photography by PHUONG NGUYEN
New Year, new you! That’s great and all in theory, but putting it into practice can be harder. Start 2018 off right, by beginning to implement those changes or practices you’ve been wanting to incorporate. May we suggest having a calmer, more mindful 2018? If that sounds wonderful, then start with meditation. Here you'll find the best meditation tips to kick start your practice.
First off, why meditate?
It can literally strengthen your brain—primarily the frontal cortex, which is the part that controls memory and executive decision making. (Watch this fascinating TEDx talk by neuroscientist Sara Lazar, who showed how meditation reshapes the brain, and scans of fifty-year-old meditators had as much active gray matter in that region as 25-year-old non-meditators.)
“There is a way to be in control of your reactions and emotions, rather than the other way around," says Suze Yalof Schwartz, CEO and Founder of Unplug Meditation. (According to the National Science Foundation, the average person has approximately 50,000 thoughts a day, stealing our attention away from the present moment.)
Less Stress, More Joy
A study done by research scientists at UC Davis showed that meditation can lower the amount of cortisol in the body, otherwise known as the stress hormone. Less cortisol, less stress, more capacity for joy. And a separate study done at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine showed that meditation can provide a level of relief from symptoms of anxiety and depression similar to that of antidepressant drugs. But no prescription needed!
You’ll rewire your brain so you can more easily shift out of the amygdala and into the prefrontal cortex, where the inspiration turns into ideas, and ideas into execution.
1. Close your eyes. Breathe in through the nose. And exhale loudly out of the mouth. Try to just listen to all the noises all around you and how your feeling, be aware. Once you notice you have a thought, go back to focusing on the breathing again and start over.
2. Feel the air on your skin, smell the air around you, hear the birds around you, the noises. If your brain wanders to the to-do list and you realize you’re no longer meditating, begin again. "It’s almost like doing a bicep curl for your brain—every time you think, you redirect your brain,” says Yalof Schwartz. “And the more you do that, that’s actually how you change the structure of your brain."
3. Still having trouble focusing? Try essential oils. “Whole Foods has a great orange essential oil by Now, (and orange scents makes you happy) and put a little in your palms and rub your hands,” says Schwartz. “You smell it, you put your hands down and start listening to everything around you, be aware of the present moment and when your mind starts to wander, bring your hands back up and smell your hands again, and be aware of the moment again. Essential oils can totally shift your mood, and put you in the present moment. You want to get your mind and body in the same zip code.”
4. Britton Darby, Executive Director at Tantris Center for Yogic Science, recommends sitting up in bed or on a pillow, lighting a candle or incense, dimming the lights, and setting the alarm on your phone for 15 minutes while you repeat the mantra “RUM” quietly to yourself.
5. “Meditation is really important, but I’m not going to cross my legs and 'ommm,'” says fashion designer Norma Kamali. “I get up in the morning, I’ve got a business to run, I have staff to pay. But I learned how to breathe. When I’m stressed out, I go to the bathroom, turn out the light, put the toilet seat down, and sit there, and slow breathe. As slow as I can until I almost don’t feel myself breathing, and I feel a wash come over me, and you sit for a minute. And then you go on with your day. It recalibrates you. Sometimes I’ll go to the bathroom three or four times in one day to breathe, and no one knows what I’m doing. But there is a point where I have to do that, and you can do it at any time or anywhere. Go where no one will bother you, ideally darker space, leave your phone at your desk.”
Inspired to give it a go? Start with all the best apps that’ll make meditation easier. “I’m so glad that meditation apps have become popular downloads,” says wellness expert Jeannine Morris. “What used to be looked at as hippie dippy has become a mainstream necessity.” Whether you hope to relax, focus, or sleep better, meditation apps can help you achieve your healthiest mindset. Read The Best Meditation Apps to Help You Zen Out for the full list.
Want to pair your meditation with a mindful bath? Deborah Hanekamp, aka Mama Medicine, showed us how to create the ultimate relaxing, stress relieving bath experience. Hanekamp deeply believes in the power of the restorative bath. “It’s the most magical self-healing ceremony,” she says.
Inspired to make a meditation nest at home? Great news, building a space that is entirely your own will keep you meditating. We’ve got tips, read 11 Ways to Create the Perfect Meditation Nook at Home.
Keep Reading About Meditation:
How to Start Meditating, Once and For All
Can You Really 'Float' Your Way to Bliss?
This Is How Meditation Gurus Sleep Like Babies
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