Do you constantly lay awake at night with worry? Are you filled with anxiety and tension all day long?
It could be your relationship with your boss, spouse or children. It could be bills to pay, or your job, or endless comparisons to a life you want in the future. Or maybe you just can’t let go of the past.
I know what it’s like.
I had a period of social anxiety back in 2010 when I worked for a Cosmetic company.
There was a period where I entered work everyday feeling nervous. At night I couldn’t sleep.
On those days I would lie awake, my mind constantly racing, my body full of tension. I would stare at the alarm clock in frustration, seeing another hour tick by. I desperately wanted my mind to be calm, to be quiet. I told myself not to worry. I tried to force myself not to think. I ached to calm my wandering mind.
But nothing seemed to work.
Somewhere in the early hours of the morning I finally drifted off. Weak, broken, fragile. A few hours later the alarm would ring. Pulling my clothes on, I’d feel drained and unfocused and fearful. What would the day bring?
Sometimes life can be tough.
Yet, if you’re experiencing what I did, know that you’re not alone.
I don’t know anyone who hasn’t experienced bouts of stress, worry and insomnia. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t struggled with anxiety at some point or other.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
There is a way to ease tensions. There is a way to ease worry, stress and pain. There is a way to sleep well at night.
And the best part?
It’s easy to learn and takes almost no time to do.
Stay with me now…
Because in as little as 5 minutes a day you could be leading a calmer, healthier, happier life.
If you suffer from chronic stress and anxiety, you must start a daily mindfulness meditation practice.
The evidence that meditation is good for you is overwhelming. Study after study show clinical evidence that as little as 5 minutes meditation a day will soothe your mind and lower your blood pressure. Regular meditation will even boost your creativity, immune system and help with depression.
In fact, some of the scientific results are jaw-dropping.
Mindfulness meditation is proven to lower stress and anxiety by 25% and to increase brain growth in areas responsible for mood regulation.
I know you’re sceptical. Right?
You may have tried meditation before with no results. Or you started, but couldn’t maintain the practice.
That’s why I recommend Mindfulness meditation.
This type can be done anytime, anywhere. Moreover, it does not involve sitting in any specific postures or wearing any special clothes. In contrast to other meditative practices, there are no Mantra’s or chants to learn. Nor is it hard to do. Anyone can make a start.
Let me explain.
All forms of meditation help us feel relaxed and more in-tune with ourselves and Mindfulness meditation is no different.
It can be done alone, without assistance. But in the beginning I believe it best to start with guided meditations.
These should always include instructions on how to sit or stand. Usually this is just in an ordinary seating position, on a sofa or a chair. Arms relaxed and by the side. Back straight and alert. Or you could stand with a little space around you for gentle movement.
Once you’re sitting comfortably the speaker will ease you into a relaxed state of mind. Then gently they’ll guide you through a specific exercise. Recordings are between 3-15 minutes long. It’s like having an experienced teacher in your living room.
For example, the meditation routine I follow has exercises that are 3,7,10 and 12 minutes long. Each day I choose one to follow.
One day engaging with the body. The next with the breath, sounds, movement or kindness.
Mindfulness meditations follow proven formulas with the sole aim of increasing awareness. It is this that makes them different from other meditative techniques. Crucially there is no right or wrong way to do them. A good guided mindfulness teacher will give you the encouragement to follow the exercise, but will never criticise or insist that you must do as is told. Just turning up and having a go is sufficient.
The important thing when selecting Mindfulness Meditations is to find a voice and style that works for you. Not every teacher will resonate. Mark Williams, Jon-Kabat Zinn and Tara Brach have decades of mindfulness experience and are ardent advocates of its benefits, but there are new teachers and apps springing up all the time. Make sure to check their credentials though.
I recommend the below mindfulness meditations for getting started.
An introductory meditation that is designed to settle and ground you in the present moment. It’s a gentle exercise that brings you into contact with your breathing and body and all the sensations found in them.
Narrated in a wonderfully gentle tone the teacher leads you to explore sounds and thoughts and to learn to watch them arising and fading in awareness. As you relax into this meditation, as well as the sounds themselves, try to be aware of the stillness between the sounds.
This meditation moves on from the previous ones where the aim is to practice raising awareness. Here we begin to explore thoughts and feelings. Seeing if we are able to move up close to body sensations and cradling our minds events in awareness.
In this sitting you cultivate a sense of kindness and friendship toward yourself and others. Acknowledging that, however, we may appear on the outside, all of us can feel sad, fearful and lonely on the inside. Deliberately taking the time to wish yourself well. Then extending this kindness to others.
A short meditation that can be used throughout the day. It’s often used in emergencies when feelings get out of control. Or it’s used in situations, like presentation giving, where anxiety tends to rise. It covers all the main mindfulness techniques: awareness, breathing, and acceptance.
Meditation is easiest to complete in the mornings as there is less of the clutter of the day. The time is quiet and family members may not have risen yet. Or maybe the kids have just left for school. And practising in the morning helps improve the quality of the day.
If you want to make a start, set your alarm 10 or 15 minutes earlier. Once you’ve risen seclude yourself in a room where you know you will not be disturbed. All phones and other non-essential electronic devices off.
Try just one short meditation a day.
If mornings can’t work, try lunch-time or evenings. Once you become more practised you may want to extend the length of each meditation or to undertake several throughout the day. For now though, 5-10 minutes a day is enough. The length of each meditation is less important than the continuity. The important thing is to make time to practice everyday.
Occasionally, you may feel that it’s wrong to take this time away from your family. Or that your busy schedule just doesn’t allow time for meditation.
But don’t feel guilty about taking this brief time to yourself. It’s not the number of engagements with your family that matters, but the quality of them.
Taking time to meditate is not selfish, it’s the best thing that you can do for yourself, your family and all those around you.
Eventually your meditation practice will become just another part of life. And as your practice grows you’ll soon find you can’t do without it. After a while it’ll be an essential part of your daily routine.
You know you deserve better. Right?
You don’t need to trudge through each day filled with stress and worry. You don’t need to feel exhausted from lack of sleep. You don’t need to risk your career, relationships and health to anxiety and nervousness.
You don’t need to feel hopeless.
Even if you’ve read books and blogs on how to reduce stress and nothing has worked before. Even if you’ve tried meditation once or twice, but it hasn’t done the trick.
This time is different.
Mindfulness Meditation is a proven method that works for millions of people. A simple technique that turns people’s lives around. One that doesn’t involve getting on medication, doing endless amounts of therapy or abandoning your life altogether.
And all it takes is 5 minutes a day.
You deserve it. You deserve the peace, calm and happiness Mindfulness Meditation can bring. You deserve to dissolve all your tensions and face each day relaxed and calm, full or warmth and kindness toward yourself and others. You deserve wake up each fully rested after a great nights sleep.
Matt is a trained and licenced Mindfulness teacher and Stress and Anxiety Reduction Counsellor operating in and around the Peterborough area. After overcoming his own stress and anxiety he's found his purpose teaching others to do the same.
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