About five months ago I turned to meditation to help me calm my anxieties and find some inner peace. I can truly say meditating has changed my life for the better, and although I am fairly new to this practice, I can already feel the benefits. Meditation helps you calm your mind, calm your body, take some time for yourself with no distractions, and helps you get to know yourself and your mind better.
I use the meditation app Headspace to do guided meditations, and I cannot recommend it enough. Headspace offers a free beginner “pack” of guided meditations, then offers other packs available for purchase at a fairly reasonable price. I enjoy Headspace so much because there are literally hundreds of topics to choose from. I’ve done some meditations centered around anxiety, appreciation, and relationships. They also have packs to do while exercising or on vacation. Throughout all of the packs, I have gathered some key meditation techniques that anyone can try. Whip out these techniques when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, or take an extra 10 minutes in the morning to practice these techniques before you start your day.
The body scan is all about checking in with your physicality to see how your body feels. At the beginning of each Headspace meditation, the narrator (Headspace’s founder named Andy) tells you to identify your intention (why you are meditating), your overall mood (how you are feeling going into the process), and scan down your body. Start at the top of your head and imagine something scanning down your head, neck, shoulders, arms, torso, hips, legs, and feet. Go as slow or as fast as you’d like. Take your time and identify how those parts of your body feel, then just keep scanning. This helps meditators feel grounded and present in their body. I imagine a white disk with a hole in the center scanning horizontally down my body and drawing my attention to areas that ache or feel particularly relaxed.
Identify Your Thoughts & Count your breaths
This is my personal favorite meditation technique. As you are breathing throughout the meditation, it is helpful to focus your attention on your breath. As thoughts pop into your head (because they will), acknowledge that thought. You can even identify if that thought is positive, neutral, or negative, then let it go and bring your attention back to your breath. The app suggests counting your inhales and exhales up to 10, then starting over. Counting my breaths helps me truly focus on feeling calm and dismissing anxious thoughts in times of distress. I have counted my breaths when I’ve been caught in stressful traffic, and it helped!
Visualization helps you direct your focus onto visual imagery. In the Headspace pack on relationships, Andy has you imagine a pinprick of light in the center of your chest that gets larger and larger as you breathe in and out. As you imagine this light spreading throughout your body, imagine a warmth and sense of calm spreading as well. Visualize this until the light is filling your whole body and you can see yourself looking happy and content. You can also do this visualization with someone else in mind. You can imagine a loved one or even an acquaintance or someone you don’t get along with that well. Putting out good energy even through visualizing helps you feel calm and relaxed.
Admittedly, visualization has been the hardest technique for me to do. I often find myself feeling silly imagining myself looking happy with a warm light around me. But, meditation is a practice. It takes time. It requires that you spend intimate, quiet time with yourself and your thoughts. It allows you to know your mind better. It teaches you to not just dismiss your thoughts, but it identify them, acknowledge them, then let them go.
The app also has guided meditations ranging from 3 minutes to a whole hour. I cannot recommend Headspace and meditation enough. If you are curious about meditation, give it a try. Be patient with yourself and give yourself some truly valuable time for self-care.