With poor mental health affecting more people, self-care activities and self-awareness exercises are becoming more and more important. Today we want to talk about meditation – a great way to show yourself more compassion and take a few moments to hold space for yourself. It’s been shown to promote positive thinking, improve focus, provide clarity, lower stress, anxiety and blood pressure, increase self-awareness, encourage better sleep and help with breathing.
There are a lot of misconceptions around meditation but it is a case of finding what works best for you. It can be tough to meditate at first when you are trying to relax but have so many negative thoughts and feelings floating around in your head and your body is tense. Meditation involves training the mind to focus in one place and stay in the moment – a skill which needs to be developed so like with everything, practise and patience is key. We’ll be sharing our top tips for meditation beginners, as well as introducing you to three (of the many) types of meditation our clients like to explore…
We find that guided meditation is one of the best ways to get started. This guides you through the meditation process and supports you to focus on what you can see and hear, rather than solely on your breathing and thoughts (which when you have a critical voice and anxiety can be very difficult). Guided meditation is available via group therapy, one-to-one therapy, podcasts, YouTube and a number of mindfulness apps. Our founder, Emmy has even recorded a Spotify playlist of her own guided meditations for you to download/stream here:
Body Scanning – Body Scan Meditation
Bringing mindfulness to the body through body scan meditation (body scanning) can also be effective in that it brings awareness to feelings/emotions inside our body rather than focusing on what our body looks like. Move your attention slowly through different parts of your body, starting from the top of your head, through your core, down to your fingers and toes. Spend time on each part of your body and notice any physical sensations such as aches and pains, tension and tightness, tingling, warmth or chills, heaviness and lightness. Before moving on to the next part of your body, make sure you have become aware of any feelings/sensations, relaxed with each breath in and released that feeling/sensation with each breath out. Visualise it leaving your body through each breath.
Mindfulness meditation is probably the most difficult for those in recovery as it’s a mind-body approach which helps you to be fully present with and manage your thoughts and feelings. It can help develop your capacity to observe your thoughts and separate what is coming from your unwell voice. The ability to do this makes reflecting on your actions easier; allowing you to think more consciously about the choices you have.
Practising mindfulness meditation allows the mind and body to reconnect – it not only enhances our control of our thinking capacity, creating a sense of empowerment but raises bodily awareness putting us in touch with the sensations of our bodies – something that’s essential as part of eating disorder recovery. It can help slow your breathing down and ultimately calm or prevent panic attacks, quiet your mind, relax you and help you find inner peace. It also helps the mind to focus on one thing at a time – a breath, a feeling/emotion, a sound, a word. Reconnecting with yourself and increasing the ability to self-regulate your emotions is a step in towards healing and recovery.
Meditating changes your brain and the way your body responds. Ongoing meditation will help keep things in perspective by helping you to detach from unhealthy thought patterns.
Beginner’s Meditation Tips
Meditation is a tool to make you feel better. It’s not a tool to beat yourself up with or something to be getting really frustrated with yourself over.
Start to notice what you are thinking about. So much of what anxiety and our thoughts do is just carry on; they almost don’t even need us to pay attention to what they’re doing. Part of practising mindfulness and meditation is just noticing “what am I thinking about?” – not trying to control or judge it, just noticing.
Go with what works whether that’s listening to guided scripts or focusing on your breathing. Listening to music is a nice gateway to get into meditation so perhaps try exploring various tracks that you find soothing. Throw out the rulebook and be open to different methods of meditating.
Find a nice space that you like being in. If you’re somewhere others need to be or you are unable to get 5-10 minutes undisturbed and completely to yourself, then you’re fighting a losing battle so taking a bath or out walking your dog (where you’re guaranteed some peace) can make all the difference. Nature is such a wonderful prompt for us focusing on something that’s in the here and now. Despite what you may have pictured or heard meditation to be like, you don’t have to be in your comfiest chair with candles all around for this to work if that’s not really your thing.
If you find yourself drifting and your critical voice is starting to get louder, just notice it and bring yourself back to being calm. Take a little break if you need to.
Be patient. At the beginning, just give that amazing gift of 5-10 minutes to yourself to just be somewhere you find peaceful. You can increase this over time if you want to. You’ve probably spent a lifetime being controlled by your thoughts so don’t worry if these things evolve really slowly. Even just focusing on nothing for 10 seconds can bring you excitement and joy when you have been plagued with anxiety, an unwell voice and lack of clarity. Be kind to yourself. The more you invest in this practise, the easier it’s going to become and the more likely it is that you’re going to benefit from it. If you’re pursuing it like a duty and a burden then you’re starting off on the wrong foot.
Meditation is just one of the positive coping strategies we explore with our clients. To find out more about our holistic approach to mental health treatment, get in touch with our advice team via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call on 0845 603 6530.