Ever make a lofty New Year’s resolution, only to find yourself on the couch at the start of February with an unopened box of kicks, an empty family size bag of M&Ms, and a nagging feeling of disappointment? Same. Which is why this year, we’ve chosen to ditch the resolutions and set goals to build healthy habits that will last longer than that Friends marathon you swore to stop bingeing two episodes ago. We’ve tapped some of our favourite experts to bring you Wellness Goals, our newest series on living well for the long run.
What’s the best way to start a meditation practice if you’re a total newbie?
Emily Thring: Find a group meditation class or teacher! Apps didn’t work for me and I found meditating with a group like exercising with a group: you create more intention around it and will push yourself in a way you normally wouldn’t. Also having someone available to answer questions that might come up is really helpful.
One of the things people most frequently say when they quit meditating is that they’re not “good” at it. What would you say to someone who worries about being “good” at meditating?
ET: Just like you wouldn’t expect to be a marathon runner the day after your first jog around the block you can’t expect immediate focus, and even the most seasoned meditators have bad sessions. Self-love and non-judgment are two qualities you need to tap into when you start out. The judgemental mind becomes very loud when you start meditating, which is where the good/not good idea comes from. Mediation is a skill you develop.
Sitting in silence can be super hard when you first start. What sort of advice would you give to someone to stick with it?
ET: You don’t have to sit in silence. Try different practices like Kundalini yoga, which uses traditional mantras, or find your own mantra or music to use. It can really raise your vibrations.
Do I need any gear for a meditation practice? Like a cushion or candles or mala beads?
ET: You have all the gear you need in your body. The ability to sit and close your eyes and breathe. Aids can be helpful but layer them on when you’re ready rather than just because. I personally found that after I invested in a cushion for my home, I was more dedicated with my meditation practice. It was so comfortable and my body felt good when I sat every day.
Meditating solo vs meditating with a group. Which do you think is best for sticking with a meditation practice long-term?
ET: Depends on the person but I think a combination. I believe meditating with a group creates accountability and community, and creates a good habit. I am more likely to meditate alone if I’m dedicated about dropping into a group class or meditate with friends. Having a solo practice is important as well because it strengthens your connection with yourself. You can also tap into it whenever you need to, like when work gets stressful or you need to reenergize yourself.
What about bringing mindfulness into the rest of your life? What are some tips you have to maintain mindfulness throughout the day?
ET: I try not to multitask. When I am focused on something I stay with it till it’s done rather than bounce between a million projects. I also make personal challenges to not be on my phone (i.e. I won’t check my phone on my commute home so I am aware of whats happening around me and would see things I might have missed like a new coffee shop, or a cute puppy across the street).
What about when my coworker is being a jerk? Do I just mindfully tell them off?
ET: This is one that I used to struggle with. I try to pause and see things from their perspective and practice empathy. I think about why their attitude is triggering me and how I can rise above it. A mindful dressing down could be a good option if they’re in a cycle but probably best to let them figure it out!
One of the things people most frequently resolve to do in the new year is to eat healthier. We think eating more mindfully might be a better thing to work on. Any advice?
ET: Put down your phone! Think about and focus on your food to avoid overeating. Examine cravings before giving into them. Do you want sugar because you’re exhausted? Could some fresh air and a 5 minute meditation help restore you better than a donut?
Stay tuned here for our next installment in the Wellness Goals series.