I can not do that. My mind wanders. I can not sit. I can’t focus all this time. I feel sleepy. I have a lot of loud ideas.
If your first attempt or first attempts at meditating resulted in any of these thoughts, congratulations – you meditated!
Many people view meditation as a magical transformational moment. But meditation is not about perfection. It is about awareness. Realizing that your mind is wandering, that you are tired, that you cannot sit still, and that your mind is racing – that is the point of meditation.
A common mistake people make is not understanding the purpose of meditation, said Judson Brewer, assistant professor at Brown University’s Warren Albert School of Medicine and a leading expert on meditation. “I’ve done this for 10 years,” he said. “I hit my head against the wall thinking I needed to focus on my breath, and I was doing something wrong because I couldn’t.”
If you struggle with meditation, Brewer suggests reminding yourself that practicing meditation is in essence about helping you learn how your mind works. On the day I spoke with Brewer, one of the students had just complained to him that she was struggling with meditation.
“I told her to bring with her an attitude of really curiosity,” he said. When she notices a thought, can she perceive it? “Oh no, my mind is wandering” tends to pop up in the background when we think we’re failing to meditate. But just notice it. “This is what it’s like to be immersed in my mind.” I’ve learned Just something about how your brain works.”
Even the fact that you think you failed to meditate is worth noting, says Breuer. Have you formed a habit cycle to berate yourself? “It doesn’t matter what the mind does,” Brewer said. “Every piece of information is good information. Be aware of that.”
Here are some easy tips to help you learn how to meditate and incorporate meditation and mindfulness into your day.
Meditate in the morning. Morning meditation is a good way to discourage yourself, and studies show that regular morning practice can do just that stress-reducing hormones over time. I devised a morning ritual where I enjoy a cup of coffee, followed by a short guided meditation. Meditating during your other morning rituals can help you form a habit — and you’re less likely to fall asleep.
Use an app. It is much easier to start practicing meditation with a little help. A number of apps – Headspace, Calm, Ten Percent Happier, and Unplug – offer free trials and software to get you started. The apps also offer a lot of variety. Unplug contains “quick meditations” and weird topics like meditation for “before sending this email you wish you hadn’t”.
Feel your feet. For an easy moment at work, take a few seconds to focus on your feet. How do they feel? Are they hot and sweaty? Do they prick? Are they painful and painful? Do feet feel different? Think about the relationship your feet have to the ground. Your mind is less likely to wander when you notice your feet. Brewer calls their feet “worry-free zones.” And focusing on the feet feels, quite literally, grounded.
Try steady breathing. Sit quietly and inhale for a count of six, then exhale for a count of six. You can sit or lie down. Put your hands on your stomach. If this is too difficult, start with a count of three or four and work your way up. The ultimate goal of this technique is to slow your breathing to five breaths per minute. Practice for five minutes a day.
Notice the five senses. Start by taking a few calming breaths. Now, see five things around you. They can be items on your desk like a lamp, notepad, and pen, or trees and rocks while you’re walking. Touch four things – the fabric of your clothes, a book, a paper, a cat. Hear three things. Notice a dog barking, a keyboard click, laughter in the break room. Smell two things. Inhale the air, and the smell of detergent lingers on your clothes. Taste one thing. End your meditation by eating a piece of chocolate, a piece of fruit, or a candy bar at the office.
Brush your teeth and meditate. This is my favorite because it is so easy to do. Brush your teeth, but focus on the sound of the rustle of the toothbrush. Notice the taste of the toothpaste and the foam that builds up in your mouth. Draw your consciousness to the cold water as you rinse your mouth. Add a new element of awareness to standing on one leg while brushing your teeth.
Gray hair is experiencing a renaissance of sorts, as more women are releasing their hair to its natural color during the pandemic. The New Yorker celebrated the trend with a photo essay of silver-haired women. The Gray & Proud group has over 31,000 members on Facebook, while the hashtag #silversisters celebrates the color gray on Instagram.
But while such hair may be shared on social media, women say they still face discrimination when they turn gray, according to a study published in The Guardian. Journal of Women and Aging. When researchers from the University of Exeter interviewed 80 women recruited from closed Facebook groups, they found two competing themes: The graying women say they still sometimes feel ashamed for “letting themselves go”. But they also talk about moments when they feel respected and friendly.
When deciding to go gray, researchers have found that many women feel they are choosing between feeling authentic and appearing competent. Here are some comments collected by researchers.
“I work with college-age students. Before I stopped dyeing my hair, they thought I was much younger and actually treated me like one of them. Now they treat me like an older person – assuming I can’t relate to them.” – Tracy, 40s
“I absolutely love my natural hair color. I feel comfortable and love who I am and who I turn into. I noticed with my silver hair that I was looking at it and dealing with it a little more fragile.” – Matte, 1950s
But the women also said there are benefits from turning gray, including a sense of authenticity, more freedom, accessibility, and respect.
“I actually feel better about myself because the outward appearance matches my chronological age. That’s who I am, whether I like it or not. I don’t pretend to be something I’m not. It’s totally liberating.” Rose, 1950s
“Recently I have noticed that more people want to talk to me and engage with me in public. I especially notice that younger men and women are having a conversation with me. As a nurse I feel more accepted because I am knowledgeable, reliable and capable.” – Katie, 1960s
“I find that young people are really polite to me. Very funny. Maybe some kind of hypothetical respect because I’m older? That’s a very strange thing!” – Alex, 40s
Today’s daily life coach is James A. Kwana neuroscientist at the University of Virginia who studied the effect of holding hands.
Advice: Hold hands with someone you care about.
Why you should try it: Using MRI machines, Coan looked at the effects on the brain of holding hands with a stranger or someone you love. Among the participants were heterosexual and same-sex couples. To simulate stress, give participants a mild electric shock while holding the hands of a stranger, friend, or family member.
Holding hands reduced stress in general, but the calming effect was greatest when holding hands with a loved one. Notably, the effect observed in the brain was similar to a painkilling drug.
How do I do it: Hold hands early and frequently – while walking, while watching TV at night, or while waiting for your food at a restaurant.
How do you define healthy aging? The Washington Post’s health editors want to know. Fill out this form And tell us more.
Meanwhile, it was a busy week in the Well + Being office. Don’t miss these stories.
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