Everyone says you should meditate. You keep hearing how great it is. You've tried and you HATE it.
Don't worry. This is a really common sentiment. I hear it all the time as a therapist. In this post, I'm going to talk about why you might hate it, what you can do to actually enjoy it, and how it will benefit you to give it another shot.
Some Reasons Why You Dislike Meditating
You think you're supposed to have no thoughts.
What I hear people say most often is, "I just can't clear my mind". They say their mind is going a million miles a minute. They are thinking about all the things they have to do.
You don't know if you're doing it right.
A lot of people just feel confused and incompetent. It's not really enjoyable if you are thinking "I'm doing this wrong", or "I don't know what I'm doing" the whole time.
You don't see any results or benefits.
We love immediate gratification. When there are no tangible results of an action, we think, "What's the point of this?" We might think, "This is a waste of time. There are so many things I could be doing right now".
You feel physically uncomfortable sitting still.
Some people just can't sit still for long periods of time. Their nervous system just isn't set up that way. As well, if we think we have to sit with our back straight and our legs crossed, some of us will absolutely say "no thanks!".
How To Enjoy Meditating
You don't have to clear your mind.
Having thoughts while you are meditating is completely normal. The practice is to notice the thoughts, allow them, and to observe them float through. A good tool for this is to focus on your breath. When you realize that you are thinking about what you're making for dinner that night, imagine watching the thought float down a stream and then refocus on your breath. It doesn't matter how many times that happens and remember not to judge yourself when it does. It is very normal.
There is no right way to meditate.
It's impossible to meditate 'wrong'. Any intention to mindfully focus your attention is meditation. You can meditate for any length of time. Sometimes people say "I don't have time for meditation". You can meditate for literally 30 seconds a day and you will reap the benefits. It's the intention and the consistency that matters.
In fact, if you have trouble meditating, I would recommend starting with 30 seconds per day. Set a timer on your phone. Focus on your breath, in and out, in and out, for 30 seconds. If thoughts arise in that time, that's perfectly OK. When the 30 seconds is up, take a cleansing breath, smile, and get on with your day. You can do this at any time of day, whenever it suits you. Gradually increase the time at a pace that feels comfortable to you.
You also don't need to breathe a certain way. Some people get anxious when they become aware of their breath. It almost feels like you forget how to breathe! Just relax, and breathe normally. If focusing on your breath feels anxiety provoking, focus on a word that you repeat in your mind. It can be any word, but words like "peace", "nothing", or "calm" are helpful.
There is no right way to sit. You can lie down if you want. It's ok if you fall asleep sometimes. Your body obviously needs the rest! There is no right way to hold your hands. Whatever is comfortable or meaningful for you is 'correct'.
Results come over time.
You won't feel anything profoundly different after a meditation session. Some people expect to have a great epiphany or awakening experience. That generally doesn't happen. When you first start to meditate, you might not even feel any more relaxed. You may even feel a bit agitated afterward. That's ok. After a while, your body will start to get the idea that this is an act of self care, and it will start to relax into it.
Meditating consistently, over time, is where the true benefits start to be felt. You will start to notice that you just 'feel better'. Your life starts to feel a bit easier. You start to live in alignment a bit more as time goes on. You will start to just know that meditating is helping you improve your everyday life.
There are many forms of meditation.
You can meditate in many different ways. Again, there is no right way. You can sit quietly. You can recite a mantra, or a phrase or word over and over. You can lie down. You can walk mindfully. Even just going out into nature and appreciating the trees or the water or the flowers is meditating. You can focus on an object. The idea is to have a point of focus. That way, when thoughts do arise, you have something specific to go back to.
When you are first starting out, I would recommend listening to a guided meditation. This is where someone speaks to you (on an app or video) and you follow along as they guide you through visualizations. You can listen to calming music or nature sounds if that's helpful.
It's great if you can set aside a special space for yourself that's peaceful, quiet and soothing. But that's not necessary if it's not possible. You can meditate anywhere! Closing your eyes and focusing on your breathing for a few minutes, even if there is chaos happening around you, is very beneficial.
Benefits of a Regular Meditation Practice
There are so many benefits, both psychological and physical, to meditation. It is routinely recommended as part of a holistic therapy treatment plan for good reason. Meditation has been an area of study for researchers in recent years with more and more benefits being discovered every year. Here are just a few of the benefits:
Improved ability to manage intense emotions.
Improved ability to manage anxiety.
Ability to calm and reset your nervous system.
Easier to achieve a sense of peace and wellbeing.
Feeling more compassion and less judgement for yourself and others.
More self awareness.
Lower blood pressure.
Better memory and ability to focus.
Improved mood and less depressive symptoms.
Improved immune system function.
For a complete list of evidence based benefits of meditation, visit this article by the Mayo Clinic.
You're definitely not alone if you have ever felt like meditating is just not for you. Many of my clients have been skeptical that they could ever learn to meditate and actually enjoy it. Given the endless list of benefits of a meditation practice, I would absolutely recommend giving it another shot. Just do it YOUR way. You can't do it wrong. You've got this!