So you want to learn about meditation? My first day meditating I almost cried (actually). I remember a friend of mine had suggested I try the practice and he was so zen, so happy (he is an awesome freaking dude), so after much squirming and procrastination I finally tried it for a 3 minute sit. Well it was so overwhelming I almost lost it, but I said f**k it and committed to trying again and again, it couldn’t have been more worth it!
Meditation is not some crazy out of the body experience or stopping your thoughts or anything of the sort, it’s actually the complete opposite. Meditation is about spending time with yourself, allowing your thoughts to happen and being ok and content with those thoughts. Check out this podcast for a deep dive into what meditation is. More on this topic later, for now, here’s why learning to meditate is so important:
The Benefits of Meditation
- Aids in the production of Serotonin – The happy chemical in your brain
- Reduces Cortisol levels – The stress hormone. Too much cortisol causes inflammation and stress, which over time leads to other DIS-Ease in the body
- Increases levels of GABA – The calm hormone. Stabilizes your mood, especially in those addicted to any substance, such as; caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, who typically have low levels of GABA.
- Increases DHEA – The Longevity hormone. One of the most important hormones when it comes to the aging process
- Increase GH production – The growth hormone. Known as the fountain of youth because of it’s ability to repair our cells. GH is produced during deep delta state brain waves which can be achieved through meditation
- Increases melatonin – The sleep hormone. Regulates our circadian rhythm and helps us sleep.
So let’s recap: I will be happier, less stressed, calmer, age less and sleep better— well why isn’t everyone doing it?
I’ll tell you why, because anyone who has meditated before knows this shit ain’t easy! But nothing worth having comes easy. It takes practice, patience and will, but once you understand what meditation truly is and start reaping the benefits of these brain chemicals, it becomes natural and therapeutic..
How to Meditate
There are many different forms of meditation (transcendental meditation, guided visualization, mantra, mindfulness, etc.), but ultimately the end result is the same, it’s how you get there that’s different. It’s up to you to find what is most comfortable and what works best for you.
To get started you can attend in-person guided meditation classes, there are free apps like HeadSpace and EvenFlow that are great for beginners or you can find guided meditations in audio form that can walk you through a practice (try this one, it’s my favourite: The Powers of Ten – Jeff Warren).
For those of you who want to start at this moment, here is a quick step by step tutorial.
- Set a timer for at least 1 min (I’d recommend going for at least 5 or 10mins thought)
- Make a commitment to that meditation. Pick a quiet spot and sit or lay in a comfortable position. You don’t need to have perfect posture to meditate!
- Pick something to focus on whether it’s your breath, a positive sentence you want to repeat , or even the sounds around you
- Close your eyes and focus on whatever you have committed to. When your brain decides to say ‘fuck this what am I eating for breaky?’ acknowledge that thought, maybe even laugh at it, be content with not answering that question and then come back to whatever you have committed to.
- Repeat this process and whenever your mind strays just acknowledge it and come back to your breath or whatever commitment you decided on. Each time you come back to that, count it as a repetition if that helps. Just like exercising, the more reps you do the better you get.
- A tip is to get really interested in whatever you have committed to, if it’s your breath for instance, how the air feels going into your lungs, how it’s cold or warm, how when you exhale your shoulders, relax and so on and so on
- Commit to this for your chosen time, start off with 30 seconds if you have to but do it everyday, and I promise you, you wont regret it!
Building a Meditation Practice
There is no “end” to a meditation practice, it’s a life long journey and something that you continue to build on and learn as you go. Meditation can be practiced anytime and anywhere, and in this case, the more the better! I’d recommend meditating at least once a day, however mediation can be a great tool to use at any point in the day that you begin to feel overwhelmed, stressed, anxious or just off. Don’t worry about the length of time, being in the perfect setting or anything else for that matter, just be thankful that you’re taking some time out of your day to be with your thoughts. I like to try different types of meditation as it allows me to take bits and pieces from each to implement in my own practice.
In todays world many of us live such a busy lifestyle, and with our addiction to mobile phones we rarely spend honest time with ourself and our thoughts. Allow meditation to be that tool that separates you from everything else going on in life and let it remind you that you are who you are, and that who you are is exactly who you need to be.