Meditation is truly a life-changing practice and for various reasons has gained popularity in the wellness space. It has been shown to increase happiness, improve concentration, promote relaxation and create structural changes in the brain. Many people get stuck on the how when approaching meditation, but one of the reasons meditation is so great is that it’s all about what resonates with you.
There are many resources to help you start a meditation practice. Calm is a great place to begin your journey, it features a user-friendly website and mobile apps for iOS and Android. Calm provides users with mood music, various meditations and a deep breathing tool. Another great feature on Calm is the ability to meditate for as little as two minutes at a time. Headspace is another great resource for beginners, with guided meditations accompanied by interactive videos to help users better understand meditation and make it a regular part of their day. Headspace is awesome because it explains meditation, and why we should do it regularly in a way that everyone can understand. Both platforms offer notification reminders to assist with consistency. Last but certainly not least, good old YouTube has countless guided and unguided meditations. YouTube is my personal favorite because you can search for meditations based on what you need for the day.
Meditation is one of my favorite healthy habits, because it has made my days better and easier to navigate. The basic purpose of meditating is to just have a moment to yourself. When I first started my meditation practice, I didn’t understand how to do it or how to make my thoughts stop. It really is as simple as closing your eyes, taking some deep breaths and focusing on the inhales and exhales. Inevitably, when you begin meditating it will feel as if you’re doing it wrong because you can’t stop your mind from focusing on everything else. It is more important to let thoughts pass without judgement, than try to prevent them from coming. Meditation is a practice of being in the moment; so if you close your eyes and can’t stop thinking about a million things just allow the thoughts and feelings to continue to flow in and out without judging them. With consistency, meditation places you in an observant space of your thoughts, instead of being stuck in your head. It can help you develop a pause in your daily interactions and allow you to respond instead of react. Consistent meditation can provide you with a deeper level of understanding and control over your cognitive experience.
I have created a survey about meditation, in hopes of conducting my own research about its impact on people’s emotional and mental states. It takes about 15 minutes to complete, if interested follow the prompt below to participate.
Automatic negative thoughts or ANTs are patterns of thinking that play in the back of our minds, sometimes without any acknowledgement or awareness. Most people’s negative thoughts originate from difficult life experiences and they become mantras for how we operate, especially in stressful situations. ANTs skew attention to the negative and impact the way we feel and behave in certain situations. They don’t necessarily have to be negative in the traditional sense like I’m not good enough or I’m unloveable, although common. For me personally, one of my main ANTs is the idea that I don’t need a romantic relationship and it has no place in my life; when in reality I desire true love just like anyone else. Because this cognition has become part of my belief system, I behave in a way that makes me seem unavailable or uninterested to give the ANT the self fulfilling prophecy it wants. Basically, automatic negative thoughts prevent us from living our best lives.
I did an exercise the other day to release these patterns of thinking and replace them with more beneficial cognitions and it was extremely helpful.
Side note: if you are unsure of your personal ANTs, I encourage you to start a daily journal practice. Additionally, notice what feelings and thoughts come up for you during times of stress or anxiety and if there are patterns in other areas of your life. Meditation is also a great way to tap in to your thought patterns; during meditation you have nothing else to focus on, it’s basically a window into your brain.
Matches or lighter
I suggest doing the activity when you’re calm and in a quiet space.
Write down any automatic negative thought you experience. Once you have them all written down, rip the paper into small pieces. After all of the paper is shredded, place it in the bowl, burn the paper and imagine the thoughts releasing from your mind with the embers. Sit and take some deep breaths as you watch the thoughts burn away. Then grab your journal and write a helpful thought to correspond the thoughts you just released. Going back to my personal example, for my replacement I wrote “ I am worthy, deserving, and open to love, pure, true, real, unconditional LOVE” and “I deserve and desire a romantic relationship that will grow and blossom into something great.”
I felt so light and relaxed after I did this exercise, so I just had to share it! I hope that it brings you the level of peace that it brought me.
Let your thoughts be like clouds in the sky. They come and they go.
With love, namaste.