I can’t stress enough how much meditation has changed the game for me, the game being life, of course. I’ve always dealt with anxiety, depression and stress to varying degrees (which I think most of us have) but since making meditation a regular part of my day-to-day, I feel just so much more in control of my perceptions, thoughts, mood and reactions. I feel like what I’ve learned through meditation is that as much as anxiety or stress is a habit (it’s just a negative cycle of worrying or getting down on yourself), you can just as easily flip the switch and make this positive action a habit, creating a practice of slowing down, seeing the fleeting nature of thought cycles and bringing your mind, body and spirit back down to a calm baseline. I’ve been really lucky because I’ve always found meditation to be pretty easy—almost a relief for my busy mind, if anything! So making it part of my day-to-day was something I was always really motivated to do because it feels so amazing for my mind and my body to take those 15 minutes each day.
I was inspired to share exactly how I go about it though because for whatever reason, it’s come up a lot in chats with friends or at events the past little while. In particular, I kept hearing that people not only find meditation tricky, but almost agonizing sometimes! So I figured I’d share how I’ve made it a really and truly positive experience every day, and most of all, how I’ve committed to it.
Create a space
I mean, it’s not hard to convince most of us to make our spaces a bit prettier, right? So I approach it this way. I’ve created a pretty little area in my apartment that I meditate at every day, and that houses all the little things that help me get into a calm zone for meditation.
I like to meditate in the exact same spot at home or in other places I often go to (the studio, my cabin, my parent’s house, etc)—even if I’m not at my apartment, I try to create that routine of doing this in the same area. I fluff up some pillows, make sure a cozy rug or blanket is on the ground so that I don’t get cold (and to keep my feet from falling asleep from the hard ground!) and make sure nothing will bother or distract me (dangling cords, outlets jutting into your back, etc).
Set the tone
When it’s time to meditate, I flick on my diffuser (I find the bubbling sound helps calm me), I fluff up my pillows and I grab a couple crystals. Whether or not you believe in their healing benefits (I do, clearly!), I think they’re critical to meditation because as you’ll soon see, a big part of me settling into my meditation is bringing awareness to physical, tactile senses. There’s something about the ritual of holding these reassuring, smooth, cool crystals or gemstones in your palms that immediately sends a cue to your brain that it’s time to settle in for some head space. So have fun with it! If you’re a skeptic about their healing benefits, by all means, go for ones you’d like to just have on display in your space. But if you’re a believer, I really can’t stress enough that I feel different energies on different days so it’s worth finding which crystals will help you best for your specific needs. For example, if I need a bit more openness and love, I’ll pick up rose quartz and I can feel my energy change. In my head? Maybe. But it brings positivity to my whole physical/mental state, so I’m on board for anything that helps in that area!
I’m also a huge believer in the power of aromatherapy. As you guys might know, I love Saje Wellness—their products work so well for me across the board, from their Pain Release to their famed Peppermint Halo, which is the one thing that helps me with headaches. I love spritzing some Namaste (which I’d honestly love to just wear as a fragrance every day), taking a big inhale, and then I’m able to really settle in.
Wear something non-restrictive, throw on socks if it’s chilly, even put on a blanket! Do what you need to do to be comfortable. There’s no right way to get comfy and to meditate—if you’d like, do it in a chair, do it lying down (which I did when my back was particularly bad) or sit cross-legged. I find it most comfortable to be seated on the ground, cozy with a blanket underneath me and pillows to support my back. I find being super cold really distracting so if it’s chilly, I’ll wear sweats and socks. I also have fine hair so get distracted if it feels like an elastic is tugging at my tresses, so find it more comforting to have my hair down. Just do what you need to be comfy!
Find what works for you
And on that note, try out different apps, different methods, different mantras, etc. Just play around and discover what works best for you (my whole method is at the bottom of this post!). I’d always meditated on and off but when I made it a real habit a few years ago, I started with Headspace and really believe in it so that’s the first one I’d recommend. I also found a lot of great tips in Kate Hudson’s book Pretty Happy, and some great additions in yoga class. Just be open and don’t be afraid to create an amalgamation of little bits that work for you! As you’ll see when I break down my routine, it’s pulled from all over the place!
Make it a habit
You’ve likely heard this a million times but it’s such an important point, I wanted to go out on it. Find a time that you can carve out 5-15 minutes a day for, schedule around it and then commit to it. You’ll likely not want to do this at first, especially because we’re all so busy and sitting there for 15 minutes alone with your thoughts may not be the most appealing addition to your day at first! But trust me, achieving this peaceful time for just you every day will quickly not only be a loved addition, but a required one. When I don’t meditate, I just feel different, and not in a good way. So I’ve really tried to automate it—meditation happens for me in the morning (though this is a bit more lax on vacation), and while I think that’s typically a really great time for most people, look objectively at your day and determine when you will be most motivated and most able to truly commit to 5-10 minutes to start with.
Finally, my meditation routine!
Okay so obviously, a disclaimer that this is just what works for me! I’ve taken elements from Headspace’s method, from the loving-kindness practice, from various yoga classes, etc. But this is what works best for me and what makes me happiest every day, and really affords me the best clarity and lightness. So without further ado…
- Get situated and take a few deep breaths, closing your eyes eventually on an exhale.
- I then take 3 breaths to just settle.
- I then focus on the flow of breath for a few breaths—the cold air coming in, tracking it as it disappears into my lungs, and then feeling the warm breath come out through my nostrils.
- I start noticing the pull of gravity on my seat, the weight of my hands in my lap, the cool crystals in my palms, my hair resting around my neck, etc. Just taking time to notice my body, my surroundings and to really direct that attention to the tactile.
- I then turn my attention to sounds—the bubbling of my diffuser, traffic in the distance, birds chirping, my fridge humming away, etc. Just 5 breaths or so to let sounds come to me, then to go.
- I start doing a body scan then, continuing this awareness of my physical state. I simultaneously scan and release my whole body, starting from the top of my head to my toes. I bring awareness and breath (usually 1-2 breaths per body area) and relax each one in sequence.
- After this, I do another head-to-toe scan to just feel how my body is that day. I don’t try to make any adjustments, but I just notice if I’m tight, if I’m relaxed, etc.
- Using the Headspace counting technique, I do 3 rounds of 1-10 breathing: I breathe in on the 1, exhale on the 2, and continue until 10 then start over. I try to focus on relaxing my body on the exhales, and I envision the numbers as well as I say it in my mind.
- I then do my mantra—these are all very personal and different ones work best for different people, but a pretty easy one to start with is sa-ta-na-ma (inhale and exhale for each syllable). I let myself do this for as long as I’d like, but if you need a set period, I usually try to do this at least ten times.
- By this time, I’m nearing the end of my meditation. If there’s time left and my alarm hasn’t gone off (I always just set 15-20 minutes on my iPhone), I do a quick round of loving kindness, which you can read more about here (this article’s intended for kids actually which I think is perfect—really simplifies it!). Always a nice way to wrap up your practice!
And that’s it! I really hope you guys loved this, and more than anything, I hope you give meditation a try if you haven’t yet! I feel like if more people meditated, the world would be a more relaxed, happy place in general. I’m always trying to get the people in my life on board with it and am so proud of my Mum for having recently committed to it—so again, give it a go, let me know in the comments below if you have any feedback/specific request and happy meditating!
Photos by Alicia Fashionista