Keep Calm and Carry on: Meditation tips and apps for a zen holiday season

Hi guys!

Hope the Thanksgiving holiday was rad for each of you! Now that the holiday season is officially here also can come the stress of it all along with handling daily tasks.  I wanted to share a way I cope with stress that can be useful this holiday season: meditation.  Yep, simple enough but a great tool to start this holiday season and continue on in 2015!

I started getting more serious about meditation this fall with work, writing, and now grad school in the mix. There were times where EVERYTHING was becoming overwhelming.  Meditation is a tool, it can help combat stress, fosters physical health, helps with chronic pain, can make you sleep better, feel happier, be more peaceful, as well as be present.

As a mentioned, meditation is pretty easy. You don't need to purchase fancy workout gear, all you need is yourself and a quiet space. Here are 10 tips on how to get started:

1. Posture

Whether you sit on a chair or cross-legged on the floor, make sure that your spine is upright with head up. If you are slumped your mind will drift. If your body is well-balanced, your mind will also be in balance.

2. Eyes

Closing my eyes I find is more helpful for me to focus and not get distracted.

2. Focus

To focus in meditation means to pay soft attention to whatever you place in the centre of awareness. I recommend using the breath as a focus (worked wonders for me). It’s a door that connects ‘inside’ and ‘outside’.

3. Breathing

Paying attention your breathing is a great way to anchor yourself in the present moment.  Notice your breath streaming in and out. There’s no need to regulate the breath – just let it be natural.

4. Counting you breath

If you are having difficulties settling, you can try counting the breath – which is an ancient meditation practice. Silently count “one”, then “two”, and up to “four”. Then return to “one”. THIS HELPED ME BIG TIME!

5. Thoughts

When you notice thoughts, gently let them go by returning your focus to the breath. Don’t try and stop thoughts; this will just make you feel agitated. Imagine that they are unwelcome visitors at your door: acknowledge their presence and politely ask them to leave. 

6. Emotions

The way to deal with strong emotions in meditation is to focus on the body feelings that accompany the emotion. For example, this could be the tight band of fear around the chest or the hot roiling of anger in the belly. Let go of the stories and refocus on your body. In this way you are honoring your emotions but not becoming entangled in stories.

7. Silence

Nothing beats simple silence.  When we sit in silence we actually get to experience what our mind is doing. There is steadiness and calmness that comes from sitting in silence. In time outer and inner silence meet and you come to rest in the moment.

8. Length

Start with 10 minutes and only sit longer if you feel that that is too short. Don’t force yourself to meditate longer if you are not ready to do that. In time you might like to extend your meditation to 15, then 20, then 25 minutes.

9. Place

Create a special place to sit.  You might like to place a candle near you or objects that have meaning to you.

10. Enjoyment

Try sitting with a hint of a smile. Start sitting just a little each day. It’s helpful to establish a daily habit.

Apps are also helpful for anyone wanting to start meditating. I personally use "Meditator", however the app isn't available for downloading anymore (weird..) Anywho, I found similar apps that will help:

Buddhify 2

Are you walking in the city? There’s a meditation for you. Can’t sleep? There’s one for that, too. This app comes with 14 location and activity settings that can help you meditate at any point and in almost any place during the day.

Get Some Headspace

Being proficient at meditation requires practice and dedication. The app Get Some Headspace can help you with both. Use the guided meditation programs to help you focus, relieve stress, and even fall asleep faster. 

Simple Being 

One of the biggest distractions trying to meditate is the stream of thoughts running through your head. Pushing thoughts out of your mind is PRACTICE. Having someone — in this case, a calming voice from the app — guide you through your meditation session may help you find calm more quickly.

here you have it :) Try meditation and any of these meditation apps to find a more relaxed — and healthier — state of mind.