5 Things I Learned about Meditation, Mindfulness and Myself from a One-Month Mindfulness Challenge
Do you meditate or take time each day to be more mindful and present in your life? Do you feel sometimes that your mind is over-loaded, and you just can’t focus? Do you feel anxious and stressed?
Then the practice of meditation and mindfulness each day might be just what you need! Even a few moments each day can have a positive effect on our life.
Morning meditation can set you up for the day while evening meditation can help to relax and calm your mind which helps for a better night’s sleep. Spot meditations throughout the day keep us focused.
I recently started a challenge called Mindful in May to learn more about meditation and being mindful.
I had always thought that things like yoga and meditation were for those who lived an ‘alternative’ lifestyle. Certainly not for someone like myself who has always lived my life more on the conservative side of the spectrum.
Turning 50 Was a Milestone
However, life seemed to change when I turned 50. Suddenly, I was trying new things and experiences. By my late 50s I had learned that I love to run and keep fit, even though in my younger years I was never very athletic.
My personal trainer suggested I try yoga to help me both physically with my back pain as well as mentally and spiritually. To my surprise, it was totally different to what I expected. I fell in love and now practice two to three times per week.
As a person who loves to keep active, I find that relaxing my mind and living in the present does not come easily to me.
So, I decided to join the Mindful in May Challenge.
The idea of the challenge is to form a habit of daily mediation and mindfulness. The participants receive daily guided meditations and interviews with experts in mindfulness and meditation.
The first two weeks were very difficult for me, but as the challenge progressed I could feel the benefits. Here are 5 things I learned about meditation, mindfulness and myself participating in the Mindful in May Challenge.
Be Open to New Experiences
For most of my life, I have lived on the conservative side. Participating and learning more about meditation has helped me be more open in my thoughts to new experiences.
Learning mindfulness means living in the present, rather than living with regrets of the past or longing for the future. When we live in the present, we are more aware of new opportunities and experiences which can enrich our lives.
Your Best Is Enough
I can’t sit still for 5 minutes and am usually quite active. Taking the challenge of sitting quietly through a guided meditation for up to half an hour was not easy. I struggled, especially in the first couple of weeks.
I decided to write my thoughts on the MiM Challenge Facebook Group and was overwhelmed with the response. How I felt was the same as many of the participants and the lesson I learned was that my best is good enough.
If I know I am giving my all – and that means some days not being able to complete the full challenge – then that is fine. There is no need to beat myself up if some days my best is not as good as other days.
Using Wise Speech
The way we communicate and connect with others is important, especially within our relationships with family and friends. Sometimes our communication skills can cause confusion or have a detrimental effect on others.
Rick Hanson, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, neuropsychologist and New York Times best-selling author, explained that using ‘wise speech’ will assist in positive communications.
Using wise speech means asking ourselves these questions before speaking:
- Well intentioned speech – Is your speech coming from a place of being well intended?
- Truthful – Is what you are saying truthful?
- Beneficial – Is what you are saying helping you or the other person?
- Not harsh – Is your tone clean rather than nasty or harsh?
- Timed – Are you choosing the right time for a discussion?
- Wanted – Does the other person want your advice?
It Is All About the Breath
“Coming back to the breath” is a term I heard used throughout the challenge. When I first started meditating I found it difficult to stop thoughts entering my mind. It seemed that once I told myself to clear my mind, thoughts just flooded in.
I’ve learned that it is okay to welcome thoughts during meditation, but to use the tool of focusing on the breath to help clear my mind.
When we feel anxious or stressed taking time to focus on our breathing has a calming effect. Simply breathing in for 4 and out for 6 and concentrating on the number will clear your mind.
Many studies show that meditation does make you more resilient and able to cope with stress, while for ordinary depression, mindfulness can be just as effective as medication.
You Can Slow Down the Aging Process Of The Brain
We all know that our brains and reaction time slows as we age. However, studies have shown that exercising your brain can help to slow down and, in some cases, reverse the aging process.
Daily mediation as well as brain exercises such as crosswords, sudoku, learning and creativity, gives you a mental workout like a physical exercise. As little as 5 – 10 minutes of mindful meditation will have short-term beneficial effects, especially with your ability to concentrate.
Do you practice daily meditation and mindfulness? What are some ways you use to reduce stress and anxiety in your life?