Olivia Grimes try's out: Meditation and Mindfulness.
Self-care isn’t always as easy as it seems.
There are so many options out there that it can be difficult to find a practice that works for you. I’ve tried yoga, running, even relaxing baths, but I couldn't seem to find a self-care activity that stuck.
My mum recently retrained as a psychotherapist, and I decided to ask her advice on the best at home methods for managing your mental health.
As someone who has always struggled with getting to sleep, I was looking for an activity to help me relax and unwind my mind. My mum suggested meditation or mindfulness, and directed me to the app Headspace.
I’m sure that, like me, many of you have heard of or even optimistically tried to meditate with Headspace before, but never really stuck to it.
To this my mother said:
'The biggest mistake people often make when trying out meditation or mindfulness for the first time, is giving up too soon. You have to be committed to see results'
And so I decided to create my own challenge, to try to use the Headspace App for two weeks, and see if I felt any difference in my mental health.
For total beginners, Headspace is a great free resource - it’s got loads of different meditations which cover a range of issues, from general anxiety to difficulty sleeping.
I decided to pick the category 'Try Something New'. As I have been searching for a way to generally improve my mental health and practice some self-care. This all encompassing category appealed to my generalist desires.
I started off with the Apps recommended beginners course of meditation, only three minutes to begin with.
Who knew it was so difficult to keep your mind clear for 3 minutes!
I found myself hyper fixating on my eyelids moving, or thinking about what I might write in this article. But I powered on, and found that even after three minutes I did feel more relaxed than before.
The first week:
I meditated for five minutes everyday, at around 11am.
Like most people, I am currently working from home and find I hit a lull after my morning meeting. I have never really been a morning person, so I decided to try out meditation in the morning in an attempt to refocus myself.
To my surprise, I found I was looking forward to my five minutes of meditation each morning.
Although I found it incredibly difficult to stop my mind from wandering, I felt a lovely sense of calm every time I completed the practice. In turn, I felt as though I could complete more work in the morning, which if I’m being totally honest is normally my least productive time of day.
After the first week:
I decided to start meditating after I finished work too, and for ten minutes instead of five.
While working from home has numerous benefits, I find it difficult to “switch off” sometimes, especially because I work from my bedroom.
Allowing myself ten minutes to just sit, decompress and not think about anything has really helped me to separate the work day from my relaxing evening.
End of the two weeks:
I found that I actually really did enjoy meditation and I am likely to continue with it!
Taking the time to just sit and take in your surroundings, whilst not feeling guilty for “doing nothing”, really does help with letting your mind relax.
However, the most important lesson I learned from my two week crash course of meditation, is to not put pressure on myself to do self-care perfectly.
I spent the first week of my meditation practice worrying about whether I was meditating correctly, before I had the sudden epiphany that my self-care was quickly becoming another source of anxiety.
It may sound like obvious advice, but after talking to some of my friends I realised that most of us were feeling pressure to relax “properly”, or guilt for not being productive constantly.
In reality, it doesn’t matter if I missed one day of meditation, or if my mind wandered to my dinner options for a minute or two, because the most important part of any self-care practice is to take time for yourself.
If you are thinking about starting meditation, or looking for a new self-care practice to try, then I would absolutely recommend Headspace. Not only does it provide easy and free resources, it encourages you to really take time out of your day to appreciate yourself and the hard work you’ve been doing.
I have felt an improvement in my mental health over the past two weeks, as I have allowed myself time everyday to let go and truly relax.
Whilst meditation may not be for everyone, I would definitely recommend trying it out if you are searching for a way to unwind your mind and refocus yourself.