Mental Floss Series,  Mental Health Education

Mental Floss: Meditation Made Easy

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Has meditation ever frustrated you?

Does it seem impossible to just sit quietly while there’s so much going on inside your head? Do you shy away from meditation altogether because it’s just too hard?

Well, you’re not alone. Trust me.

Why is Meditation so Difficult?

The benefits of meditation are amazing (check out the mind blowing stats here). But for a lot of us, especially those struggling with mental health issues, meditation is often out of reach.

Why is that?

Because, paradoxically enough, it takes a lot of emotional investment to sit down and be still. And a lot of us in the MH community just don’t have that energy to commit. We’re just out here trying to survive!

Why is Meditation Important for the Mental Health Community?

Even though it’s difficult, meditation is a mental health power tool. Mindfulness practices have been scientifically proven to help with a whole host of MH disorders. Just check out all the benefits in the video below:

Amazing stuff, right!?

So, we know that it’s important for us to meditate. Now we just have to conjure up the emotional energy to make it happen. Woo!

Yeah, I know – that’s what I said at first too. But I’ve been on this journey for a while. And as a chronically depressed person, I’ve learned a few tricks to make meditation easier to accomplish. Even while struggling to survive.

So without further ado, here’s MSB’s guide to Meditation Made Easy!

Step 1: Lower Your Expectations

It’s important not to let your expectations get in the way of your peace. The idea of perfection really plagued me when I began meditating. I figured the only way to “really” meditate was like the old masters. Otherwise it didn’t count.

That is, I thought I had to have a straight back, beautiful posture, and a super focused attitude in order to reap the benefits.

What is Western Meditation?
Straight back, perfect posture….cliff optional

Predictably, that expectation made meditation a chore. And I hate chores. So my practice was inconsistent at best, non-existent at worst.

What helped me overcome this grandiose expectation? Finding out that I could get the same (or better) results by laying down to meditate. Covered in blankets. In bed if I wanted (more on that later).

I also believed I had to shut my brain off completely in order for this to work. Luckily, as I learned, that’s not the case. Now instead of striving to shut my brain off I just accept that it’s gonna do it’s thing while I sit quietly.

And finally, I thought I had to be really “good” at meditation. Seriously, I believed I had to somehow “win.” This belief held me back from having a satisfying practice for way too many years.

As I said at the top “It’s important not to let your expectations get in the way of your peace.” Take a look at what expectations you have for yourself during meditation. Are they helping you stay consistent or are they hurting?

Step 2: Make it Easy for Yourself

Along with depression, I struggle with low energy and Executive Dysfunction.

Sometimes that makes it really hard for me to simple stuff like washing the dishes or pulling together the strength to meditate. Induction methods have helped me get the benefit of meditation while still preserving my much needed energy.

  1. Lay down – horizontal meditations are *incredible.* It’s like sleeping but so much better! I like to do mine either in bed or on the floor with a heavy weighted blanket and a guided meditation. Yes, sometimes I fall asleep – but, hey, that’s not a bad thing most of the time.
  2. Get a guide – guided meditations like the ones found on YouTube, Calm, and Headspace are awesome. They walk you through the meditation process step by step so you don’t have to go it alone. All you have to do is listen (I suggest using your phone and a pair of headphones).
  3. Set the Mood – a simple adjustment of your environment can help you focus on meditation. For me it’s as easy as lighting a scented candle and sitting in a dark room. For others it might be to set up a meditation corner with a pillow or just going outside to meditate. Whatever is easiest for you!
  4. Cut the Time – even just five minutes of meditation is far better than none. I’ve found it helpful to tell myself “okay, we’re just doing five minutes of meditation today, I can do five minutes no problem.” This little trick almost always works to get me started. Having a timer or a timed meditation app can be really helpful in this instance.

Step 3: Meditate Smarter, Not Harder

Consider the wisdom from this Zen Story :

A martial arts student went to his teacher and said earnestly, “I am devoted to studying your martial system. How long will it take me to master it.” The teacher’s reply was casual, “Ten years.” Impatiently, the student answered, “But I want to master it faster than that. I will work very hard. I will practice everyday, ten or more hours a day if I have to. How long will it take then?” The teacher thought for a moment, “20 years.”

Contrary to popular wisdom, working harder won’t make meditation easier. In fact it’ll probably make it unbearable and even less effective over time. This will take away a lot of the benefit and make healing take that much longer.

I know I’m much more consistent when I do short, meaningful meditations in the morning and evening. I’m way more eager to meditate this way because I’m not chained to the idea of doing it all day, which can be overwhelming.

Step 4. Give Yourself a Break

On that note, remember it’s important to give yourself a break. If you can’t meditate, even with these helpers, that’s fine! There’s a lid for every pot and it’s fine if meditation is not yours.

That being said, there are lots of ways to be mindful, even in a low energy state (check out this great list of fifty easy and fun mindfulness practices).

Here are some ways I’m mindful without putting in a ton of investment:

  1. Write in a journal
  2. Eat a meal or snack mindfully
  3. Think of three things you’re grateful for
  4. Light a candle
  5. Reduce anxiety using a method like Circle 8 Breathing or Calm’s simple Breathe Bubble

And if you are able to meditate, don’t be discouraged if you can’t do it every day. That’s okay too!

It’s really just one of the tools you’ve got at your disposal. Consistency helps but be mindful of the quality of expectations you’re putting on yourself. It’s okay to take breaks.

Wrap Up: Make Meditation Delicious Again

So the moral of the story here is to start small and mindfully build your practice in the way that suits you.

I had a yoga instructor who would let us choose the expression of our poses. She said, “do whatever makes you feel delicious.” As a budding hedonist, I’d never heard a more amazing statement. I’ve spent the rest of my life remembering to do what’s delicious – i.e. what feels good for my soul.

It’s the same way with meditation: you’ll get the greatest benefits when you make it your own. Your practice doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s – even the old masters. You don’t even have to be “good” at it. You just have to do it.

That’s the great thing about meditation: all you have to do is try and you’ve already succeeded. Ain’t nothing more delicious than that!

I hope this edition of Mental Floss helps you find a little peace and deliciousness in your life. If it does, please let us know in the comments below or email us about your experience at mysoulbalm@gmail.com.

Much Love,

MB

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Mad as Hell Mental Health Rights Advocate. Likes margaritas, long walks on the beach, and JUSTICE.

24 Comments

  • Luftmentsch

    I’ve practiced meditation in the past, but like a lot of things, I never really felt any benefit. I’ve been wanting to get back into it lately, but I just can’t switch my brain off. I’d like to learn how, as it drives me crazy, but I’ve tried books and CDs to no avail.

    • mmorran1

      I can totally understand, I felt like that for a long time too.

      It wasn’t until I incorporated a lot of my own style into meditating that it actually began to work for me.

      Basically doing it in a way that was fun and engaging for me made all the difference and I was able to be more consistent.

      I hope rediscovering meditation helps for you! Even if it doesn’t, there’s a lot of awesome mindfulness techniques out there to try as well. Best of luck!

  • Taylor The Writer

    Ever since I started working from home, I’ve been telling myself that I wanted to start a routine with things like yoga and even meditating…but I never really knew where to start. This was so helpful! I have terribly high expectations sometimes, and this is a great reminder to relax and let go!

  • mtgreene

    I love the Insight Timer App. Gives me the flexibility to do timed mediation or a guided mediation. Some days meditating is easier than others because my brain wont shut off. But I’m determined to stick with it. Great tips.

    • mmorran1

      Thanks for reading! I’ve got to try the Insight Timer, I think it’s one of the few apps I haven’t tried.

      I’m glad you’re determined and I hope the tips help you strengthen your practice 💖

  • Samy

    What an insightful article- I’ve been medidating more nowadays and it’s really good for the soul.

  • Cristina Petrini

    Meditating is seen by most as a very difficult as impossible operation, your blog post therefore becomes useful in this sense.

    • mmorran1

      Glad it can be useful! I often think meditation comes off as unapproachable so it’s nice to be able to help people see it in a different light!

  • Belle

    Meditation helps me to sleep better and to free my mind from unnecessary worries. Setting the mood is definitely important, i use the OM Chant from youtube for setting the mood.

    • mmorran1

      Yep, and you can learn a lot from just the act of trying to meditate too! I’m glad you liked the tips and I hope they bring you peace and happiness 💖

  • Michelle

    Love your perspective! Yes, meditation doesn’t have to be a perfect “guru’ moment! Everyone should give it a try!

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