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When there are a million things to do, taking a moment to stop and just be can feel like the ultimate luxury.
But it can also feel impossible to find the time to do it. Here’s another reason why you should treat yourself to a few minutes of peace: Research has found that mindfulness meditation may help with chronic pain, in addition to having mental benefits, too. Taking time to meditate can feel difficult when your mind is constantly whirring with all the things you want to be doing: There’s dinner to cook, a garden to weed, and a dozen home improvement projects you’ve been meaning to tackle. Hit pause—it doesn’t have to be for long—and follow these strategies to fit some introspection into your day:
Start small. Begin with as few as two to three minutes daily, setting a timer if you need it. “As you become used to meditating, gradually increase your time to 15 to 20 minutes,” says Joy Rains, author of Meditation Illuminated: Simple Ways to Manage Your Busy Mind. Although there are a variety of ways to meditate, one of the most basic techniques is to simply close your eyes and focus on your breath. When you notice your mind wandering, gently bring your focus back to your breath. Repeat until your timer runs out.
Pick a good spot. Set aside a place to meditate that’s away from busy areas, without distractions. Put your phone on Do Not Disturb mode so you don’t get distracted with notifications. And if you’re sitting on a chair or on the floor, it helps to have a cushion that elevates your seat slightly above your knees. “That can help you maintain a really comfortable upright posture,” says Jamie Price, a wellness expert and co-founder of emotional wellness app Stop, Breathe & Think. “Your breath can move more freely within your body, and that really helps with the meditation.”
Find the time that’s right for you. For some people, meditation will be easiest first thing in the morning, because there are fewer chances for distractions and it tends to be quieter. For others, afternoon works best. “It can revive you when you’re feeling run down from the day,” Price says. “You can kind of hit the refresh button.” Others might prefer to add it to their bedtime ritual. Once you find a time that works, try marking off that time in your calendar every day.
Get tech help. “An app is a great place to start, because they can take the mystery and complexity out of it, and guide you through the process,” Price says. “Following guided audio is the easiest way to get started.” Stop, Breathe & Think offers guided meditations, and you can also get help from apps like Calm, Headspace, and Insight Timer.
Choose an anchor. That’s a neutral object to focus on that doesn’t stimulate your mind, Rains says. Some examples: your breath, your body, a word you repeat silently, an object to hold, an object to look at (like a flower), or sounds, such as ocean waves.
Accept your wandering mind. The intent of meditation isn’t to quash your thoughts and feelings. “Consider anything that draws attention from your anchor to be like a cloud passing, or like a boat floating by as you watch from the riverbank,” Rains says. “Allow it to pass without judgment, and gently refocus on your anchor.” The repetitive act of refocusing trains you to become more mindful.
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