“Oh, I can’t meditate. I can never shut my brain off.”
If this is your response when your life is stressful and someone suggests meditation as a helpful tool, you probably have unrealistic expectations for a meditation practice. Unless you are a monk who meditates all day every day for weeks or months, no one can make their mind into a completely blank slate. Besides, even monks have to deal with intrusive thoughts sometimes!
But meditation can reduce stress and anxiety, and has shown to have positive effects on your immune system, inflammatory disorders and asthma, blood pressure, memory and learning, and longevity. Studies have shown that meditation reduces the risk of heart diseases, stroke, Alzheimer’s, fibromyalgia and arthritis.
Meditation also brings peace of mind, positive feelings, and helps you connect to a deeper sense of purpose in your life.
The key to meditation is redirecting your attention back to the present moment as quickly as possible after your thoughts get you sidetracked.
You can choose how you respond to the thoughts that come up in a meditation session. You can choose to bring yourself back to your breathing and stay grounded in the present moment.
If you want to try it, dedicating as little as five minutes per day to meditating is a good place to start. There are a number of free apps, such as Insight Timer or Calm, available to help you get started. You can either set up a timer to keep track of a silent meditation session or try one of the guided meditations available on these apps.
As you get more experienced in your meditation practice, you can increase the time of your daily sessions, as your schedule allows.
Consistency is the most important feature of a meditation practice. When you dedicate time to this effort every day, you’ll find that you’ll be able to bring yourself back to the present more quickly with more practice.
So, don’t talk yourself out of meditating because you think you “can’t” do it. Even if you don’t have the luxury of spending months on a mountaintop somewhere in Asia to reach a state of enlightenment, you can still practice meditation and get all of the physical and mental health benefits associated with it. Manage your expectations going into it, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the benefits you get.