All it takes is 10 mindful minutes.
I'm a salesman. Type A personality, extrovert, always on the go, interacting with people, trying to get new clients and keep existing ones happy. Lots of balls in the air, plates spinning -- you name the metaphor, it's my life.
In other words, there's a lot going on in my head.
There's work, for which I earn a commission, and feel the burden of keeping clients happy -- and then there's all the daily life stuff. Responsibilities, obligations, relationships, health, just... stuff. (Oh, and my fiancée and I are planning our wedding. Need I say more?)
You may find it easy to deal with all that, but I'll be honest -- I struggle. The day's stress and worries tend to distract me during the day and keep me up at night, so I'm not functioning as my best self.
I've always had an interest in meditation, but it's never quite worked for me.
I've heard it's something "you should do" and "it really helps" -- but I didn't know how to do it. Is there a right way? All I know is, I felt like I was doing it wrong.
Being a tech guy, I went to the obvious source: apps. I tried a few meditation apps, but I needed more direction than "Read this Buddhist saying and listen to the chimes and then meditate. Go."
Don't get me wrong, it was relaxing, but I wasn't making progress, which is what I really needed.
A couple of months ago, I read a blog article about the Headspace app. It came at a time in my life when I was really feeling stressed and anxious, so I decided to give it a shot. I figured I had nothing to lose. I got lucky and found a three-month free trial and made a commitment to meditate with the Headspace app at least once a day for 30 days.
I liked Headspace right away. It starts with a foundational series to learn about meditation and get your feet wet. I enjoyed being coached and educated through each session. Granted, I totally sucked at it at first -- my mind would wander, I'd start feeling antsy and watching the clock, etc. But every day got a little bit easier, and the payoffs have made it completely worthwhile. (Your guide even reminds you that it's okay to not be perfect at it, which made me feel a lot better!)
The first 30 days weren't always easy. We all know how distractable we are when we're trying to form a new habit. All of a sudden weird chores like vacuuming the couch seem important. But it only takes 10 minutes a day, so I stuck with it and very quickly I began to enjoy it. And now, it's a part of my daily routine.
Here are some of the benefits I've experienced from meditating with the Headspace app:
I am more distant from my worries and more objective about my thoughts. One Headspace exercise is to imagine you are standing on the side of the road watching the cars go by. The cars represent your thoughts. You are just there on the side, watching them pass by without action or judgment.
Another is the "blue sky" example. The sky is blue, but sometimes it gets hidden by dark clouds (worries, stress, anxiety, etc.) The idea is that your mind can always be at peace, no matter what your circumstances are, because above all those dark gray clouds is a bright blue sky.
I've been able to draw on this imagery when the stress of the day starts to bog me down.
I'm more in tune with the present, moment-to-moment stuff. There's a technique in meditation called "mental noting": when a thought comes in or you feel a bodily reaction, you label it objectively. You don't attach any other identity to it, you don't try to analyze it, and you certainly don't try to change it. Mental noting supports the meditation process because it keeps you alert and focused on what's happening in the moment.
I am able to calm myself down and not let stress get to me. Another technique the Headspace app uses is a visualization exercise where you picture warm light and liquid filling your body. At first, this exercise is several minutes of imagining this warm liquid filling up every part of your body, and the sense of calm that comes with it. But as you practice meditation more and more, you're able to conjure up this feeling in an instant when needed.
The program is structured, guided meditation. This made it really easy, especially for a guy like me who needs a lot of structure! I really enjoy being taught and coached through my meditation. (And after you finish the foundational series, there are lots of other topical guided meditations: relationships, stress, sleep, and even mini-meditations for commuting, cooking, walking/running/cycling, fear of flying, and more!)
My recommendations for meditating:
Choose a time that works for you. Headspace recommends that you meditate first thing in the morning. I find mornings can be a crazy time for me. I wanted to set myself up for success, so instead of mornings, I meditate either right before bed or sitting in my car when I get home from work (before I go into the house).
Commit to a time frame. I recommend 30 days, but if you get a 10-day free trial and you really put your energy and focus into it for those 10 days, I'm confident you'll see benefits. Research shows it takes 21 days to create a habit, so bear that in mind if you're going to do a shorter trial period. (Look online for Headspace promo codes!)
Remember, this is for you. Most of us go through life doing a ton for others and not much for ourselves. But when we take care of ourselves and prioritize our own health and wellness, we have the most to give (and in the appropriate amounts). You deserve 10 minutes of uninterrupted "you time" each day. Your family, friends, and co-workers will thank you!
It's okay to suck at it. Meditating won't feel natural at first. It may even feel downright weird. Just stick with it and you'll get better. It's a journey -- easy to pick up initially, but difficult to master.
Use Headspace. It's an awesome app! Very inexpensive and well done.
Watch this TED Talk from the creator of Headspace: