How to get started with meditation

How to begin meditating

We are busy gearing up for Sleekgeek’s 10-Day Meditation Challenge that kicks off on Monday the 14th, 2018.

If you want to take part, then:

What is meditation?

According to Wikipedia, “Meditation can be defined as a practice where an individual uses a technique, such as focusing their mind on a particular object, thought or activity, to achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm state.”

Although meditation has been practiced since antiquity in a more religious or spiritual context, it has since become much more mainstream and modernised in order to combat the stress of modern life.

Companies like Apple, Airbnb, AOL, Google, Goldman Sachs, HBO, Intel, Linkedin, Nike, Procter & Gamble, Twitter, and Yahoo! all have in-house meditation and mindfulness practices for their employees to benefit from because, as Google’s Head of Mindfulness (Chade-Meng Tan) says, “It’s become scientific, it has been demystified. It’s going to be seen as fitness for the mind.”

Meditation for real, everyday people

At Sleekgeek, it is our objective with the Sleekgeek Health Revolution to inspire 1 million people to transform themselves and lead a better quality life. This is so that we can achieve our vision for homes, schools, and workplaces to be healthy places that enable rather than disable health.

If we each take a few small daily actions to think, eat, move, and sleep better while helping or inspiring others to do the same, the ripple effect would be enormous!

That’s why we are taking on the challenge of making meditation and mindfulness easy to do. We want to make it something that real, everyday people like you and I can benefit from. Such as a small do-able daily practice to help you find contentment, greater clarity, and improved feelings of wellbeing and happiness.

There are many different methods of meditation out there, although they can usually be categorised as either:

  • Calming Meditation where you concentrate on a particular object, such as your breath, a mantra, a visualisation, a physical object, or even physical sensations within your body. Benefits include a quieter, more peaceful state of mind, and improved concentration.
  • Insight Meditation where you focus on gaining insight into “the true nature of reality” by focusing on impermanence, suffering or unsatisfactoriness, and the realisation of non-self. Benefits include transforming your mind by developing qualities such as wisdom and compassion.

At Sleekgeek, we follow along with the Headspace methodology of combining techniques from both calming and insight meditation in a non-religious and non-spiritual way.

We won’t ask you to chant mantras, burn incense, or even sit cross-legged…

Instead, we see meditation more like exercise for the mind that can be used in conjunction with physical exercise and good nutrition to create a healthy well-balanced lifestyle.

The benefits of meditation

The research on meditation and mindfulness is extensive.

Andy Puddicombe does a great job of inspiring you to see the benefits of meditation and mindfulness in his TED Talk: All it Takes is 10 Mindful Minutes.

 

According to Headspace’s List of Benefits, some of the well documented and scientifically proven benefits are:

  • Stress Less: Research suggests that in-person Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programs may help manage stress. In fact, a systematic review of 17 MBSR studies found the program to be effective in reducing psychological and physiological symptoms of stress.
  • Sleep Better: A meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials for insomnia found that eight weeks of in-person meditation training significantly improved total waking time and sleep quality in patients with insomnia.
  • Happier, Healthier Relationships: A study evaluating the benefits of an in-person mindfulness-based relationship enhancement program suggests that mindfulness enhances couples’ levels of relationship satisfaction, autonomy, closeness and acceptance of each other, while reducing relationship distress. In fact, three months after participating in the study, couples were still experiencing these improvements.
  • Manage Anxiety: Anxiety currently affects about one in fourteen people worldwide. That’s 7.3% of the total world population. A systematic review of in-person meditation training found that 69% of the studies analyzed showed meditation practice alleviated symptoms of anxiety.
  • Sharpen Concentration: Findings suggest that meditating for just four days is enough to improve novice meditators’ working memory, executive functions and their ability to process visual information.

Precision Nutrition, whose certification and coaching curriculum we use in the Sleekgeek Nutrition Coaching Program (yes, mindset, mindfulness, and stress play a big role in better nutrition), also add in their “Good Stress, Bad Stress” article that it can help to rewire your brain to reduce your risk for anxiety and depression by improving:

  • Neurogenesis: The growth of new neural connections and brain cells.
  • Emotional regulation: In other words, your ability to manage your feelings.
  • Memory and recall.
  • Development of the brain’s gray matter: Even after only a few weeks.
  • Our ability to regulate our body clock.

And finally, Healthline also bring a few more points to the table such as that meditation can enhance self-awareness, lengthen attention span, generate kindness, help fight addictions, help control pain, and decrease blood pressure.

It’s clear that if we could package the benefits of what meditation provides into a pill or supplement, EVERYONE would want it!

It’s a good thing that you can get started with just a few minutes per day without any specialised equipment.

How to Start Meditating

We highly recommend the Headspace App. It’s free for the first 10 days and then about R100-R160 per month thereafter – absolutely worth it!

The Headspace App allows you to learn to meditate in just a few minutes a day while getting expert guidance from former monk, Andy Puddicombe. It’s a super handy little meditation guide that fits right in your pocket and goes with you everywhere you go.

If you want, do it offline without an app

You can check out both the Headspace and the Precision Nutrition offline meditation strategies for beginners here if you cannot or do not want to use an app (understandable).

We recommend using the app

While some meditation truests may disagree about using an app to be less distracted, at Sleekgeek we are all about embracing what is practical and what will give you the best chance of success.

We recommend that you start off using the Headspace App, even if it’s only for the free first 10 days… You can then decide if you want to purchase a subscription, find another way to meditate, or go right down the rabbit hole of spirituality and meditation. It’s up to you.

1) Once you’ve downloaded the app, created an account, and logged in, Headspace will ask you what your experience is with meditation so far.

 

Based on what you pick, it will recommend that you start off with 3 minutes, 5 minutes, or 10 minutes of meditation per session.

Over time, your recommended session duration will gradually increase. You can tap the drop-down arrow to select a different duration to what they recommend and you can also manually adjust the duration up or down at the start of every session, so no pressure about being “locked in” to what you choose right now.

If you’re new but feeling confident, then we recommend that you do your 1st session with 3 minutes. Then, adjust it up to 5 minutes for your 2nd session, 10 minutes for your 5th session, and go by feel from there, working your way up to 15, 20 or 30 minutes eventually. Remember, you can always scale it back down to 10, 5, or even 3 minutes at any time that you want.

Something is always better than nothing. So even if you REALLY don’t feel like it, see if you can knock out a quick 3 minutes to flex your willpower muscle, groove the habit, and keep up your momentum.

2) Once you’ve chosen your experience level, Headspace will ask you what brings you here?

As in, what is one of the main benefits that you are seeking out?

Do you want to sleep better? Be less stressed? Be more calm? Be more focused? Less anxious? Or are you not sure and just going to check out whatever is available?

3) Once you have chosen your focus, Headspace will ask you when during the day you would like to meditate?

This is super important, as we recommend that you aim to meditate at the same time each day. Of course, you can take advantage of meditating any time that you want, even choosing to meditate multiple times a day.

Our point though is that meditation is NOT something that you FIND the time to do, it IS something that you MAKE the time for.

I personally choose to wake up 20 minutes earlier than I need to in order to make time for my meditation practice. I know that if I don’t do it first thing in the morning, it’s very likely that I won’t feel like it or won’t have the time to do it later. I like to wake up, shower, and eat first before meditating because I find that if I do it too soon after waking up then I feel very sleepy and tend to want to doze off while meditating.

4) Once you have chosen when you plan to meditate, Headspace will give you a quick recap of your focus, your session duration, and your schedule.

You can then tap on “meditate now” or “explore the app”.

5) Headspace is pretty good at guiding you through the app, helping you explore. So let’s assume that you tapped on “meditate now”.

You will begin your very first session, where Andy from headspace introduces himself, explains a bit more about what to expect from meditation, and then gives you your first taste of what it means to be mindful.

After each session, you will be shown how many minutes you have meditated for in total and how many days in a row you have meditated for recently. Let’s see how many of you can hit 10 days in a row, eh?!

You can check out both the Headspace and the Precision Nutrition offline meditation strategies for beginners here if you cannot or do not want to use an app (understandable).

What’s the goal?

At Sleekgeek we like to talk about Outcome-Based Goals and Behaviour-Based Goals.

  • An Outcome-Based Goal is the end result that you hope to accomplish. It’s usually quite vague and broad. This might be wanting better sleep, more focus, less stress, less anxiety, and so on.
  • Behaviour-Based Goal is an action that you need to take in order to achieve the outcome that you want. It’s usually clear-cut and specific, giving you a concrete action plan to execute on a regular basis.

Let meditation be your Behaviour-Based Goal… Something that you practice regularly and routinely for whatever outcome(s) you are wanting to achieve. Regular practice helps you become more skillful at being mindful, just like practicing playing the piano makes you a more skillful pianist.

Even if you don’t have a very specific outcome in mind, throughout the Headspace App journey, you will be given suggestions and prompts along the way to make your meditation practice more effective and results-driven.

For example, a strategy that you learn early on is to begin your meditation session with a clear purpose. You deliberately think about how you want your meditation practice to benefit others in your life through helping you be more present, more mindful, less stressed, less anxious, more understanding, and so on.

As you practice your meditation behaviour, you will get an intuitive feel for how it is benefiting you and how you would like it to continue to benefit you.

We recommend that you try and knock out 10 days in a row of the free trial from the Headspace App, or at the very least keep on trying until you eventually have completed 10 days in total.

After that, you will know whether this kind of meditation practice is for you or not.

According to Headspace, the “right amount of time to meditate” is different for everyone. The most important thing is that you establish a routine.

10-Day Meditation Challenge

Be sure to check out our free Sleekgeek 10-Day Meditation Challenge (which uses the Headspace app) and join the Sleekgeek Meditation Facebook Group.

Namaste.


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