(Updated: Wednesday, May 31, 2017)
Ever have that feeling like your mind won’t stop? Like your thoughts just keep racing so fast through your head that you’ll never be able to catch up? And suddenly, you’re trapped a prison created by your own mind.
You’re think about to-do lists, grocery shopping, that big project at work, how to handle that awkward friend, did you reply to your mom’s last text, etc, etc, etc. You feel like you’re drowning and your thoughts are completely out of control.
But wait, that’s not even fair. It’s YOUR mind. Shouldn’t this be the other way around? Shouldn’t you be controlling it?
Hey! I totally get it. As a perpetual “over-thinker” (with a touch on anxiety), I’m all too familiar with brain overwhelm. Sometimes, it feels like you can never escape. And as much as you can intellectually comprehend that you just have to wait out the wave, the emotional comprehension of that reality is totally different.
But you know what? We don’t always have to be prisoners of our own mind. We can work it out and exercise it. Overtime, we can train it to slow the thought overwhelm and gain a little control over our thought processes.
And where’s the magic at? Meditation, my friend!
Make Your Meditation Matter
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Meditation: The Ultimate Brain Workout
Meditation has endless benefits to the mind, body, and soul. And as much as I can start to list them out, the most important benefit I’ve found is gaining mental control. I feel more in touch with myself when I meditate. Plus, my thoughts are utterly overwhelming like they can be. Personally, I’ve found that the rest of the benefits of meditation stem from this change.
When I attended Regis University, I took a class in religion that introduced me to meditation. We did a few exercises in class and I was instantly hooked. I tried to practice meditation outside of class as well.
But I quickly had a resounding realization when I started. Meditation is hard.
It’s not something you “just do” in 15 or 30 minutes. It’s not something you just innately pick up. There’s a reason monks dedicate their entire lives to meditation. It takes practice and discipline to really improve.
Essentially, meditation is like a workout for the mind. If you’re new to lifting weights, you’re not going to try to squat your bodyweight the first time you hit the rack. Same goes for meditation. You have to start out slow and work up to longer, more complicated sessions.
But that’s okay! It makes meditation much easier to start learning because you only have to commit to 5-10 minutes a day at first. As you keep practicing, you can extend your time to further push yourself and build your skill.
30 Day Meditation Challenge for Beginners
So how does this meditation challenge work? Each week, we’re going to try a new form of meditation to expose us to different types of meditation. At the beginning of the week, start with a 5 minute meditation. Then, as the week goes on and you get more practice, increase your time as you’re comfortable.
At some point during your meditation, I’m sure you’ll start thinking about all the things on your to-do list. You mind will start to wander and drift to other things.
That’s okay and totally natural! Just remember that these few minutes are just for you, your mental focus, and mental clarity. It’s not the time to stress and worry about your other tasks.
If you feel your mind start to wander, gently bring it back to focus on your breathing. Sometimes, it helps to chose a phrase, mantra, or affirmation to recenter your mental focus.
Need some extra motivation as you tackle the challenge? Join my community and let us know how you’re doing so we can cheer you on!
Week One: Simply Breathing
Week One is a simple breathing technique. Find a quiet space, set a timer on your phone, and sit comfortably with your legs crossed. Keep your posture strong to maintain physical engagement.
Then, close your eyes. Breathe slowly and deeply. With each breath, focus on the path the air takes as it travels through your nose and into your lungs. Feel your chest as it expands with each inhale and its compression with each exhale. Focus on the physical sensation of air entering your nose and exiting your mouth.
I’m feeling relaxed just writing this! Are you?
Week Two: Visualizations
For this part of the challenge, we’re going to use visualizations as guide for our meditation. Set yourself up like you did in week one. But instead of focusing on your breathing, create a calming visual to guide your thoughts.
Personally, I like to visualize a stream. This stream contains all my cluttered thoughts, overwhelm, and stress. As the stream flows, all this negative energy flows with it and away.
Choose an image that relaxes and soothes you. Like last week, if you find your mind wandering from your meditation goal and onto your giant to-do list, refocus your visualization, take a deep breath, and recenter your focus. These moments are all your own. Keep them for yourself before you give them away to all your extra responsibilities!
Week Three: Walking Meditation
This week, we are going to take a 10-15 minute walk everyday. During your walk, focus on the physical sensation of walking. With each step, feel your feet as they strike the ground.
What part of your feet touch the ground first? Feel your foot roll across the ground as it comes back up. As you walk, focus on the feeling of your clothes against your skin, the breeze outside, or any other physical sensation.
The goal of this meditation is to keep you in the moment while moving. It increases mindfulness and mental focus. I love walking meditation because it gets me up and moving. I can spend a bit of time outside, increase my physical activity, and destress and clear my mind.
Week Four: Full Body Meditation
This week, we will finish out the month with a full body meditation experience.
Start by lying with your back to the ground (or bed). Keep your feet a comfortable distance apart and your hands with your palms facing upwards.
Close your eyes and focus your attention on specific parts of your body. Start at the crown of your head and slowly move down to the very tips of your toes. Maintain a comfortable, slow, steady breath as you go. Feel the very tip of your head. Then slowly shift your consciousness downwards. Notice the feelings in your face, ears, and nose. Continue in the manner all the way down to your toes.
I like to imagine my body as a vessel full of water. My mental focus is like a drop of dye. Imagine how a drop of dye acts in a body of water. I start with a drop of dye at the crown of my head. Then, as my focus continues to move downward, so does the dye.
The darker the dye, the greater my focus on that area. This helps me maintain a slow, natural progression throughout my body and not racing to finish the process.
As you meditate, try to pace yourself! It’s easy to suddenly be at your toes before you even realize it. I recommend playing some relaxing music in the background to maintain a slow and steady pace. However, if you find that you’ve reached your toes sooner than you’d like, move back to the top of your head and try the cycle again!
While I usually like to meditate in the morning, I love doing this meditation exercise before bed (or even in bed!). It’s perfectly calming and relaxing and puts me right to sleep. If you have sleep issues, this is the perfect meditation for you!
For the last few days, reflect back on each meditation. Choose your favorites and make a plan to include meditation in your everyday routine.
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