Think you’re not cut out for meditating? Think again

Think you’re not cut out for meditating? Think again

With everything that’s going on in the world, many of us are dealing with more stress and anxiety than usual. Meditation can help with that. “It has a vast range of mental benefits, from mood regulation to stress management, lowering anxiety and improving focus,” says Carolyn Plater, mental health clinician and co-founder of Toronto’s Hoame meditation studio. “From a physical health perspective, medical professionals are now using meditation and mindfulness to help improve immune functioning, decrease pain response and improve sleep.” Some studies have found it can help treat inflammatory disorders and even increase longevity.

If you’ve never tried it before, now might just be the perfect time. Here’s how to get started.

Start small

If a 20-minute meditation seems daunting, try doing three minutes every day and slowly building your practice. “It’s about the quality rather than the length,” says Stephanie Kersta, Hoame’s other co-founder, who adds that she’d rather see people do short meditations regularly than one long one once a week. “We know that many of the effects of meditation can be seen in as little as 10 minutes per day. So you don’t need to do a lot of it to reap the benefits.” If you’re short on time, try working meditation into daily activities. Try meditating in your bathtub or shower or making your regular walk a bit more mindful.

Focus on your breath

“We know breathwork works faster to calm us down and reduce anxiety than the fastest-acting anti-anxiety medication on the market,” says Kersta. If you find yourself experiencing panic or anxiety, try doing something called “box breathing,” where you inhale for four seconds, hold for four seconds, and then exhale fully through your mouth for four to six seconds. Grounding activities, such as identifying five things you see, hear or smell can help bring you back to the current moment. Take a deep breath then identify four things, then three things, all the way down to one. Need to get out? Go for a walk and try to incorporate your senses in a similar way along with some deep breathing.

Experiment

“A lot of people have this notion that meditating is sitting in lotus position and staying there for a long time,” says Kersta. While some feel sitting cross-legged is most conducive to a meditative state, others might prefer to lie down or move around, walk or chant. “There’s no right or wrong way to do it,” says Kersta. “Play around with the time of day, the different styles and themes and find what works for you rather than trying to fit yourself into this stereotypical box of what it’s supposed to look like.” That goes for sound, too. Maybe you need silence to quiet your thoughts or a guided meditation app to keep you on track. Or maybe music is more your jam. “Certain music can slow down your heart rate,” says Kersta. “Sound baths are also phenomenal; I call them the gateway to meditation because often people who have struggled with meditation find they can get into that relaxed state when listening to a sound bath.” You can find meditation playlists and sound bath recordings online. Just make sure to listen to them with earphones for a more immersive experience.

Make it a ritual

While you truly don’t need any props to meditate, diffusing some oils or lighting a candle can help set the mood. “It tells you it’s time to get ready for meditation and helps get you into that headspace,” says Plater. “If you have the room and the means, you can invest in props like cushions and crystals and all of that, but really it’s anywhere you can get comfortable,” says Kersta. Unable to find a moment to yourself? Make it a group thing. “There’s definitely something about the collective energy of meditating together that’s really special,” says Kersta. “If you have people in your home to meditate with, that’s awesome. I’m also all for including children and getting them started early.” Look online for guided children’s meditations your little ones might enjoy. If you’re on your own and looking to foster a sense of community, check out Hoame’s Instagram for live classes you can join.

Go easy on yourself

One big block for people is feeling like they’re unable to clear their minds. “It really isn’t about that,” says Kersta. “It’s more about creating this awareness of what’s in your mind, but not letting it stick. I always use an image of having your thoughts be clouds and seeing them pass by but not ruminating on them.” Kersta and Plater also often hear that people are worried they’re meditating wrong. “Any time you’re spending with yourself is a win,” says Plater. “Truly, it’s impossible to fail at meditation.”

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Katherine Lalancette
Katherine Lalancette is the beauty director of The Kit, based in Toronto. She writes about beauty and trends. Reach her on email at kl@thekit.ca or follow her on Twitter: @kik_tweets

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