With so much focus on the physical, I admit that I haven’t put quite as much effort into the mental health side of things. I’ve been saying that I’d give meditating a try, but have never actually taken the time to jump in.
To me, it seems easier to commit to a concrete goal, like train for a marathon. The physical benefits of going for a run are obvious. But to sit quietly each morning for 10 minutes? It’s less clear how that will positively impact me and because of this, I’ve brushed it off.
After passing on meditation for years, not quite knowing where to start, I finally decided to give it a try. I was served just enough social media ads for free trials to various meditation apps that I could no longer ignore them.
Right now, more than ever, mindfulness and mental health are so important and not something to be overlooked. We’re all experiencing some level of stress and anxiety. As I work part-time from home while also being a full-time mom to a 10-month old, I wouldn’t say I have tons of spare time. But right now there are fewer distractions competing for my time, and it felt like a good opportunity to devote the few minutes a day required to meditate.
I signed up for Headspace, a user-friendly approach to meditation, especially for newbies like myself.
I started small with quick intro meditations and made a goal of meditating every day for 30 days. I’m certainly not an expert after a month of using the app, but I started to understand why meditation is a powerful practice and how it can serve me well.
Here are five lessons I learned from a month of meditating.
1. It takes practice
I said I’d meditate every day for 30 days. And then I didn’t follow through. I skipped days, I totally forgot about my goal, and sometimes I simply was not in the mood. Meditation is a practice, and just like it takes time to build up other habits, the same goes for meditating.
I do believe the more you do it, the more you get out of it and the more inclined you will be to stick with it. Entering into meditation, I’m reminded that it doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s OK to skip a day, and it takes practice to feel comfortable with a new activity. Progress over perfection—always. And that goes for meditation, work, and parenting.
2. It has taught me to sit still and focus
I am a multi-tasker to an extreme degree. I love to watch TV, but when it’s on, I’m probably on my phone, cooking dinner, and asking my husband about his day. He is the opposite of this and does not understand why I bother watching TV if I’m not really watching. The number of times I ask him, “Wait, what just happened?” while watching a show is a bit embarrassing, but that’s me.
I struggle to focus on one thing at a time when it seems like I could instead do 10 things at once. I never want to sit still with one activity, and that of course also goes for meditation. If given the choice, I’d do my daily meditation while out for a run or I’d have it playing in the background while I prepared breakfast. But that isn’t how meditation works. You can’t train your brain and be mindful while doing multiple activities at the same time.
Starting a meditation practice forced me to sit still and focus on one task in front of me. It actually felt good to get hyper-focused without distraction. I can’t be sure if this has translated into other parts of my life just yet, but I’m hoping for that eventual outcome.
3. It has made me more present
And along those same lines, when you’re only doing one thing at a time, you can be more present with that one activity. When I’m playing with my daughter, I can be far more present if I’m not also scrolling through my email. And even just thinking about my to-do list takes me away from the present. Since meditation forces me to sit and focus on one thing, I’m able to take this practice into other parts of my life, being fully present in what is happening in front of me.
4. It has made me appreciate more
If there’s ever a time we need to focus on the good, to practice gratitude, and to appreciate the positive things in our life, it’s now. There are a lot of negative things we can dwell on, and while it’s incredibly important to face the hard things, it is also worth remembering and appreciating the good. In Headspace, there are specific meditations around appreciation that have you focus on those good things. This is yet another reminder that our mind is a powerful tool in defining our reality. When I focus on the things I appreciate, my overall mood and disposition is improved.
5. It has improved my mornings
I love a good morning routine. Since becoming a mom and working flexible hours from home, my routine has been near nonexistent. Each day seems like a totally new schedule of activities, set in a way that isn’t allowing me to maximize my time and energy.
My morning routine still needs some work, but adding a short meditation is a great start. It means I don’t start my morning scrolling Instagram or checking my email. It is a bright way to start my day and is helping me to build an overall routine that brings much-needed structure to my day.
I admittedly have a lot more to learn about meditation. I’m just getting started and at only 30 days into my practice, I am starting to understand the benefits of meditation. Just like my running routine trains my body, meditation is a tool to train my brain, and one that I hope to continue to practice and grow with.