Meditation brings with it an assortment of life-altering benefits. You can expect less anxiety, more calm, better sleep, increased willpower, sense of well-being, and even protection against Alzheimer’s Disease. Stay calmer, healthier, and sharper no matter your age though. Whether you are twenty or eighty, you never go wrong with adding daily meditation to your life.
Focusing on slow, steady breath is not all there is to a good meditation. It is important, but not the only thing you need to know to have rewarding sessions. The next step implementing this array of tricks designed to calm your “monkey mind,” or the brain’s tendency to bounce from one subject to the next rather than remaining focused and empty. While developing the necessary self-control to keep your mind blank is a lifelong process, these tips will get you started on that journey today.
Repeat a Mantra
Your mind does an incredible job filling empty space. When it perceives a clear mind, it floods other thoughts in to replace the ones you just managed to remove. This evolutionary trait keeps us ready to confront the next danger, find our next food source, or tackle another survival challenge. It does not serve us as well in our modern world, where we lack grounded moments to ourselves. You can offset this by not going completely empty with a repeating mantra that tricks your mind into being present. Choose a sound, word, or phrase that is positive, present, and easy to repeat. “I am love. I am here. I succeed. I feel peace. Hope. Love. Faith. Om.” These are all solid options. You can say your mantra in your mind or aloud. Whenever your brain starts to spin with thoughts, just refocus on your mantra.
Hold a Picture in Your Mind
Sometimes holding a picture in your head can help keep your mind calm, focused, and centered in the present. The inside of a temple, a green field, a sparkling bay, waves crashing on black sand, the desert in bloom, or any other serene picture helps. Every time you feel that “monkey mind” acting up, asking questions, making judgments, criticizing, or generally wrecking your peace, return your inner gaze to the picture you’ve chosen. It will bring you back to the meditation.
Accept and Redirect
Another good strategy to remain in your meditation is a constant acceptance of your thoughts followed by a redirection back to a calm mental state. Instead of fighting the thoughts and getting frustrated with them, you can note each one, smile at the brief distraction, and return to your blank state. This lets you feed the “monkey mind” tiny snacks to keep it at bay long enough to reap the benefits.
Much like a mantra, affirmations are repeated phrases that can help calm your mind. You can repeat these and ask the universe to make them a reality. Make sure they are present and positive. “I am focused. I am calm. I control my thoughts. I succeed. I build solid relationships. I enjoy my life. I am content.” The more you say such affirmations, the more you believe them and create a life where they fit.
Count Along with Breath
Breathing is a powerful meditation tool. The best breathing patterns are slightly longer on the exhale than the inhale. For example, in 4 counts, hold 2 counts, out 6 counts. When your mind starts to distract you, just focus on your breath and count them out. This is an especially useful tool for anxiety and stress, as it fills your mind like a mantra would, slows heartrate, and draws the focus away from the exterior world where many stressors come from.
Be Patient with Yourself
You should not expect to master your whirling thoughts in a single session. It may take a lifetime to develop the calm control yogi masters and monks have mastered. You may never get there at all, but every meditation does wonders for your well-being and health. Simply trying bestows plenty of positive effects.
Combine with Healthy Activities
You can extend the benefits of your meditation practice by engaging in other activities afterward that also encourage your body and mind to remain calm. Consider low-key exercise like yoga or stretching, drinking matcha with calming and focusing effects, reading a good book, taking a walk in nature, gardening, or anything else you know calms you. If it works for you, it is well worth doing.
Today could be the day you begin your new meditation practice. Why wait?