TOOL #32 - GUIDED MEDITATION
Meditating has been scientifically proven to help you stress less, reduce anxiety, increase mental clarity and focus, helps you relax and improve sleep and can be used to develop a positive mindset. Ultimately a power tool for both your physical and mental health.
However, meditations and my overthinking brain never used to get on. The over-thinking brain won every time. I really struggled to switch off, any attempt to meditate would be railroaded by the over-active imagination and inability to think about ‘nothing’. So, after a few failed attempts I gave up trying and that is why it was not a tool in My Wellness Toolbox.
Then in November 2018 I would discover my understanding of what meditation is, was all wrong.
I thought that meditating would allow me to completely switch off the negative thinking, to block the intrusive thoughts, stop them in their tracks, when they went on their abusive attack. I thought meditation was a tool to escape from the negative thinking. WRONG.
Meditation is a power tool to retrain the brain to accept thoughts for exactly what they are. Just thoughts. To retrain the brain to just allow the thoughts to wander past without triggering a physical or emotional response.
Also, it is a skill that requires regular practice, giving up after a few attempts is why this tool had not previously worked for me.
Ironically, I had been ‘overthinking’ meditation and I was also holding on to the outdated belief “Well, I tried this before, it doesn’t work for me, so no point trying again.”
Thanks to the encouragement of Claire Cross, an online fitness and wellbeing coach, I decided to give this tool another go. Claire had suggested guided meditations may help me when I was struggling to switch off at the end of busy and exciting days. She pointed me in the direction of the Headspace app (one of hundreds of meditation apps to choose from).
The Headspace app is simple to use. Tick. The first guided meditation I tried was only 5 minutes. Tick. The Headspace man’s voice is lovely. Tick
The first time I used it I fell asleep before it finished… and continued to fall asleep every time I listened to that lovely soothing voice of the Headspace man. It also helped me learn to meditate. Finally, this tool was working for me.
Listening to the guided meditations became part of the daily routine (I even manage to stay awake now… sometimes). I did some research and discovered another wonderful app called ‘Breethe’. This is jam packed with guided meditations, bedtime stories for adults and relaxing tracks to choose from. A ready-made peaceful playlist.
You do not have to download an app or pay money for meditations, simply do an internet search ‘Guided mediation’ and you will find thousands online. Narrow the choice down by including a reason as to why you would like to meditate. For example, Guided Meditation to… ‘Let Go’… ‘To unwind’… ‘To sleep’… ‘To motivate’… ‘To laugh’… ‘To just be’.
When my mental health was declining at a rapid rate in 2019, I was calling upon guided meditations several times a day to help reduce the anxiety when I was leaving the house. They really did help.
More recently, during COVID19 lockdown and the anxieties that brings, I have been using them most evenings to help me switch off and encourage a restful night’s sleep. On the nights I have been disturbed (most likely by the three-year-old who fancies a chat) and struggled to resettle, I’ve switched on a meditation, it helps us all return to sleep (even the chatterbox).
Guided meditations are a powerful mindset tool. In November 2019 I was still struggling daily with negative and intrusive thoughts. Thinking this could help me, my lovely friend Liz invited me to do the Abundance Challenge. A 21-day guided meditation program by Deepak Chopra (Chopra Centre). The aim of the challenge is to help you develop a mindset of prosperity and abundance in your daily life by working with a series of short meditations for 21 days.
I nearly declined the invite, could I be bothered? Did I have the energy?
I guessed that maybe it could help? I’m so glad I did. As not only did I love the soothing tones of Deepak’s voice (another one that helps me sleep), this challenge really encouraged me to use Tool #15 Gratitude every day. It also seemed to work, as abundance did start to flow more easily in many areas of my life. By Christmas 2019 I was feeling significantly better compared to the previous months. I do believe this challenge played a healthy part in my improved mindset at that time.
I am so glad I gave this tool another chance. It really has helped me gain a healthier perspective on my own thoughts which has led to less self-sabotage and higher self-esteem.
There are different types of meditations, the Guided mediations with visualisations work for me. Do some research, try different ones and work out what works for you.
Effectiveness: 8/10. Meditations can really help me unwind and relax, especially after a busy and stress inducing day.
Ease: 6/10. Practice is required. Now that I have put the effort in to learn this skill, I find it very easy to simply switch on, breathe and let my worries pass me by.
Cost: Free - £7.00 per month (for some apps – based on my own research)