What springs to mind when you think of meditation? Total serenity, peace of mind and clarity (sounds amazing!)? Hours sat cross-legged, ohm-ing and humming (not quite so amazing…)? It’s everywhere these days, and you’ve probably got your own ideas of it and the benefits it brings. But surely, there’s no way you could fit half an hour of mind-clearing meditation in when you’ve got 1,000 things on your to-do list, screaming babies/toddlers probably destroying some precious ornament or a dog/cat/budgie that needs feeding/walking/petting desperately?
Actually, as I discovered (thank goodness I did!), you can fit meditation into a very small time-frame. Say, 3 minutes. That doesn’t mean you lose out on the benefits though! I found meditating for 3 minutes left me feeling recharged, relaxed, and not thinking of the 1,000 things on my to-do list.
Keep reading for some more bite-sized info about what meditation is and why you really, REALLY need to try it out – go on, who doesn’t have 3 minutes?
What actually is meditation?
At it’s most basic, it is a way to quieten the mind. It is still seen as a religious/spiritual thing, but it can just be used for simple relaxation.
Meditation myths and the truths behind them
There are so many myths around meditation and I believed so many of them myself, I’ll be honest! Here are a few of the bigger myths that I’ve noticed, and the truth behind them!
- Meditation means having a silent mind. Like that would ever happen! Meditation is about recognising the internal monkey in your head and deciding not to pay attention to it. It’s like you’re getting onto every train that pulls into the station (if the service hasn’t been cancelled, that is). You’ve got to choose whether to get on the train or not. Most of the time, we do. You get more chance to stay on the platform and overrule those invasive thoughts with meditation.
- Meditation takes forever! Any length of time meditating can give you tonnes of benefits, which I’m pretty sure I proved by giving you the 3-minute meditation. No need to spend hours sat cross-legged (numb feet, anyone?). Just 3 minutes.
- Meditation is for religious or spiritual purposes. You can be a total athiest and still enjoy the benefits of meditation.
Why do I need to meditate?
There are so many benefits to meditation, including some you probably already know about and others you probably didn’t. Here’s some more convincing, if you need it (3 minutes!):
- Stress reduction (yes please!). This is probably the most obvious one and the most popular reason people try meditation these days. It also actually works – trust me, it does, but if you want proof, this article has a load of research links.
- It can improve your mood and your emotions. When you’re looking at your extensive to-do list or some member of your family is yelling for something, you won’t feel quite so annoyed. It can even help to reduce anxiety or depression.
- It can reduce work stress! Whether you have a business or work for someone else, this is a fantastic benefit!
- It can help increase your awareness. This includes awareness of yourself. This is the more spiritual angle of meditation.
- It can increase compassion to yourself and others. It’s amazing that it can make you kinder to others, but we could all do a lot more self-compassion, couldn’t we?
Tips for meditating
Whether you’ve suddenly been taken over by an urge to meditate or you’ve done it before, here are some tips to help you:
- Make a habit of it by doing it first thing in the morning, before you get caught up in kids/business/commute, etc.
- Forget the how. Just do it. Sit on a chair/sofa/bed. You don’t even need to be cross-legged (no numb feet!). Just sit somewhere quiet.
- Find something to focus on. Count your breaths, repeat a mantra (try here for some good ones) or focus on a physical object like a candle flame.
- Use a guided meditation. There’s the 3-minute one I’ve linked already, but here’s another one for you to try.
- When thoughts arise (which they definitely will!), when you realise you’ve gotten on the train, return to focussing on your breath or your mantra or object. You’ll get off the train again and be still.
- Do not, for goodness sake, worry that you’re not doing it right. There isn’t really a right or wrong. Meditation is called a practice for a reason – you won’t be perfect first time. But then, it isn’t really about perfection!
Why you need to meditate
Taking 3 minutes to yourself a day to meditate and re-centre can actually help you be more present in the rest of your life. Think about it this way – when you’re [insert activity here] with your kids/husband/laptop, are you really fully present? Or are you thinking about your massive to-do list? I know what I’m doing and I’d put money on the fact you’re exactly the same.
What have you got to lose? 3 minutes out in return for a half hour of present, ridiculously fun times with your kids or other half. Or even better focus on your work!
Here are the resources all neat and tidy for those who skimmed to the bottom (I know you’re there!). Take my word for it, it’s a worthwhile investment.
3 minute meditation
7 minute meditation
Links for further reading
Some handy mantras for you
More tips on meditating
The scientific benefits
Apps to try
Headspace – they have some free guided meditations to get you started.