If you’ve been feeling overly stressed lately, you’re not alone. This guide to morning meditation will introduce you to the world of mindfulness.
We’re approaching the end of the year, and many of us will be grateful to say goodbye to 2020. But as another year approaches, we’re starting to wonder how we can make next year a better one. Often our new year resolutions are about self-improvement, but this year we’re making them about self care. Morning meditation is a new year’s resolution we can all get behind – but why not start early?
Why is morning meditation good for you?
We’re all guilty of reaching for our phones first thing in the morning to try and wake ourselves up, but is this really the best way to start the day? Whether we’re reading negative news stories or checking social media, our phones have the potential to ruin our mornings before they’ve even begun.
Starting the day with a morning meditation gives you time to get in touch with your body and mind before you start making decisions, and it can give you an immediate mood boost for the day. It has the power to increase your productivity at work and during your daily activities. Over Christmas, morning meditation will help you focus on the important things in life before you get the day started: unity, compassion and gratitude.
What are the benefits of meditation?
- It releases endorphins. Meditating causes the pituitary gland in your brain to release endorphins which make you feel good.
- It reduces action in the brain’s ‘me centre’. This part of the brain is responsible for thinking about yourself and letting your mind wander. So meditation gives you a chance to escape from worrying about yourself.
- It reduces anxiety and depression. Meditation for anxiety and depression has been proven to improve symptoms. This Harvard study shows that meditation reduces depression by changing brain activity.
- It can help overcome addiction. A study at the John F. Kennedy Institute in 2002 found that dopamine levels of participants were boosted by 65% during meditation. This is enough to prevent terrible withdrawal symptoms in drug addicts during recovery.
- It can improve focus. Italian neuroscientist, Giuseppe Pagnoni, carried out a study and found that meditation improved mental focus and cognitive performance by preventing too much mind-wandering.
How do you meditate?
Meditation may look simple, but there’s a little more to it than meets the eye. Here is a step-by-step guide to getting started in the morning.
1. Set your intentions
What is the reason you’re meditating today? Are you seeking relaxation, focus, energy or reduced anxiety? Knowing the purpose of your meditation will allow you to be in the right frame of mind when you begin. You’ll also get more out of it.
2. Find the time
Set aside some time where you’ll be undisturbed, like ten minutes when you first get up. If you’re on a schedule or prefer to time yourself, you can set a timer beside you. If not, feel free to let your mind wander.
3. Get comfortable
Find somewhere comfortable and preferably quiet to sit. This can be in the traditional lotus position, where you sit on the floor cross legged and rest your hands on your legs, but it doesn’t have to be. The main goal is comfort, so you might want to sit upright on a chair or even lay on the bed. To help, you can find meditation cushions and pillows that specifically aid comfort during meditation.
4. Breathe deeply
When you’re ready to begin, close your eyes if that’s comfortable and start to pay attention to every breath. Try to take deep but steady breaths and let your mind focus purely on the breathing. Some people like to breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth.
5. Be aware of your body
Try to relax each part of your body and pay attention to how your body feels as you inhale and exhale. Body scan meditation is a popular technique and requires you to focus on each body part from your head to your toes.
6. Don’t judge your thoughts
When you have thoughts, notice them but don’t hold on to them. Let them go without feeling the need to solve any problems or think too deeply about anything that arises.
7. Slowly return to your current surroundings
When your time is up or you’re ready to finish meditating, slowly open your eyes and get up slowly. Have a little stretch or shake out if you feel you need to.
3 morning meditation techniques to try
There are hundreds of different meditations you can try, but these three are great for any level and will help to provide you with a sense of calm in the morning.
5 minute mindfulness meditation
This is a great technique for the morning if you don’t have much time or only want to commit a tiny bit of time towards meditation to begin with. Mindfulness meditation is the most basic form of meditation as it just requires you to focus on your breath. One tip for this is to just slightly hold the breath after you exhale, and let the inhale start on its own, almost to your surprise. This will encourage those deep, relaxing breaths.
It may not be your typical meditation, but walking meditations can be a great way to get in touch with your surroundings and be mindful out in the fresh air. The idea is to walk at your own pace without a particular destination or end goal. You can do a walking meditation in the countryside or city – all that matters is that you pay attention to your mind, body and surroundings.
This can be in the form of listening to all the different sounds around you and mentally focusing on them, or paying attention to how your body feels as you take each step. Ultimately, walking meditations are about synchronising the mind and body together.
If you find it difficult to get into the right headspace on your walks, try a 5-minute meditation sitting down first to get into that meditative state and begin deep breathing. You might also find it easier to walk somewhere quiet rather than on a bustling street. Whatever you choose, this will be an enriching start to your day and a great way to escape from the monotony of lockdown life.
This technique was created by Vishen Lakhiani and identifies six essential parts of meditation practice. It would take a long time to go through all six phases in one morning sitting, so instead, you can go through the phases one day at a time.
Phase 1: Love and compassion
Think about all the people you love and focus on the compassion you feel for them and why you love and appreciate them as individuals and communities.
Phase 2: Gratitude
Try to think about several things you’re grateful for – from the past 24 hours and in general. Practicing gratitude can really help change your perspective on life.
Phase 3: Forgiveness
Visualise someone who has crossed you. Imagine apologising to them and them apologising to you, and then imagine forgiving them for the wrong they did to you. It’s hard to let go of things and forgive people, but when you do, you free yourself from unnecessary pain.
Phase 4: Future visualisation
Think about what your dream life looks like over the next 3 years, and visualise it happening to you. There is no need to place constraints on yourself or think about failure, only imagine your ideal life.
Phase 5: Your perfect day
Ask yourself, what can I do to make today or tomorrow a perfect day? How can I get closer to my dreams by making decisions now?
Phase 6: The blessing
Think about your place in the universe and the possibilities of higher power. Imagine that the whole universe is rooting for you and providing you with energy.
Top tips for sticking with morning meditation
- Don’t judge yourself. It’s okay if you don’t get it ‘right’ or if your mind wanders a lot at the beginning.
- Don’t get too hung up. You don’t need to have perfect surroundings – you can meditate anywhere, and even do it with your children if you need to.
- Meditate first thing in the morning. It’s better to do it before getting tied down with work commitments, technology and social media.
- Do it at the same time each day. This will be easier if you go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day.
- Try a different location. Meditating outside can be really effective, especially if you can go to a quiet park, beach or similar.
- Try guided meditations. There are lots of free guided meditations on YouTube or apps such as Calm or Headspace.
The world of meditation and mindfulness is rich and expansive, and so it’s up to you to find what works best for you. Morning meditation undoubtedly has the potential to change your perspective on life, and there are so many different types of meditation to try. For more information, why not take one of our courses on Buddhist meditation or mindfulness. If you go into the new year with a sense of calm, you’ll be ready to take on 2021.