If you follow me regularly, then you know that I am in the group of people I affectionately describe as ED or Easily Distracted. Over the years I have practiced many tools to try to get myself more organized and focused. I have tried a gazillion different planners and to-do list systems. I have tried positive reinforcement- rewarding myself for staying on track. I have discovered that there are a few key tools that have worked for me and I recommend that everyone who finds themselves in this category give them a try. They are not what you think. It’s not an organization system or a maid. They are: change your diet, exercise in a way that you enjoy, and practice meditation/mindfulness.
Above and beyond any of the tools or strategies I have tried, those three are the ones that actually brought me clarity of mind. And I find that no matter what planner or scheduler I’m using, if my diet is really off, if I’m not moving my body regularly, and if I’m not meditating, then I start to get a sort of “brain-fog.”
Today’s post is hopefully going to convince you to give meditation a try.
So- why meditate?
- Relief from stress and anxiety (meditation mitigates the effects of the “fight-or-flight” response, decreasing the production of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline)
- Decreased blood pressure and hypertension
- Lower cholesterol levels
- More efficient oxygen use by the body
- Increased production of the anti-aging hormone DHEA
- Restful sleep
These are all wonderful side effects. What I don’t see when I do a search, is something that I find super valuable and has happened to me and many of the people that I work with. When you meditate, you practice “giving your brain a break.” Many of us in the ED group have anxiety, ADHD, depression, or just crazy, busy jobs or families. If you have any one of those you are aware that your thoughts can tend to spiral out of control at times. You might especially notice it when you finally try to fall asleep. You may be exhausted, but your brain doesn’t know how to pause those thoughts. The practice of meditation gives our brains brief respite. Over time, if you put the time in, you will get longer and longer pauses between thoughts. Many people find it helpful to listen to guided meditations at night time to help fall asleep. This is helpful, but to get the most benefit, I highly recommend setting aside a regular time of your day to sit somewhere and either meditate on your own or to listen to a guided meditation. For me, that time is 5am. Every morning my alarm goes off at 5, I make coffee and get into my meditation spot. Right now that is on my couch. I tuck in and my dogs generally join me. I turn on my favorite meditation app, Insight Timer by 5:15am.
I have found that there are huge benefits from this. As a member of the ED group, I am in great need of routine. I need consistency. Now that this has become my routine, I find myself following these steps without thinking about it. That makes it more likely that it will continue to happen. I do a short guided meditation depending on my current mood and what my day has in store. Then when the guided meditation is over, I either do a silent meditation, or a focused meditation on what my day has in store for me. So my mind has been cleared and I am calm and focused by the guided meditation, and my next meditation gets me focused on my day. I am more organized and likely to get my priority to-dos done when I do this kind of focused meditation.
I know that I have said before that meditation can be really difficult for those with ED. When your thoughts are constantly racing, sitting down to “silence” can be terrifying. Plus, many people have a misconception that when they meditate they should be able to clear their mind of thoughts and sit serenely in silence. But, this is not how it really works.
In my next post I am going to do an intro to how to get started with meditation. If you are ready to start right now, I highly recommend Insight Timer and the 20/20 Meditate for Peace, led by Michelle Zarrin. It starts with one minute of meditation, and each day for 20 days you add another minute. The meditations build on each other and Michelle adds another piece to focus on every day. It’s pretty great.
I’m considering forming a group for those who are ready to start meditating in February. Comment below if you would be interested in joining!