How have you been feeling lately? A little stressed? Anxious, maybe? No surprise there. We're all a bit overworked and overwhelmed (not to mention under-slept) with a few too many commitments. With lives like this, it's no wonder that the American Psychological Association reports that nearly all American adults are suffering from moderate to high stress.
Have you tried meditating? I’m sure you’ve thought about it. But have you really tried to consistently make it part of your daily routine? I know, forming healthy habits is hard. Our brains are optimized for survival, not long-term health planning. Natural selection has seemingly primed us for finding food and shelter, maybe detecting threats and occasionally seeking out sexual pleasure, not for properly stretching or flossing our teeth. But hear me out.
According to data from the CDC, more and more people are meditating daily, but still less than 15% of adults in the United States regularly meditate. And that's despite the fact that research suggests a committed meditation practice can relieve stress, supercharge the brain and boost your mood. All things that would come in handy at the start of a busy day.
I know what you’re thinking - after waking up bleary-eyed and in desperate need of a shower and some coffee, who's got the time or patience to meditate? But here’s the thing: Starting your day with a morning meditation will gently release grogginess and help set the groundwork for a more successful (and less stressful) day. Whether you wake up promptly at 5am or roll out of bed after a few taps of the snooze button, you've got the time to incorporate a daily meditation. And you'll soon find that it becomes a grounding anchor on days often full of unpredictable situations and variables.
Find the Time
Forming healthy habits is hard and for them to last, you want to be consistent. The more often you meditate, the easier it gets and the deeper and more enduring the benefits. So set a low bar starting out to ensure you can maintain your commitment. And one minute is the complete opposite of intimidating. What's more, it’s scalable—after one minute of meditation, you’ll likely think to yourself: I’m already here; might as well keep going a bit. And once you opt in for more, you're meditating out of actual interest, making it much more likely to have a lasting effect.
Find a Spot
Although you can meditate lying down, you’ll want to sit up in order to wake up in the morning. Plus, according to experts, it’s easier to do it if your spine is straight. And I’ve found that it’s helpful to designate a space for your meditation, to help put you in the right mind frame. Sit on a chair in the corner of your bedroom or on the side of your bed with your feet on the ground.
Find Your Method
There’s no one-size-fits-all method to meditation. I started by just focusing on my breath and my body, trying to empty my mind of any random thoughts, but also not fighting it when they creep in. In fact, sometimes it's during this brief time that inspiration will strike. I place my hands on top of my thighs and bring my awareness to my breathing—counting to five as I inhale and five as I exhale (and repeat). But the Headspace app offers hundreds of options that include everything from deep-breathing techniques and guided walking meditations, to semi-guided and completely unguided meditations.
* FYI: A Harvard University study made headlines when it concluded that regular meditation had profound effects on important regions of the brain. After just eight weeks, the brain’s gray matter (the stuff that processes information within the brain) was more dense in areas associated with learning, memory processing and emotion regulation.