Not to toot your own horn, but you’re kind of a busy person. You have a job. You have multiple circles of friends to stay in touch with. You have to deal with the everyday maitenance activities of being an adult. With all these responsibilities to juggle, you’re often so swamped that it’s difficult to remain in the moment.
Sure, you’ve heard that meditation is a great way to focus your mind and relax—you even googled “how to meditate” in an attempt to become more present—but as it happens, sitting still and clearing your mind is a lot harder than it looks. Maybe you find the leader on a meditation podcast’s voice grating, or maybe you just can’t find five minutes of your day when you aren’t surrounded by people.
Here’s the thing, though: If you’re the kind of person who struggles with daily anxiety, you have a lot to gain from getting your Zen on. Chronic stress (you know, the thing you deal with every day) has been linked to people with increased risk of Heart Disease, weight gain, sleep problems, and memory and concentration impairment. In studies, daily meditation has also been proven to help manage the symptoms of anxiety disorders, sleep disorders, depression, heart disease, and cancer. Translation: Meditation actually works.
Keeping your sanity over the holiday season is especially hard—hence, this being the perfect time to start a regimen around mindfulness.
We’ve done the research, talked to the experts, polled some fashion insiders, and put “getting centered” into practical terms. Here are seven simple steps to cut through the noise and busy-ness of your day, and find your quiet place.
Find a chill place.
You don’t have to go West Elm to find an area to practice. You can just choose a corner of your bedroom and light a candle to make the space feel pleasant. Wherever you are, turn off your phone and move your electronics out of sight. Make sure you’re comfortable — whether you’re sitting in a chair, on a pillow, or a rug. If you’re visually inclined, the presence of some calming art may help you relax. Araks Creative director Araks Yeraman retreats to company’s color library. “It brings my spirits up, energizes me, grounds me,” she says. The key is to set yourself at ease and feel grounded.
Focus on your breath.
So, this one is a biggie. There are many different schools of meditation, but mindfulness meditation in particular uses regulation and awareness of one’s breath to facilitate mental clarity. Breathe deeply, in through your nose, out through your mouth — don’t complicate it. We talked to Janice Maturano, founder the Institute for Mindful Leadership and mindfulness guru, about how you can carry this over to your every day life. After noticing a particular anxiety-provoking pattern of thought, she recommends redirecting your attention to breathing. “This redirection helps to train the mind to be in the present,” she says, “rather than the thoughts and emotions that are imagining the future or ruminating about the past.”
Don’t put pressure on yourself to go mind-blank immediately.
Ruminations are totally normal. Sharon Salzberg, founder of the Insight Meditation Society and author of Real Happiness and Guided Meditations for Love & Wisdom, even acknowledges that emptying your brain is a process. In an interview with the University of Minnesota Center for Spirituality & Healing, she says that rushing thoughts are totally common in your daily practice. “It’s perfectly natural to have your mind feel crazy and full of thoughts,” In other words, don’t be too hard on your buzzing brain. “The point is to get space from those thoughts … Let the thoughts be more in the background.”
If sitting doesn’t work for you, try walking:
If you’re the kind of person whose brain goes straight into REM sleep when you sit down and close your eyes, walking meditation may be the best fit for you. Wildmind describes this form of meditation as “mindful of our experience while walking, and try[ing] to keep our awareness involved with the experience of walking.” Walking meditation is similar to sitting, in that you apply the same techniques of breath regulation and body awareness to a leisurely stroll.
Avoid listening to music.
It’s no secret that musical meditation accompaniment is a whole thing. (Remember Pure Moods?!) However, if you’re trying to be present, music can often become a distraction. What’s more, background music can often manipulate our feelings, which gets you back into your rushing thoughts and works against being present. If you really want to make music the basis of your practice, experts recommend that you focus on listening to natural sounds like waves, forest sounds, and babbling brooks.
Practice every day.
This is the toughest thing, but it’s also the most important. If you really want to see results from your meditation practice, you have to commit. Establish a daily practice regimen for yourself. In her talk with the University of Minnesota, Salzberg recommends starting out small, with 10-minute periods. If you’re still working up to that, try to give yourself moments throughout the day to be present. Maturano calls these short periods of meditation “purposeful pauses,” which can be done while in the elevator, waiting at a traffic light, or in line at the grocery store. She says that reflecting while you’re out and about is a great way to “bring the practice of mindfulness into your entire day.“
Keep a journal
Not only is this a great way to track your process, but writing is a fantastic way to be present and let go of your thoughts. You needn’t write a novel. Lists are a great way to get clarity on where your brain is. For instance, Araks told us that she writes down twenty things she’s grateful for every morning. This is an awesome exercise to maintain your perspective on this crazy dice game we call life. Namaste.