How to *actually* enjoy meditation (from someone who’s been there)
Meditation is super beneficial for our mental health, but tbh, it can be a total bore.
I’ve fallen asleep meditating, obsessed over posture until my back was sore and could never seem to “zen out” at all! Between the chaos of school, work, friends, fam time and even taking care of my puppy, I *needed* some sort of mindfulness practice to keep myself from burning out. I would rise from my yoga mat after a failed meditation practice, shoulders slumped in defeat and exhaustion, and ask myself, "Should it be this lame?" And, guess what? It really doesn't have to be so boring—and well, such a challenge—to do something good for yourself. Here are my top tips to actually enjoy meditation (from someone who, unfortunately, has been totally there).
Simply *notice* your breath and thoughts
Instead of forcing all thoughts out of your mind, try to observe and release them as they pop up during meditation. An easy way to be mindful of your thoughts is to visualize them floating in your brain and softly drifting out. Do not engage with these thoughts as they appear, allow them to exist in your brain just as they are without making any judgments about them, and then watch them disappear.
Rather than carefully controlling your breath during meditation, try to notice how you are currently breathing in that present moment. Allow yourself to take comfortable inhales and exhale— in through the nose and out throguh the mouth— until your breath falls into a peaceful rhythm. Additionally, practice honing in on the physical sensations of your breathing. Follow the path of your breath as it enters your nose, feel your chest and stomach rise and fall, allowing the breath to be released out through your mouth. As thoughts pop up, watch them slip out of your mind and simply feel the breath moving in and out of your body.
Listen to chill music
If you are sick of sitting in silence or listening to bird noises while meditating, turn on your favorite chill song for a meditation. These songs can be instrumental or have calming lyrics—whatever helps you relax and release the day's stress. Remember to simply focus on the physical sensations of your breathing, and any song you choose will create the perf meditation ambiance. Here are some of my faves to meditate with: Meditation by MONOMAN, La Lune by Billie Marten and any video from just stop thinking on YouTube (their vibey, classical music accompanied by rain noises has me obsessed!).
Relax into your fave yoga pose
In my early practices of meditation, I despised having to sit with my back perfectly straight, legs crisscrossed into my lap and chest "opening up into the sky" in an utterly uncomfortable position. So, I ignored the directions of the YouTube instructor and relaxed into yoga poses instead. Lean into child's pose, bridge pose or whichever pose gets you to fully connect to your body and breath. Also, you can try yoga meditation practices after you inevitably fall in love with meditation as much as I have!
Paired muscle relaxation
It's hard to release all the tension in your body after handling a stressful school day or hectic shift at work. Your shoulders are tense from your English presentation and you cannot seem to relax until you figure out how you did on that Physics quiz. Paired muscle relaxation is a great practice to try out if you are a tense meditator or want to try a more stimulating meditation exercise. PMR instructs you to tense a certain body part as much as you can, and then release that tension so you can fully relax. I love starting out meditation practices with some PMR to loosen shoulders and neck to ensure I can totally chill out. Check out this YouTube video by the American Lung Association to give paired muscle relaxation a try.
Try a visualization practice
If you find meditation to be dull, you might want to spice your practices up with some visualization techniques. You can visualize yourself in a calming lavender field, place yourself on a mountain top feeling the sunrise's heat warm your skin or even let your mind travel in your fave place! My favorite visualization practice is to imagine your breath controlling the pull and push of a beach's waves, your inhale brings the water rushing forward onto your toes and your exhale allows the water to pull back into the sea. You can also follow visualization scripts on Youtube from channels such as Great Meditation.
Remove the pressure to have perfect posture, completely empty your mind and obsess over your breath, and you might actually start enjoying meditation. At the end of the practice, this mindfulness time is for Y-O-U. Let go of the idea to meditate "the right way" and start meditating your way. Whatever helps you find peace and leave you feeling ready to take on the next epic task on your agenda, is *the* way to meditate. Paying attention to the present moment, noticing all its little quirks and imperfections and allowing these flaws to simply exist around you, is what mindfulness is all about!