The benefits of meditation are widely known and acknowledged, so it is no question that beginning your morning with meditation is a constructive and beneficial way to start the day with a calm, clear mind. Many people claim that incorporating a regular meditation practice is a life-altering practice, and I am sure anyone who practices yoga knows the incredible feeling of a still mind in Savasana after a yoga practice. The practice of meditation can help detach you from your regular thought patterns, tune your awareness into your true self, and put everything into perspective.
How you start your day is how you live your day. Creating this mindful connection with yourself starts your day off in a mindful and present way. Since there seems to be a connection between mindfulness and contentment, this is probably something we could all benefit from. If you start your morning off in this mindful setting, it is more likely you will move through the rest of the day with more intention and presence.
Taking time, especially first thing in the morning, to notice where the mind is going can help you become aware of your typical thought patterns. Awareness is the first step in changing these patterns, especially if they happen to be harmful or distracting. In the words of Albert Einstein, “the world is a product of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking”.
Meditation requires your full concentration and thus forces you to detach from thoughts about work, meetings and appointments, relationships, and other commitments which may leave your mind wandering in a thousand different directions. Having this time to yourself can help reduce stress and actually slow the heart rate and breathing rate, while improving circulation. These physiological effects literally reflect the calm that takes place in the mind as a result of regular meditation practice.
Oftentimes stepping back and taking ourselves outside of the moment can help us see the big picture of what is happening in our lives. This is an opportunity we are not often granted, but meditation allows us this temporary detachment which can transform how we see issues in our lives. A bigger perspective is always helpful for living a fulfilling and happy life.
1. Get comfortable: Morning meditation is best done in a comfortable seated position, rather than lying down, to avoid falling back asleep. It might feel good to sit on your bed, with a cushion underneath your hips, or your back against a wall. However you choose to sit, make sure it is comfortable enough that you can hold it for several minutes as you focus on meditation.
2. Choose a quiet place/time: If you are practicing meditation in the morning, it may be the easiest time to find quiet and solitude, if the rest of your household has not woken up yet. If there are other people around, it is ideal to practice your meditation somewhere quiet and where you feel calm. Perhaps you will enjoy meditation facing a window so you can feel more connected with nature. Perhaps meditating on your bed, where you have just awoken from a restful sleep, brings you the most calm. There are many other options to help cultivate a calm environment; such as lighting candles, dimming the lights, burning incense,or playing soft music. Try a few of these options and see what helps you feel the most at peace!
3. Set a timer: If you do only have a set time to meditate in the morning, setting a timer can be helpful to avoid breaking focus to check the clock every few minutes. It is recommended to set the ringtone on your timer to a soft sound that will not jolt you out of your meditative state, but rather gently tell you it is time to continue with your day. Another strategy might be to leave your timer or phone in another room so it is less obtrusive when it does go off. Setting a timer is a great way to allow yourself to fully enter into your meditation, as long as you make sure the timer doesn’t startle you out of your calm and centered state at the end.
4. Try a guided meditation: You may wish to try a few guided meditations when you are starting out. A guided meditation is a recording of someone guiding you through the basics of meditation to help bring you to a calm and centered state. The nice thing about guided meditations is that with the internet, you have the option of choosing one to suit the amount of time you have available. There are guided meditations available ranging from one minute to several hours. They are usually complete with soothing music in the background which further helps create a calming mood. If you are unsure of where to start, here are some great options for guided meditations, available for free:
Deep Relaxation & Positivity Guided Meditation (10 minute) by BohoBeautiful
Positive Affirmation Guided Meditation (10 minute) by Great Meditation
Mindfulness Guided Meditation (5 minute) by MindfulPeace
5. Start with the breath: Beginning to meditate can be easiest by focusing first on physical sensation. Take the first few moments of your meditation to notice the breath- a constant. natural process of the body which we don’t often notice as we move through the day. Use this awareness to draw you in and anchor your focus as you let other thoughts drift away.
6. Notice your thoughts without judgement: As you begin to focus on the breath and attempt to quiet the mind, you may notice that certain thoughts compete for your attention. Maybe you find you keep thinking about a stressful work meeting scheduled for later in the day. Or your stomach is beginning to grumble. This is normal and a part of meditation for almost everyone. Maintaining a completely still mind is an incredibly difficult feat and rather than resisting the thoughts, or judging yourself for allowing the mind to drift, simply acknowledge them and allow them to float by like clouds in the sky. Remember that all thoughts, emotions, feelings are temporary and will pass.
7. Try a mantra: At times it can be helpful to have a mantra to repeat in the mind to serve as a focal point. Not only will repeating a mantra in your head give your mind something to focus on, it will also bring power to the words that you repeat, which can have strong effects on how the rest of your day plays out. Some examples of powerful mantras:
You may even choose a mantra to bring strength to a specific quality you feel you need on a given day. For example, if you have to give a presentation at work and you are nervous about public speaking, you might choose a mantra along the lines of: “I am confident and capable of communicating my ideas”. The beautiful thing about a mantra is you can customize it to serve whatever purpose you need on any given day. In general, try to keep your mantras concise (1 sentence or less) and open-ended, so that the result you are looking to achieve could be realized in a number of different ways.
8. Remember that meditation is a practice: Some days, it may be easier than others to simply relax the mind. Some days, you may feel thoughts barging in with every breath you take. Just remember, like anything, meditation is a constant practice and you will find peaks and valleys. Don’t judge yourself on days when it is harder to find peace. Instead, congratulate yourself for integrating such a wonderful practice into your daily life. You will experience benefits whether you have a “good” meditation session or not. Always thank yourself for taking the time to care for the mind and body with this magical practice.
Did this post inspire you to do something good for yourself in the morning? Keep your eye on the MYKW blog for more information about self-care in the morning in the coming weeks. Every week will feature a different topic relating to self-care in the morning, as we prepare for the CAMH Sunrise Challenge, which asks participants to rise with the sun and do something positive for their mental health every day for a week from May 31st-June 6th 2021. The donations raised from the challenge will go toward the CAMH's research and treatment for individuals struggling with mental health. Find out more or donate to the MYKW team at: http://give.camh.ca/site/TR/Events/2021SunriseChallenge?team_id=4631&pg=team&fr_id=1180