With busy schedules and constant distractions, a lifestyle filled with unhealthy amounts of stress is the norm. We all could benefit from a bit more relaxation and reflection (I know I could), but actually doing it seems intimidating or unrealistic. To challenge this perception, I tried out 5 minutes of simple meditation every day for two weeks, journaling through the experiment to discover what methods worked best to quiet my mind and body.
Read on for my some of my day-to-day experiences, plus 5 tips to help you get started with your own practice.
Meditation 101 – How Just 5 Minutes Worked for Me
Day 1 / Started out my experiment by meditating in the morning, sitting on my bed with the lights off, focusing on taking deep breaths. Picked a word to represent something negative that I was feeling (anxious) and a word that represented something positive that I wanted to feel (peace) then repeated the positive with a breath in and the negative with a breath out. Expected the time to drag on, but it went by quickly!
Day 4 / Woke up on the wrong side of the bed, so I started by repeating, “I will enjoy this day.” Felt funny at first, but as I repeated the phrase, I found myself thinking of all the things I have to be thankful for (someone loving in my life, coffee, laughter, a beautiful storm outside, delicious breakfast, etc.) and it resulted in a total perspective shift! Day. Made.
Day 5 / Tried meditation a little later in the morning, but this was SUPER hard as my mind was in “work” mode. Was very distracted, so I focused on breathing again and trying to still my mind instead of planning out the day. Took note to try something else besides telling my mind not to be busy (which has not been helpful).
Day 7 / Used some simple spiritual sayings (or, a mantra) that I had memorized before as a vehicle for relaxing my mind. This was very helpful as it gave my mind somewhere to go instead of just trying to tell it to calm itself. Time flew by and the thoughts were so helpful throughout the rest of the day!
Day 9 / Went longer than 5 minutes today because I didn’t feel finished! Practiced being aware of tension in my body, trying to specifically pinpoint where I was holding stress in my muscles. Once I found it in my shoulders, gave myself a simple shoulder rub. I’m starting to notice my breath throughout the day which helps release any tension buildup.
Day 11 / Today was the first time I felt like I truly was able to let go of distractions and was completely relaxed and present in the moment. Tried out a visualization technique: pictured myself swimming underwater where the water was calm, even while a big storm was happening up on the surface above. As thoughts about my schedule or to-do list came to my mind, I let them pass over me just like the stormy waves. Did a few shoulder rolls and neck stretches to relieve tension.
Day 12 / Completely forgot to meditate today.
Day 14 / Got up a few minutes earlier and found a quiet room to meditate. Visualized how I wanted the day to go, specifically how I wanted to respond to stressful situations that I knew may come up. Left the practice excited about taking on the day’s challenges instead of dreading them.
5 Meditation Tips for Beginners
After two weeks of trying out simple meditation, here are 5 things I found helpful.
1. Make it manageable.
Five minutes may seem like an inconsequential amount of time, but it was long enough to pause and still my body and mind. Plus, such a short amount of time seemed less intimidating and gave me zero excuse for pushing it off, even with a busy schedule.
2. Minimize external distractions.
It was significantly easier to quiet myself when I was alone in a room where there was minimal movement and noise going on around me. Even though a tranquil environment isn’t always realistic, switch off the tv, turn your phone on silent, or shut the door for a few minutes to give yourself a bit of peace and quiet.
3. Start early.
My best times of meditation happened early on in the day, before my mind had a chance to start spinning on projects, conversations, and to-do lists. Incorporating a simple practice into your morning routine enables you to start you out on the right foot and set an intention for the rest day.
4. Have a direction.
It was essentially impossible for me to “will” my mind to slow down, but when I had a direction, my time was more relaxing and less frustrating. Before you meditate, find a meaningful phrase you could repeat or a helpful picture or scenario you could visualize. Or if you know where your areas of tension are in your body, choose several simple stretches you could perform to target those muscles.
5. Focus on breathing.
Deep and steady breathing is the single best way to relax any time, any place. This practice calms the nervous system and allows your body to heal from the detrimental effects of stress such as poor digestion and inflammation. Place a hand on your abdomen and practice breathing so that your belly lifts your hand, instead of taking shallow breaths from your chest.
Now it’s time to try it out for yourself! Happy meditating.