Through Vipassana retreats, readings, mentors, and self-practice, our team at HealthOne has learned several strategies to improve the quality and quantity of meditation sessions.
We strongly believe that by dedicating yourself to a regular meditation practice, you can not only reduce stress and anxiety but build mental strength and resilience.
Here are a few of our favourite tips for improving your meditative practice.
1. Find Your Why
It's important, first and foremost, to remember why you've chosen to meditate. Perhaps you want to overcome anxiety, improve mental clarity, or find a sense of inner calm.
Remembering this "why" will give you something to fall back on during the days you don't feel like practising. A little bit of motivation can go a long way.
2. Set an Intention
One of the most helpful tips we have learned is to set a specific intention before each meditation session. It can even be as simple as choosing a word to focus on like "peace", "love", or "ease".
As you become more advanced in your practice, you can choose something that you have been struggling with recently. If you've been scatterbrained for the past week, for instance, you could set the intention of sitting in complete stillness. If you've been dealing with a lot of negative self-talk, you could set the intention of only thinking kind thoughts. Anchoring yourself in an intention like this can greatly improve your meditation practice.
There are many different types of meditation practices. Vipassana is a type of meditation that involves observing different sensations in the body through scanning techniques.
There are also methods that involve following the breath, counting, repeating mantras, visualizations, or listening to guided recordings. Guided meditations are a great place to start, especially if you're a beginner! They're a simple way to help you stay committed to a daily practice.
One of our favourite apps for this is called Insight Timer, which has thousands of free recordings from popular meditation teachers in different lengths and styles.
A little goes a long way when it comes to meditation and mindfulness. You don't need to be spending 30 minutes in stillness every day to reap the benefits for your body and mind.
Start with 5 to 10 minutes and very gradually aim to increase the length of your practice over time.
Pick a time of day that works for you and stick to it. Most people have personal preferences for morning, afternoon, or evening sessions. Choose what works with your schedule.
It's important to remember that no one establishes a new habit in his or her “spare” time. You need to determine the time to practice and commit to showing up for yourself!
Sitting cross-legged is a common meditation posture, but this doesn't mean it's for everyone. Find a position for meditation that meets your physical needs.
During long meditations, some people feel discomfort in their lower back while sitting, so switching to a meditation stool is a great option.
However, if you have bad knees sitting in a chair could be a better option. We recommend against lying down, unless you're practicing yoga nidra before bed. It’s almost impossible not to fall asleep!
It takes strong determination not to move or fidget during meditation practice.
However, opening your eyes or scratching your nose can really take you out of the practice. Try hard to sit completely still without moving for the time you have chosen.
Choose a place in your home that feels comfortable and quiet. Make this your designated area and do all of your meditations in the same spot.
You may want to bring some objects to the area that hold spiritual significance to you, or that support your practice.
Another good idea is to run through a list of potential distractions before you begin. Perhaps someone is making noise in another room, or you have been upset about something specific that day. Commit to being present in this setting, and not focusing on these distractions.
9. Movement Practices
It is absolutely possible to change-up your seated meditation routine with a movement practice.
Examples of this type of practice include walking, stretching, yoga, daily routines such as cooking or showering, and qi-gong. During these movement practices the goal might be to continue observing the breath, focus on sensations in the body, or practice mindfulness by being completely present.
There are many new technologies coming out that can help provide feedback in real time while you are meditating.
This can speed up your progress towards getting that “in the zone” feeling.
A great option is Muse®, which is an EEG device that uses the science of neurofeedback to help guide your meditation practice. Muse monitors brainwave activity to give actionable feedback in real-time.
When your mind is calm and settled, you hear peaceful weather. As your focus drifts, you’ll hear stormy weather that cues you to bring your attention back to your breath. Using a gadget to enhance your meditation practice is not always required, but can support your practice and encourage you to stick with it!
Last but not least, it's important for you to practice positive self-talk.
For example, if you find your mind wandering off during a meditation session, don't think "I messed up again, I'll never get better at this!". Instead, catch yourself and say, “wow, I’m amazing! I'm glad that I caught myself and now here I go following my breath again”. Make a dedicated effort not to be impatient with yourself.
The most important thing to remember is never to get discouraged and keep trying! We believe in you. A bit of meditation each day can help you feel more calm, relaxed, and peaceful throughout your day.
One Life. Live Inspired.