School is back in full force! I’m in my third year now, which is our last year of classes before we start as interns at the Robert Schad Naturopathic Clinic! This year is going to be really busy so I was incredibly happy to have a whole month off in August to relax and rejuvenate before starting this crazy year. I took full advantage of it and spent most of it at my family cottage. It was amazing to be out of the city and surrounded by fresh air.
With the extra time I had this summer, I took the chance to work on developing a daily meditation practice for myself. I had been working on this on and off since January but I was having a hard time working it into my already very busy schedule. I figured if I could build it into my routine in the summer, maybe I would be able to keep it up even when my schoolwork got crazy again. So far this theory has worked so we’ll see if I can keep it up!
I have had a lot of questions from friends and family about my meditation practice and how I got started so I thought it would be fun to write about it! As a reminder, I am in no way an expert on this subject!! I have been working on it for many months now and I am still struggling and learning new methods of coping with my anxiety every single day. However, I’m happy to share my tips and tricks for developing my routine and maybe they will work for you too!
There are many different forms of meditation out there and you have to find the one that works for you. I have chosen to focus on mindfulness. I really like that the goal of mindfulness therapy is not to completely get rid of anxiety! It is in our nature to be anxious about the unknown, about feeling sick, about speaking in front of people, and about so many other things. What is not normal, is our reactions to those anxious thoughts. Being anxious about having anxiety makes everything so much worse! The goal is not to have no anxiety but to be mindful that you’re having an anxious thought and then be able to let it go.
Meditation is incredibly beneficial no matter what form you choose to practice and I think these tips will be helpful for everyone 🙂
- Read blogs and books, watch videos and lectures and look at anything you can get your hands on about mindfulness/meditation! Find a practice that intrigues you! Being excited to try it and work towards a daily routine will make it a lot easier than if it’s something you feel forced into. The book I read that really kick-started my motivation to practice mindfulness was The Mindful Way Through Anxiety by Susan M. Orsillo and Lizabeth Roemer. They are both very knowledgeable on the subject and they take you through a step-by-step process for developing a mindfulness practice. It is full of tons of examples from their clinical experiences, as well as lots of exercises to practice the skills they discuss. I found it really helped me understand exactly how mindfulness could help me. It’s also great to be reading a book when you’re starting a mindfulness practice because every time you see the book sitting around it reminds you to take a moment to check in with yourself, breathe, and be mindful of your thoughts in that moment.
- Another great option to learn more about mindfulness is to take a course! I haven’t gone this route because the thought of taking another course on top of the 12 I’m already taking in school is too exhausting to consider! But I hope to have the time to take many courses on this subject one day 🙂 if this is something you’re interested in, I would highly recommend the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Workshop that my mom recently attended. It is an 8-week course in which you will learn mindfulness meditation techniques and how to incorporate them into your daily life.
- Think about why you want to do this. It is going to take a long time before you wake up in the morning and feel excited to sit down and meditate! In the mean time, it helps to have a reason that you’re doing it, something that you can say to yourself that will convince you to take the time out of your day to meditate. Are you doing it to decrease your anxiety about school and perform better? Are you doing it to help your digestive system flow a little better? Are you doing it to improve your overall happiness and well being? Figure out your motivation and remind yourself of it every time you wake up and think it would be nicer to sleep for an extra 15 minutes!
- Find an app or a guided meditation CD to help! Everyone has different preferences for the type of meditation they prefer and how much guidance they want so you have to find the one that works for you. I like some guidance, but not too much, and I prefer to have something slightly different every day. I found it difficult to have to listen to the exact same meditation track every time. When I found Headspace, I instantly loved it!! You get a slightly different recording every day, they keep track of how many meditations you’ve done, they congratulate you for your streaks of more than 3 days in a row, and the man that does the meditations has an awesome voice! I also really like this app (you can get it as an app or just use the website on your computer) because they have created a whole community. You can follow them on twitter and they post articles and tips every day. This serves as a reminder to be mindful whenever they pop up on your twitter feed or in your email. Finding this app was very beneficial for me but you have to find the one that works for you!
- Find your meditation time! This is going to vary greatly from person to person. For me, I have to do it in the morning or it just doesn’t happen. My day gets busy and I never make it a priority once I get going with my day. I find it easier to wake up 10-20 minutes earlier and do it right before I eat my breakfast. This forces me to make time for it and it allows me to start my day in a relaxed and mindful way. Other good times to do it can be to help you unwind from the day before you go to bed or to give you a boost of energy in the middle of your day. Pay attention to your schedule and figure out when it would be most beneficial for you to do it and then set aside that time every single day!
Those are my tips from my experience this summer! I’m definitely still in the initial phases of figuring out my practice and I’m nowhere close to an expert on the subject but I’m really happy with the progress I have made so far! It becomes easier and easier to make the time for it once you start to see the many benefits in your daily life.
My last piece of advice is: Have NO Expectations! I always thought meditating would allow me to totally shut off my brain and get to a place of complete zen. This really affected my motivation at first because I was not feeling the way I thought you “should” feel when you meditate. Once I realized that everybody’s experiences are different, I was able to be okay with my personal experience and stop judging myself for not being able to stop my thoughts completely.
Just remember to breathe 🙂