How to meditate: Increase productivity & decrease stress

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how-to-meditate

Between the internal mind-chatter of thoughts, worries, judgements, mental-to-do lists, criticism and our almost constant intake of information, we are causing our brains a lot of stress. That’s because our brain is hardwired to seek out and assess threats and it’s got plenty to keep it busy these days. You can help your anxious, overwhelmed brain out by spending just five to ten minutes every morning giving it what it needs. One of the best ways to give your brain a break is to learn how to meditate. It trains you to minimise your thinking, stop scrolling and breathe deeply. 

After you learn how to meditate you may think meditation has superpowers

Managing stress helps your ability to focus which makes you way more productive. When you meditate you have more patience and are more relaxed. People who learn how to meditate report that they have reduced stress levels, improved sleep quality and a reduction in pain. 

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Research has found that meditation can “permanently rewire the brain to raise levels of happiness, lower stress, even improve immune function.” [1] We could all use more happiness, less stress and better immune systems!

Finding the right type of meditation for you

There are a million different kinds of meditation so finding the right fit for you will make meditation feel a lot easier. To keep it super simple, here are the three common types of meditation:

  • Insight meditation
    This, in my opinion, is the hardest kind of meditation. It’s the one I started with and I couldn’t do it. Still can’t. But some people absolutely love it. During Insight Meditation you sit and notice your thoughts. You let them drift by you as if they were clouds in the sky. You don’t immerse yourself in the thoughts you’re having, you simply notice them. In noticing your thoughts without getting caught up in them, you’ll have some insights. You’ll be calm and at ease and full of wisdom, or so I’ve heard. This might be the perfect kind of meditation for you, it just wasn’t the right fit for me.
  • Concentration meditation
    This was the practice that worked for me when I tried meditation a second time. During Concentration Meditation practices, you find one thing to focus your mind on. Some people can do this with a candle or their breath. Other people use a word or phrases to concentrate their mind on. I repeat four phrases that I learned in a loving-kindness meditation retreat every time I meditate. This gives my brain something to focus on so it can’t run away with planning out my day or having conversations in my mind or all of the other hijinks it likes to get up to.
  • Moving Meditation
    You can do moving meditation simply by going for a nice slow walk and noticing the fresh air and your breath flowing in and out of your lungs. You can also do yoga or Tai Chi or Qi Gong or just dance around your living room, as long as you are totally present to what you’re doing and whenever you notice your mind wandering, you bring it back to your movement.

How to meditate:

Start with ten minutes a day. Set yourself a timer so you know when ten minutes is up. Find a comfortable seat, in a chair or on a cushion on the floor and sit with your back straight. Take a few deep breaths and begin your practice of either insight or loving-kindness or moving meditation. 

Spend at least one week trying one type and then if it doesn’t feel like the right fit, switch to another type. If ten minutes feels too hard, you may want to increase it to fifteen minutes as that will give your mind more time to settle. If you’d like some guided meditation options, try the free app Smiling Mind.

When to meditate:

I like to meditate first thing in the morning because I start my day in a calm, relaxed state so I’m better able to handle whatever comes my way (cranky kids, difficult clients, changing deadlines, scary news stories). 

During a really busy or stressful day, it’s a great idea to set aside ten minutes at lunch as meditating recharges your brain and improves your ability to concentrate. Meditating before bed is also lovely and can set you up for a great sleep.

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Make it a habit

Meditation sounds easy but it can take a while to settle down your monkey mind. Find the time that feels right for you, set your timer and do it every day. Like so many things in life, it takes practice to find that still place within but once you get there, it’s worth the effort. When you notice the good results you’re getting, that will motivate you to keep meditating.

When times are stressful, it’s important to step up our stress management strategies so we can stay calm, relaxed and healthy, no matter what’s going on around us. 

About the author of ‘How to meditate’

Stephanie Berryman’s Book Working Well: Twelve Simple Strategies To Manage Stress and Increase Productivity is available on Amazon  or on her website. If you want Stephanie’s free meditations (5 minute loving-kindness and 15 minute yoga) join her amazing community.

 

[1] David Gelles, “How to Be More Mindful at Work,” The New York Times, (11/1/2018)


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