority will say 'I've tried it, but it's not for me' or 'it didn't work so I gave up' - this has been the case for me as a therapist anyway and I believe them. I believe many people have tried and haven't found it helpful. But I also believe there's a barrier at play. As humans we are bombarded with so much information telling us what to do, selling us the latest fad and adding more and more to our never-ending to do list that our lives are becoming so distant from the essence of meditation - slowing down. In this blog I hope to offer a simple guide to understanding what it means to meditate, your unique reason why you might want to, a key factor that's been holding you back and ways you can get started.

In a nutshell

Meditation is an ancient practice that dates back thousands of years, rooted in various cultures and spiritual traditions. At its core, meditation is about training the mind to focus and redirect thoughts. Now, the terms mindfulness and meditation have been thrown around a lot recently so many of us may feel unsure about their differences. Mindfulness is a specific type of meditation practice, whereas meditation is the broader term that incorporates this and many other techniques of focusing the mind and calming the body.

Your 'why'

None of us have time to do something simply because we feel we ought to or have been told it's good for us - we have to have a genuine reason or connection to want to do something and to be able to stick at it. So here's a few examples of why you might want to try meditation:

  1. To reduce your stress levels and anxiety

  2. If you've noticed a lack of focus and concentration

  3. Improve your self-awareness and emotional regulation

  4. For a better nights sleep

  5. Increase your compassion and empathy towards others

  6. For a heightened sense of overall wellness (mood, appetite, sleep, movement etc)

Now for the part no one else told you

You see the part that most of us find the most difficult and hence the reason we get put off is we think our minds are too noisy and bodies too restless to sit still - so we right it off after the first few seconds as it not being 'for us'. The thing is, you can be crap at meditation and it still works. The mere intention to sit with yourself is an act of self-care as far as our brains are concerned, which voila, triggers are comfort system. Also just remember, the very act of meditating is to turn down the volume of your thoughts - your words and thoughts about how crap it may be only point to the experience, they are not the experience itself.

  1. You don't need a fancy yoga mat, buddha incense burner and relaxing music at the ready to start meditating - though if that's what you need to get you in the zone then absolutely go for it! I've got to admit, I bought this scented oil diffuser a couple of years ago and I find it so relaxing a perfect addition when I want to meditate at home. Find a quiet and comfortable space where you won't get disturbed, it could be a corner of your room, a little spot in nature or a designated meditation space.

  2. Set a time - start small, initially aim for short sessions such as 5-10 minutes, something that fits into your daily schedule so that it can become a regular routine.

  3. Build it up - keep reminding yourself that meditation isn't about 'being good' or 'bad' at it, it's just a little bit of time for you. If the word itself puts you off, don't call it meditation call it whatever you like! As you practice more, gradually increase the duration at your own pace.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach, there are so many different techniques so it's worth doing a bit of research and having a try of different ones to find something that feels good for you. For example, you could try breath awareness exercises, mindfulness meditation (which includes grounding, things like walking bare foot in the grass, practising yoga or pilates) or guided meditations. Guided meditations are great if you find it challenging on your own, there are so many apps and online resources offering different scripts to listen to each time and also physical resources you can try. Books like this draw breath are a great alternative to learning breath work and focusing the mind, if you'd prefer a different approach.

Wrapping it up

I hope that by breaking it down and tapping into the many ways you can approach meditation, it has opened your mind up to how you can simplify the process and still harness the benefits. Remember, all you need is a quiet space, a few minutes and the willingness to be present in the moment. So, take a deep breath, start small and enjoy finding your own path towards a calmer you.

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