Meditation is a very practical tool, I practice meditation because it helps me feel like I can control the uncontrollable. Maybe a better way to say it is that meditation allows me to release my feelings around trying to control things that are outside of my control.
How often do we feel anxious or worried about something that we can’t do anything about? We repeat the worst case scenario over and over in our heads and 9 out of 10 times it never happens and everything is fine or if something bad does happen it’s not nearly as bad as our imagination led us to believe it would be.
I try to meditate first thing in the morning and I find that on the days I do meditate the day seems to flow better and I'm able to stay out of my own head and be less reactionary to the situations that come up that day. For me meditation is as simple as sitting with my eyes closed and not thinking for five minutes or more.
There are a number of great meditation apps such as Headspace or Insight timer that can help you get started if you're having trouble focusing at the beginning, but I find the most beneficial way for me to meditate is in silence. Even though it’s a simple process it can be challenging, our mind wants to think and worry about things. At first you might find that the whole time you spent meditating was filled by thinking about the day to come or something that a friend said the other day or x amount of things that will come up when you try to clear your mind.
When we first sit down to meditate it’s like sitting down with a garbage bag full of thoughts that we need to go through. Our brain is filled with thoughts and noise and it’s hard to clear it at first, but the more we practice meditating the smaller the bag of thoughts becomes, until eventually the bag is empty. The more consistent you are with your meditation practice the easier it will become for you to clear your mind and find the elusive gap that we all seek while meditating. It will be challenging at first, but like all things we practice it will get better.
I also use morning pages which is a journaling practice I learned from a book called The Artists Way, and it helps me to get the bulk of my thoughts out on paper before I try to meditate, that way if there’s something important that I should be remembering I’ve already written it down and no longer need to think about it. The morning pages routine is writing train of thought for 3 pages or more (don’t think just write) and combined with meditation has been extremely helpful in limiting the amount that I worry about things outside my control.
There are a number of styles of meditation and there is a lot of history and spirituality that comes along with it, but if you want the practical benefits of meditation without the woo-woo I recommend sitting in silence with your thoughts for a few minutes each day in order to calm and clear your mind so that you can lead a happier, less stressful life.
When it comes to areas like meditation and mindfulness it can be easy to be skeptical and lump it all into the same category, but I encourage you to approach it with an open mind and take away the parts that you find enjoyable and helpful. I like to try things out for myself and see how they effect me and if there are benefits I can take away. By keeping an open mind and trying things that are a little outside of the everyday box I’ve been able to assemble the habits and rituals that make my life more fulfilling, fun and joyful. If you're looking for a practical tool to help with anxiety and worry I recommend trying meditation in your own life.