It’s funny how we’re perfectly open to making enormous, sometimes crazy changes, all in the name of extreme life changes. We replace food with cayenne-lemon water (hey, Beyoncé did it!); we take on intense workout commitments, and fly to exotic unplug-style retreats.
And yet when it comes to making a minor (and free!) change, it can feel impossible to pull the trigger – or even harder, to keep it up. But let us tell you: exploring and committing to mindfulness – through a meditation practice, and throughout your daily life, might be the closest thing to a silver bullet there is. Inspired by Calm, our favorite meditation app, we’re sharing a primer on why you should take it on, and how to get started.
Here’s what you need to know.
The benefits are real, and they’re spectacular.
Forget your woo-woo preconceptions about meditation. It’s proven to increase your ability to focus, lower your blood pressure, reduce stress, and bring down your likelihood of having a heart attack or stroke by nearly 50%. Like we said: REAL. It also improves sleep, so when paired with a set of hyper-luxe sheets, it’s basically better than a sleeping pill.
A small investment pays off BIG TIME.
We know, you’re busy. The thought of squeezing 20 minutes – or even 5 – into your daily routine sounds impossible. But what if we told you that initial time spent could give you MORE time throughout the day. “Think of it as a 20- or 30-minute vacation from the stress in your life,” says Richard A. Stein, professor of medicine and director of the exercise and nutrition program at New York University’s Center for Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease. That vacation halts the stress-produced adrenaline and gives us a better shot at being more clear-headed and on the ball. As in the same task that takes you 2 hours (complete with complaining, distractions, self-doubt, and coffee breaks) might just get done in 45 minutes. You’re welcome.
A sunny corner is just as good as a mountain top.
You don’t need a meditation room, with crystals and hanging prayer beads – just start with a quiet room, and by all means, turn off your phone notifications. (Instagram likes are great, but not conducive to this process.) Let anyone else at home know you’re about to be unreachable for a short amount of time, and get on that stress-vacation. Once you strengthen your mindfulness muscle, you’ll also be able to practice it while drinking tea from your favorite mug, or, most important, when work stress starts to set in on Sunday night and you need a breather.
It’s not a diet, but it can lead to results.
The great part about mindfulness during meals is that it brings awareness of the sensation of fullness, which can prevent overeating (and yes, often lead to weight loss). More important, it can lead to general physical well-being, which means less stress devoted to body issues. And more room for attention toward the things that matter: enjoying the moment, especially when the moment is delicious food with friends. (We’ll toast to that!)
It can mean a happier home.
Rather than holding onto a dozen things that perform the same function, decluttering and streamlining your home can help you practice mindfulness, by clearing out some of the barriers to peace of mind. Sometimes we hoard – er, hold onto things – because they remind of us something not worth remembering, or they’re supposed to “protect” us from a worst-case scenario. Meanwhile, the magic of decluttering is it lets us live in the NOW. Think of the tidying-up process as being the physical match for what you’re working on inside with mindfulness. Take it to the next level by replacing the “eh” things in your life with elevated basics. You know that’s our jam – here are some bundles of good stuff to kick things off.
Sold? Here’s how to get started.
First, start small – a 5 minute meditation is a great place to begin. And don’t start with sky-high expectations that are all set to bum you out once you don’t achieve them. If you start thinking about work, or friends, or TV, just acknowledge and accept it… then move on. That is highly normal, and an essential part of the process – if you think successful meditators can clear their minds 100%, right away, you’re giving them way too much credit.
Calm’s resident mindfulness meditators also suggest arming yourself with the proper tools – a rolled up towel to place under your bum if you’re planning to meditate in the traditional cross-leg pose (no, you don’t have to sit like this, but if you do, you’ll be amazed at what a difference a thick, comfortable cushion will make.) A water glass nearby is the perfect way to hydrate and reflect post-practice, and if you’re going to do a few minutes of journaling as well, it helps to have some shams propped up at the head of your bed so you have a comfy spot to jot down your thoughts.
So – breathe in, breathe out, and get ready for some pretty awesome changes. Not everyone will see them right away, but you’ll feel them – subtly, brilliantly, and all on your own.