A Beginner’s Guide To Meditation
During these challenging and unprecedented times – and given that many of us have more time on our hands right now – it’s not surprising that a spotlight is shining on stress-relieving, holistic practises.
Meditation is something I’ve practised for more than 15 years and it’s been a source of strength for me through good times and bad. Everyone can meditate and it really is one of the most effective self-help tools. Research continues to prove its amazing benefits such as helping to lower blood pressure, improving concentration and of course, decreasing stress and anxiety, so it’s a fantastic all-rounder to have in your wellbeing armoury.
But where do you begin? A common question I get asked all the time by people starting out in meditation is ‘How do I switch my thoughts off?’ So let’s just clarify something here – we can’t switch our thoughts off, even with meditation. We have about 60,000-80,000 thoughts a day, so when it feels busy in our minds it’s because it is! However, what we learn through meditation is that we can choose what we focus on and practise over and over again, bringing our focus back to one thing. That might be our breath, a mantra, an affirmation or even a colour. For example, while meditating you might think, ‘I forgot to write that email today. Oh no they will think I’m rude…’ and then the train of thought and worry sets in. So when that thought comes, acknowledge it, but then bring your focus straight back to your breath, breathing in and out. When the next thought comes, because it will, again bring your focus back to your breath and so it continues. You will slowly start to become the observer of your thoughts and adopt a non-judgemental approach, just allowing the thoughts to pass by like clouds in the sky. This practice for the mind is very similar to working your muscles at the gym – the more you do it, the easier it will become. And the most wonderful thing is that the more you practise, the more you will be able to use this skill in everything you do, becoming more present in every moment and able to give each thing you do your full attention.
Meditation will also help you to become less reactive in situations where a considered response is more helpful – it allows you time to assess. So, as you meditate, invite thoughts and noises around you to come and go and know that they are a reminder for you to bring your focus and awareness back to your breath.
To ease you into meditation, I’ve created a simple 7-day Meditation Challenge which encourages you to make it a regular part of your routine. Each daily meditation is perfect for relieving stress and providing some guidance to navigate through these unsettling times. I hope you enjoy them!