How to Meditate To Reduce Stress and Increase Self-Awareness

It's a common belief that meditation is only for monks who sit still for hours on a Tibetan mountain.  But is this what meditation is? 

To my surprise, I have learnt that many of the most successful and influential people in the world use some form of meditation on a daily basis.  

Is this a coincidence?  I think not.  

Thousands of research studies have confirmed that meditation is good for us.  It's a common denominator that all humans share - having a consistent meditation practice will improve your life in ways you've never imagined.  

Being a stubborn person, I had to test meditation on myself before I would believe in its benefits.  The first time that I tried meditation, I failed miserably.  I tried to force my mind to be quiet and quickly found out that my mind had a mind of its own.  Within a week, I had quit meditating.  It was too hard, too frustrating and I thought I was doing it wrong.  

Today, I look back on my first experience and have a laugh because after meditating for many years, I can no longer imagine my life without it.  

Currently, I have a meditation practice that includes 20 minutes of meditation each morning 6-7 days a week.  If I miss a few meditation sessions in a row, I notice that my stress level increases, my thoughts begin to race, and my ability to do deep and creative work degrades.

I started meditating years ago to help decrease the constant stress I was dealing with in the corporate world.  The stresses were caused both externally and internally.  

Externally, I wanted to stay more grounded in the present moment.  

Internally, I wanted to quiet the negative voice inside of my head.

After years of practicing, I can safely say that meditation has become my most important weapon against stress.  

  • It is harder to get under my skin
  • I recover faster from negative emotions
  • I can quickly let go of troubling situations 

Decreasing my stress levels was a big win, but the most important benefit for me was an increased level of self-awareness to my thoughts.  Self-awareness is the key to managing the thoughts you don't want to think and changing them into more productive thoughts.

So how do you get started with meditation?

  1. Find a quiet location where you will not be bothered
  2. Sit comfortable on the floor or in a chair
  3. Close your eyes
  4. Concentrate on feeling your breath entering your nose/mouth or inflating your belly
  5. Maintain this focus and every time you catch yourself thinking of any other thought other than your breath, gently refocus your mind back to your breath
  6. Start with 5 minute sessions and than slowly work yourself up to 20 minutes a day.

That’s it!  

It sounds easy, but you will soon find that this is very hard.  During meditation, your mind will wonder to thoughts such as “What’s for lunch?”, or “What’s that noise?”, or “I am annoyed by…”

This is completely normal.  I can't emphasize this point enough!  This is where many people think they are meditating wrong.  But in reality you are on the right track.  Meditation is a practice that takes a lifetime of practice to master.

Shifting your thoughts back to your breath whenever you catch yourself thinking other thoughts is part of meditation .  The more meditating you do, the more aware you become of your thoughts and the more practice you get refocusing yourself back to your breath.

Once you get better at meditation, you will notice that even when you aren't meditating you will have an increased self-awareness to your thoughts.  With this self-awareness, you now have the choice to do as you wish with those thoughts.  Do you choose to continue to dwell on negative thoughts? Or will you choose to change your thoughts to something more joyful?

I challenge you to try meditation for a couple of weeks to see if meditation makes a difference for you.  



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