Let’s just get this out of the way: this post is not an “ohhmm”-exploding article. Yes, I will be discussing mediation but more in the it-could-save-your-sanity-and-propel-your-career kind of way. This practice is also known as mindfulness, which is a bit less intimidating. Read on to find quick and easy ways to better manage your thoughts and reactions.
Last year, I listened to the audiobook 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works – A True Story by Dan Harris. I happened to see the physical book on the shelf at Target, and I was intrigued. Who doesn’t want to be 10% happier in life?
Initially, I had no idea the book was about a spiritual journey, but after listening to the first chapter, Harris had me hooked. His writing is funny and honest. Harris talks about how the low points in his life brought him to a time of enlightenment and happiness.
Besides the countless testimonials, there is scientific research that supports the practice of meditation. In one eight-week study, participants’ brains literally thickened in four regions that control mind wandering, cognitive thinking, and empathy. Additionally, the part of the brain that works with stress and fear got smaller. These participants meditated for an average of 27 minutes per day, but research also shows that as few as 10 minutes a day will improve your brain function.
Another benefit of regular meditation is that you improve your attention span. Let that sink in: thinking of nothing improves your thinking. The key is that you train your brain to focus on breathing, dismissing thoughts, and self-control.
There are dozens of other reasons for mindfulness (check out this article for a great list with scientific sources), but the last one I list here is that meditation makes you more fun to be around. Yes, your interpersonal communications will improve, and you’ll attract more positive people to your life.
So your brain grows, your attention gets better, and you have more friends. Why not give mindfulness a try?
1. Clear your mind for 10 minutes a day.
Meditation does not require you sitting criss-cross applesauce on a yoga mat with your hands up while humming “ohmmm.” You can lie in bed, sit in your car, be walking up the street. The location is not as important as the act itself.
Your goal for these 10 minutes is to clear your mind of all thoughts. It is tougher than it sounds. Focus on breathing in and out. Every time a thought pops into your mind, tell yourself it is a thought and imagine a hand in your mind brushing it away. Go back to thinking of nothing except your inhales and exhales.
If instrumental music helps you achieve serenity, play it in the background. Or, use YouTube for guided meditation. The common theme is that you do whatever makes you comfortable, whatever fits in your schedule (so you don’t skip it), and whatever clears your mind.
Don’t have 10 minutes a day? Practice a minute of deep breathing before starting your day. Throughout the day, if you begin to feel stressed, do another minute of deep breathing. Make this practice your go-to stress reliever.
2. Ask yourself why a thought makes you feel that way.
Meditation helps you recognize your feelings and what triggers them. Every day, make an effort to address your feelings head-on. If you feel sad, ask yourself what thought brought on the sadness. This practice allows you to distance yourself from your thoughts to make wiser decisions and reduce stress. Additionally, you can filter out the hate for yourself and others.
Example: After a conversation with an acquaintance, I feel sad. I ask myself, Why am I sad? After that conversation, I feel like I am not as accomplished as the other women in my group. I start to realize that this comparison is not fair to me. My career is 1/10 the length of theirs. Then I let the entire thing go. And I move on.
3. Name the positive thing(s) in every situation.
Take a second to find the good in ALL situations. Write it down, say it out loud, think it. No matter which way you choose, make note of the silver lining. If a situation sucks, take the time you need to react and then be the optimist. Over time, you will find that the time you spend feeling negative gets smaller and smaller.
During November, you see people write posts with lists of gratitude. While this is good, it is even better to practice gratitude year-round. Once it becomes part of your routine, positive thoughts will automatically pop up. You have probably noticed that some people are always glass-half-full optimistic; this is a skill you can build. Don’t let situations dictate how you see the world. Your perspective is one thing you can control.
*This article contains an affiliate link for the book, 10% Happier! As a bookworm, I only recommend books I really loved reading. I hope you enjoy them, too!