Meditation is one of the most effective ways to develop mindfulness. It has become increasingly popular over the last few years as more people have felt the need to connect with their inner self. For having practiced meditation myself for over a year now, I can vouch that it helped me manage stress and become more self-aware.
The good news is, you do not have to go to a meditation course at a holistic center or pay for an app to start meditating today.
Before you start
Sit down in a quiet place and close your eyes. You can also lie down. Check if you are fidgeting and feeling restless. If so, relax your body by slowing your breath and rolling your shoulders, maybe do a bit of stretching before. Once you are still, empty your mind to start the meditation on a clean slate.
Be kind to yourself. Meditation is a skill you learn with regular practice. Your mind will wander, it’s actually part of the learning process, so be compassionate. You are not going to stay still and focused for an hour the first time you try – no one ever did, and no one ever will.
Now that the foundation and expectations are set, you can start the meditation.
The 3 techniques
1 | Body scan
Moving your attention from one part of your body to another connects you to your bodily sensations in a way that you probably haven’t experienced before. It’s a very easy technique you can use everywhere.
Just shift your focus from your crown to your face, to the back of your head. Move to your neck, your shoulders, your chest, the left arm, then the right one, your stomach, your back, your pelvis and your legs up to your toes. Slowly. Very slowly. Pause every time, and notice your position, how it feels.
Practicing this every day will help you become more aware of how your body reacts to certain emotions or situations before your mind actually becomes aware of them. For example, if you’ve realised that you feel anger in your belly, or happiness in your chest, you will be able to label these emotions more quickly and control your response if needs be.
2 | Noting
Noting is a meditation technique that allows us to be in the present and “note” – notice – when our mind drifts away. We gently catch ourselves being distracted by a thought or an emotion. We acknowledge it, we name it, we then leave it on the side, and we slowly go back to our breathing.
Noting starts with mindful breathing. Start counting each inhalation and each exhalation up to 10.
- Breathe in – one
- Breathe out – two
- Breathe in – three
- Breathe out – four
- and so on until 10.
- At 10, you start again.
After a while, your mind will start wandering and you will get distracted by thoughts coming and going. Notice the thought as it is, and gently come back to counting your breath. This might happen a few times. Every time, note what happens, and come back to breathing.
Repeat this exercise for at least 5 minutes every day.
It’s a great technique to build self-awareness as you start seeing patterns of thoughts and emotions. It’s also a great way to develop self-compassion. With noting you are reminded that thoughts will come and go despite you trying to stay focused. It’s about giving you space as you recognize what is happening, and be in control of the response you want to give.
3 | Visualisation
There are actually different ways to meditate with visualisation. Once you are sitting comfortably, with your eyes closed and your mind empty, try one of these 4 scripts:
- Script 1: see a light – picture a bright light coming from the middle of your chest and slowly expanding to your whole body. What color is the light? How fast or slow is it expanding? What does the light mean to you? Once you see the light on your full body, visualise it expanding to the room you are in: the floor, the walls, the ceiling. Continue seeing the light expanding to the building, the outside, etc.
- Script 2: feel the warmth – replace the light of script 1 by the sensation of heat coming from the middle of your chest and expanding to your whole body, and your environment. Be aware of what that warmth might be.
- Script 3: imagine someone you love – in both scripts 1 and 2, you can add people you know or do not know, that you like or do not like, and let the light or warmth expand to them as well. Picture their reaction when the light/warmth reaches them. Another way to visualise someone you love is simply picture them for what they are. Visualise what you love about them.
- Script 4: imagine someone you dislike – visualising someone you dislike is more difficult to do as you might start feeling uncomfortable. This script is however very useful if you have a recurring issue with someone which affects your mood. Imagine this person smiling, laughing, or simply happy, to soften your opinion of them.
Throughout the visualisation, stay focused on the image itself, but also on your breathing, how it makes you feel, and where you feel it in your body. When you build awareness through practice, you will be able to notice these sensations in your day-to-day life and link them back to the reason why you did the visualisation exercise in the first place.
Visualisation is a great way to bring you closer to your desired state. It helps you stay positive and it can truly impact your real world if you decide to apply your learnings.
Practice this at least 10 minutes a day, and repeat the same visualisation a few times.