If your mind goes a mile per minute, these meditation tips are for you.
Even though I’ve been a long time meditator, I am constantly struggling to really shut my head off. Step into my “monkey mind,” the intrusive, restless thoughts that keep me from finding mental calm.
Even when I take time for silence, a flood of thoughts often wash me into a sea of worries, worries, and – wait, do I have chicken or fish for dinner tonight?
While the idea of calming the mind and enjoying meditation sounds wonderfully rejuvenating, actually reaching a meditative state can be an uphill struggle for those of us with overactive thoughts.
If you think too much, you may have come to believe that meditation is not for you. But according to experts, successful meditation is also possible for people with busy minds.
Here are nine strategies to try.
As with any other good habit, practice makes perfect when it comes to calming our minds.
Choosing a regular time of day is an easy step to train your brain that it is time to relax.
“Consistent daily practice is one way to see the greatest mental health benefits of meditation,” says psychotherapist Haley Neidich, LCSW.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to be militant in planning your meditation session at 6:00 a.m. every day.
“Meditation shouldn’t have rules. It should be intuitive and feel good for every single practitioner, ”says Neidich. “The best time of day to practice is the time of day when you actually adhere to it.”
It is not easy to slip into a meditative state when you are surrounded by mountains of laundry or two meters away from your wailing toddler. Your physical environment is important, especially in the early stages of your meditation practice.
Consider curating a room in your home just for meditation. It doesn’t have to be big.
Perhaps this means naming a particular chair, lighting a candle with a pleasant scent, or sitting in front of a favorite picture. In time, you will associate this peaceful place with a clear head.
The more experience you gain, the more you can enjoy the serenity of a meditative state when you are not at home on your comfortable pillow.
“Meditation is as much a practical as it is a spiritual tool,” says Neidich. “We have to be able to take it with us everywhere.”
Meditation may feel like a very personal act, but there is surprising strength in numbers.
“Collective energy is a powerful thing, and there is no doubt that meditating with a partner or in a class can enhance your experience,” said Candice Fairoth, the Los Angeles-based breathing and meditation teacher.
Making meditation a buddy activity not only helps us break away from our own thought loops, it also gives us responsibilities that we cannot get on our own.
“I believe that it helps us to step into a container with others, to pull ourselves out of our heads and into the experience,” says Fairoth. “There is also a desire to show ourselves more comprehensively, because we know that we are part of something that is greater than ourselves.”
Meditating simply means adding immersive technology to your practice.
This may seem counter-intuitive. Isn’t meditating just about pulling the plug? In that case, stay with me.
I have been using a virtual reality headset for years to focus with amazing results. Strapping the big device to my face and choosing images like a peaceful forest or a sunny beach effectively removes any outside distractions and allows me to really calm my mind.
If a VR headset is not in your budget, there are also free ways to meditate virtually.
For example, watch a YouTube video of your favorite landscape. Imagine being surrounded by the beauty on your screen.
Don’t close the YouTube app yet! Pre-recorded guided meditations could be the over-thinker’s gateway to contemplative success.
Hearing a guiding voice gives the brain something to focus on and keeps intrusive thoughts at bay.
Even if a guided journey does not bring your mind into complete stillness, it is no less useful than silent meditation.
“Guided meditations are very powerful for getting all the benefits one would expect from meditation,” says Fairoth. “These include activating the sympathetic nervous system, relieving anxiety, improving mood, lowering blood pressure, lowering the heart rate and reducing the stress response.”
Choose a video or recording that fits your personal goals, such as: B. a meditation against anxiety, better sleep or more concentration.
There is no shortage of options online and in meditation apps.
There’s a reason yoga and meditation go hand in hand. Coordinating your inhalations and exhalations to physical movements actually has measurable effects on your mental focus.
A 2018 study found that exercise- and breath-focused yoga reduced stress parameters. Breath-focused practice, in particular, improved sustained alertness.
Adding movement can also take the pressure off the feeling of simply “being” during meditation.
“A lot of people find it way too difficult to sit with an empty mind,” notes Fairoth. “Combining exercise with things like tai chi, yoga, or walking achieves many of the same effects without such mental effort.”
Controlled breath work is a secret weapon used to calm the mind. In fact, numerous meditation practices are based solely on breathing, with the idea that mental and emotional benefits will follow.
Even slowing down our breathing has proven effects, such as: B. calming the nervous system and reducing feelings of anxiety. Meanwhile, paying attention to your breath is a constant focus during meditation, a welcome relief from troublesome thoughts.
Music makes almost everything better, and meditation is no exception.
Studies like this one from 2012 and this one from 2007 show that the right music can train the brain to be more attentive. Some research even suggests that listening to New Age style music can slow your heart rate more than silence.
“Especially for people with anxiety or those who are reluctant to begin meditation because of a busy mind, music or background noise can be an excellent tool,” says Neidich.
Your ideal meditation music can be anything you associate with calm and focus. Experiment with different styles of music to find out what suits you.
Finally, if you are struggling with monkey wits, it is best to give yourself a little grace. Beating yourself up isn’t good for the meditative atmosphere anyway. The reality is that racing thoughts are perfectly normal.
“We live in a culture that stimulates our brains and senses 24/7, so it’s no wonder we struggle with that,” says Fairoth. “I always tell my customers that they shouldn’t be so hard on themselves and understand that it’s not just them, it’s society.”
Also, your version of successful meditation may be very different from the guru-on-a-mountain picture, and that’s fine.
“We have to normalize what meditation looks like,” says Neidich. “It’s not sitting in a particular position with your palms up and your mind empty. Meditation means finding a brief sense of peace and quiet during a period of devotional practice, wherever you may be. “
Meditating can be an accessible form of relaxation, centering, and self-exploration, even if your mind is walking a mile per minute.
With a few simple steps, you may find the perfect meditation method for you.
Sarah Garone, NDTR, is a nutritionist, freelance health journalist, and food blogger. She lives in Mesa, Arizona with her husband and three children. Find them with down-to-earth health and nutritional information and (mostly) healthy recipes at A Love Letter to Food.