Meditation routine and other mindfulness exercises have long been practiced as a way to sync up the mind with the body. We reached out to Kyleigh Roessner, a registered nurse, mother and healthcare blogger, to show what a commitment to a 30-day mindfulness challenge could do. Here's her experience harnessing the benefits of daily meditation. Your results may vary. Always ask your doctor before trying a new exercise regimen. Best of luck on your own first day and all the days that come after it.
My preferred form of relaxation involves a quality sitcom and a game on my phone. Talk about pure, mindless bliss. So when I was approached to engage in 30 days of mindfulness and meditation, I was a little worried — it's the complete opposite of my daily life.
I was astonished to find the benefits of daily meditation have been studied as an accompanying treatment for a wide variety of conditions. It seems it can help with quitting smoking, pain relief, anxiety, blood pressure and much more. I was intrigued.
Meditation was completely new to me, but I found two helpful resources that introduced me to the basics of progressive relaxation and focusing on my breath:
During the first week, while embarking on my meditation routine, I began to notice that practicing deep breathing helped me with stressful situations, even outside of my meditation. Just a few deep breaths, and I felt relaxed — but to be honest, I also felt a little bored. My mind wandered during my sessions, and I often checked the clock to see how much time was left.
Finding Your Style
I began to search for a way to tweak the experience to make it more effective for me personally. I stumbled upon guided meditation, which helped me visualize relaxation in an alternate way. YouTube, vault of video content that it is, features many guided meditations. These typically begin with a focus on breathing, before inviting practitioners to imagine themselves doing things — in this case, I was floating up into space, among the stars, far away from my worries.
It may sound ridiculous, but as I went through the mental exercise, I could feel all of my stress and tension fade away. I've never experienced anything like it.
Meditation requires quiet reflection and, for many people, this means finding solitude and eliminating distractions. As a mother of three young children, solitude and quiet come at a premium. My morning meditation routine is often interrupted. But, I was determined to meet this challenge and make this work.
I introduced a guided meditation into my nighttime routine with my children. Now, before bed, we listen to a kid-centered guided meditation that helps them relax and go to sleep. My oldest daughter especially loves it, and she is often asleep before it ends. I think she needs to unwind from the day as much as I do.
Reaping the Benefits
Meditation is tremendously relaxing, admittedly, more so than watching a sitcom or playing Candy Crush.
Go actively seek out a mental refresh. The various modes of relaxation are similar to shutting down my laptop versus just closing it. If I just close the screen — mindlessness — all the windows and tabs are still open and running. But if I shut down or restart the computer, as with mindfulness, I give the machine a fresh start.
One night, I stayed up until 1 a.m. ensuring that my child's birthday party was Pinterest-worthy. Two hours later, a neighbor's blaring car horn woke me up. No way I was getting back to sleep.
I turned on a guided meditation (with a pair of headphones). It helped me back to sleep, and I woke up later with energy, ready to attack the day.
There are many apps available to help you meditate. One I looked at referenced a research study that stated that after just one meditation session, people would show lowered blood pressure. Before and after one of my sessions, I measured my own blood pressure and found that my numbers were slightly lower afterward.
Could physical stress symptoms also be alleviated? I carry muscle tension in my shoulders. When I meditate, I try to consciously relax my shoulders. Over the course of 30 days, I noticed experiencing significantly less tension, pain and stiffness, which I attribute to making a concerted effort to relax the muscles every day during my practice.
Midway into this challenge, I was awakened by one of my kids in the middle of the night. Since my third child was born, I have mastered jaw clenching, destroying several grocery-store mouth guards and one custom-made by my dentist in my quest for muscle relaxation. This has resulted in headaches as well as neck and face pain that are now a part of my daily life. But this time, as I woke up, I realized my jaw was completely relaxed, just like I intend when I am meditating.
Mindfulness meditation also encourages you to notice your thoughts without assigning them any significant meaning. Being mindful lets me cut the ties between these thoughts and instant worry and anxiety. For example, when I get text messages, I no longer feel the instant need to speculate about who may be contacting me and what the issue may be about. I just notice, and then I can decide objectively when the best time would be to check the message. In this way, my meditative practice gave me greater control of my thoughts and actions.
My Results Are In
Before the 30 days were up, I was already feeling noticeable effects and benefits of daily meditation. I mostly have used guided meditations that have a "focus on the breath" aspect combined with progressive physical relaxation component and a guided relaxation story. After 20 minutes of guided meditation, I feel calmer, mentally refreshed and more centered, and tension I've battled for years has eased away.
Although I've finished the month-long challenge, I plan to continue meditating with my kids and discovering more about how meditation can benefit our family.