Self Improvement Thursday: 4 Perks of Meditation for the Chronically Busy

Tomorrow is the 1st of May and as you may have heard, I've signed up for Mindful in May, a global mindfulness meditation challenge.  I am committing to 10 minutes of meditation per day for the full 31 days of May.  Yikes!

In chatting about this challenge both on and offline a number of people have said, 'I'd love to do that but I don't know if I could stick to it,' 'I think I'm just too busy,' and 'Good luck finding ten minutes to yourself each day!'  

I know what they mean.  I'm a bit worried about it myself.  I love a new challenge. I take them on all the time.  My enthusiasm for something new is not always matched by ability to follow through however, often because a busy life gets in the way. Well that's the excuse I use.

I do know that there is a lot you can do to maximise your motivation and make sure that you find the time for things that are truly worthwhile. And 10 minutes of mindfulness meditation per day is truly worthwhile.  There is now compelling evidence that mindfulness meditation when practised regularly, can lead to:

•   Reduced stress and its negative impact on the body and mind

•   Improved physical and mental well being

•   Increased happiness.

•   Enhanced immune function (Source)

Dr. Elise Bialylew is a Sydney-based psychiatrist and the founder of the Mindful in May movement.  In this article she admits that she too is tempted to forgo meditation for the other many demands on her time but she pushes through and does it anyway.  This is what she notices: 

When I sit to meditate on these days, I immediately notice the tightness in my chest and throat and the underlying agitation of my stress. I notice my mind is spewing out to do lists in a way that makes it nearly impossible to get up and just do it all. Then I see what is happening.

Ah, agitation is here.

I KNOW this feeling.  This is so often what I feel when I lay down on the yoga mat at a class I have mentally battled with myself to attend....

'I should go to yoga' 'I will feel really good afterwards if I go to yoga'

'But I could spend that time getting this list of jobs done. If I don't go today, I could go later in the week. I really can't spare the time today. There's too much to do.'

'Don't make excuses, you're avoiding it. Just go!' 

Ninety percent of the time I go and I always feel better afterwards, especially when I lay on the yoga mat at the end of the class and realise that  my breath has deepened, my shoulders are relaxed, my lower back has softened against the floor instead of arching like the Harbour Bridge and my mind is no longer racing.

I will draw on this experience when the days of May are busy and I'm tempted to skip my meditation.  I will also remember the following:

  1. Ten minutes of meditation a day is ten minutes of peace for both my mind and body. It's ten minutes to myself, for myself, to relax and reset.  Yes there are a lot of other demands on my time and attention but I'm worth this ten minute investment in my wellbeing.
  2. Ten minutes of meditation a day is ten minutes to clear my mind, to reboot, to gather my thoughts and be in a better mental place to consider and then attack my priorities.  If it's worth my time to spend ten minutes writing a to-do list then it's worth spending ten minutes to clear the chaos and mental clutter and make sure I'm getting those priorities straight.
  3. Ten minutes of meditation a day is ten minutes to slow my body.  Mindfulness meditation is now known to reduce blood pressure, to improve sleep, to release muscle tension and to reduce physical pain and discomfort.  I'm going to rid myself of my jaw clench, resting scowl face!
  4. Ten minutes of meditation a day is ten minutes to  develop my happiness and gratitude. Being mindful of our thoughts allows us to break the circuit of negative thinking and to focus instead on all that is good in our world.  This is a chance for me to be consciously grateful for my health, family and friends and to thank myself for my ten minutes of time out. 

Hot Tip: If you have tried meditation and struggled to calm your mind and 'think of nothing' then here is the most helpful meditation advice I have ever received... 

It is nigh on impossible to think of nothing.  Just as our heart's job is to pump blood the mind's job is to think.  That's what it does.  When we're being mindful we're not trying to stop thinking, we're just paying attention to what is immediately around us and not letting our mind wander off into worry or busyness or distraction.  

If, when you meditate, you find yourself thinking of something else, acknowledge that thought ('Ah, I'm thinking about work) and then let it go and refocus on your breath or your body or the voice that you are listening to. Don't get frustrated with your brain, just acknowledge that it was thinking about something else and let that thought drift off.

So I'm primed and ready to be more mindful and to meditate for ten minutes a day starting tomorrow. I might have even recruited the big and small boys in my household to join me, which will be a laugh.  How about you? will you give it a go?

If you want to know more about Mindful in May or to register to join in you can do that here. You might also like to listen to this example of the guided meditations that were emailed out last year.

If you'd like to join the Potential Psychology Team for a bit of added support, you can do that here.  

And if you're not quite ready to meditate but you'd like to sponsor our growing team you can do that here. And thank you. x