Hi, friends! I’ve been looking forward to sharing this post with you … Why? Because I’ve actually started something new — meditation — and it’s worth chatting about.
I have to say that I’m pretty proud of the fact that I am doing it, and I’m even more proud of the other unexpected things that starting a meditation practice has uncovered for me. Truth be told: It was a long-time coming. I’ve been reading and even writing about the benefits of meditation and being more mindful for years and years, but was never in a place where I was ready to really jump in until a few months ago. And I’ve always wondered what all the fuss was about …
Then, one morning, I downloaded the Headspace app and just went for it. I did that again for 30 days. I missed a day here and there after those initial 30, but I continued practicing. And now, I’m using the Calm app — I had another 30-day streak, I missed a couple days and am back on it daily and plan to keep it going, meaning it’s been pretty consistent for more than 90 days now.
How I meditate
As I mentioned, I do a guided meditation via the Calm app on my phone, using headphones, so a voice walks me through getting into the zone, and I can passively listen and accept what I’m hearing, while focusing on my breath and awareness. This is working well for me, and I plan to stick with the guided versions rather than do a solo meditation at this point. I like both Headspace and Calm, and would definitely recommend using Headspace to get started for your first 30 days, because it’s a got a ton of helpful tips for walking you through what you’re supposed to be doing.
What I’ve learned from the first 90 days of starting a meditation practice
We all know that meditating is supposed to make you feel zen. But I’ve learned so much more than that. Here we go …
Meditation is a practice.
Here’s the thing about meditation: You probably won’t start out good at it. You may be bored and/or turned off even by the idea. It’s not that easy to be alone with your thoughts and sit still thinking or not thinking — because the goal is to be present, not to get lost in thoughts.
My mind often wanders to other things, and at first, I would think that was a failure. But I’ve learned that the mind will always wander, and now I just need to say “hello” to the thought and get back to stillness and awareness Acknowledging the passing thoughts without letting them throw you off is the ideal way to handle them. Every meditation I learn something new. Some days I am more focused, some days I am not. But it’s a practice, and it’s one that I am enjoying becoming more familiar with. I hope to continue getting better at it, and it’ll take work.
Yes, I can make changes in my life and change behaviors.
This is the biggest one for me.
You know how we all have little stories we tell ourselves about what we can and cannot do? I tend to get stuck in routines and never veer off them (as best as you can when you have a toddler around, anyhow). I teach and take the same workout classes (and have for years). I eat similar food. I watch similar shows. I wear similar things. I just like similar and same. So when it comes to truly changing things up and adding a new behavior in my daily routine — that’s hard for me. I always want to make changes, but then don’t. But I’ve done it with this one. I’ve really added meditation, and that makes me feel good that I can change, and I can add things to my life.
Truthfully, although it’s a new behavior, it doesn’t take much time, and it’s worth all the time spent. And I’m so glad I’m not still walking around saying “one day, I’ll meditate,” because I’m actually doing it. Ten minutes a day and all sorts of benefits.
No matter what happens in your day, if you start it mindfully, you’re better able to handle all that comes.
For the first 20 months or so of Brady’s life, I slept until he woke up, because I really needed and wanted that extra sleep. That meant that every single morning began with both of us starting our day and me tending to many of his needs while and/or before my own. We had a decent routine down, but it was always a little chaotic, especially when trying to get out of the house for me to teach an earlier group fitness class. But now, I set my alarm and wake up about 30 minutes before him, so I can immediately drink some water and set up for my short 10-12 minute meditation. From there, I get my tea ready, organize a few things for breakfast in the kitchen, and then am ready for him and get him up or let Dave get him up.
This isn’t just about me waking up earlier, it’s about me spending those 10-12 minutes in a mindful state, thinking about my breath, being still and forgetting about all the other little to-dos on the list — focusing on ME. I am instantly more peaceful, more ready to handle all that comes and definitely in a better mood than if I started the day in a more spastic way. We all benefit from it. I have really noticed my ability to handle slightly stressful Brady-toddler-tandrum-related situations with a more level head, and those have all been on days that I’ve started with a good meditation.
Gratefulness is more than just a buzzword.
Every single morning when I do my meditation, I always take a minute to tell myself in my head the things I’m thankful for. And this is new to me. I’m not necessarily ungrateful, but meditating has made me be extra grateful. I don’t have a gratitude journal, and I don’t have a specific way of working on my gratitude, but meditation has done that for me, as an extra benefit that I wasn’t expecting from it. It just sort’ve came along for the ride.
In fact, when I sit there with my headphones cross-legged on the couch in front of the windows looking out on our backyard, I am happy to be healthy and able-bodied, I am happy to have my family and house, and I am happy to have a job (or several jobs) that I truly love. I’m totally a recovering perfectionist, and I can definitely get down about things — especially when I fall into the comparison trap on social media, seeing other people’s businesses and followings exploding before my slow-moving eyes. But when I take deep breaths, focus on my breathing and focus on being in the present state — it just makes me feel good, feel content … and, well … feel grateful. And gratefulness goes a long way. You feel better about yourself, your situation, and thus, you’re able to make better decisions and show up better for those in your life. And that’s pretty powerful.
You are more than your body. Mental fitness is a thing.
This one may seem a little fluffy, but hear me out. Being a mom, a group fitness instructor and someone who writes about health and wellness for a living, it can be easy to get wrapped up in food, fitness, workouts, mobility, movement and all of that. You know, always trying to improve how strong or fast or fit you are.
But really, when you’re sitting still meditating and focusing on your breath — you are more than your body. Learning how to control your thoughts is an entirely new practice for me that does not include repetitions, weight, cardio or physical challenge. It’s a mental challenge, and I LOVE working on something new. I know I can hold a plank for several minutes, and I know I can do 1,000 reps in a BODYPUMP class, but I can barely keep my mind focused on the out breath for 30 seconds without wandering — but I’m determined to get better at it. This whole idea of working on something mental is a great way to move away from preoccupation with the body, appearance, etc., and that’s definitely not what I expected to learn.
It just feels good.
When it comes down to it, meditation feels good. I crave it now. And I love that post-meditation feeling so much. I always come out centered, feeling strong, happy and good about spending time on something that ultimately makes me a better person — a person who knows their place, has perspective and can handle their thoughts like a champ with true awareness. (Although, I still have a lot of work to do on this!)
In closing, meditation is not just a fad or a trendy activity. It’s a longstanding and effective practice that helps you achieve mindfulness and mental stability too. And it’s the real deal.
If you’ve been wondering if meditation is something that could benefit you, I truly encourage you to just jump right in and give it a go.
(Wearing the best leggings.)
How to get started meditating …
- Charge your phone, download the Headspace app.
- Find a quiet place in your home with no people, or distractions.
- Sit up, with a straight spine, either on a chair, couch or bed.
- Pop on some headphones.
- Click on Headspace, find the Basics course, hit play and go. You can choose from 3-10 minutes and shoot for 10 minutes for your first session.
- Have an open mind, breathe, keep your eyes closed, and soak it up.
A few tips for meditating …
- Try to do it every single day, because you get better the more you do it, and consistency is key.
- I think first thing in the morning is ideal, so set your alarm to get up a bit earlier and get those 10-20 minutes in — but any time is better than nothing.
- Invest in some noise-canceling headphones with good sound, because it makes the experience even better when you’re using a guided meditation. I use these.
- I would recommend using Headspace for at least your first 30 days, because it is top notch when it comes to gently introducing you to the idea of meditation. From there, you can purchase Headspace to continue or try Calm, which has a free 7-day trial. There are other apps, I’m sure, but I think these two are the most popular. Calm has little daily lessons that offer up advice on life like happiness, relationships, stress, etc. and you get the best quote tiles (shown above in this post) once you finish each day too — love that.
- Consider doing additional short meditations throughout the day as needed. Unfortunately, because my only quiet time during the day is Brady’s 2-2.5 hour nap, which I use exclusively for work, I haven’t done a second meditation, but I feel like it would be awesome and a great way to get centered if your day goes awry, and I may give it a go soon.
- Remember that meditating is a practice, and you’ll have good days and bad days, but the fact that you are investing any time in it at all speaks wonders for your effort — good job!
The most important thing to note is that I’m just a beginner and I definitely don’t have the answers, but I’m feeling very excited about this new endeavor and absolutely will be keeping it going, so expect more to come on this.
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Questions of the day
Do you meditate or have you ever tried it?
What’s something new that you’ve started that you feel good about?
How was your weekend?