When we think of changing or taking on a new challenge, physical preparation is usually part of it. But mental preparation is even more important. Everything starts in the mind. And, meditation is one of the best possible ways to prepare for anything.
It may have mystic leanings, but science has shown that meditation has measurable health and emotional benefits, including the development of stress-management skills, increased self-awareness, and the management of symptoms of anxiety, asthma, cancer, and more. The types and techniques can be overwhelming, but after years of research, I’ve identified five simple steps for practical meditation. This method only takes a couple of minutes a day.
1. Choose a goal, and be specific.
Losing weight, getting fitter, improving relationships, or reducing stress, is a good place to start. But, the key to making these goals achievable is breaking them down into manageable steps.
If your goal is to lose weight, make today’s commitment to eat a well balanced lunch. If it’s to do more exercise, commit to doing 20 minutes of cardio. If it’s improving your relationships, commit to listening more intently during conversations today.
2. Choose a mantra, and personalize it.
Choose a quote that motivates you, and make it personal. Apply it to a challenge, behavior, or mindset you’d like to change. “Exercise is a cornerstone in the preservation of health and the prevention of most illnesses” (Hippocrates) becomes, “I love how I feel after 20 minutes of cardio exercise!” “Listen with the intent to understand, not with intent to reply,” (Stephen Cover) becomes, “I will listen carefully before replying when I have conversations at work today.”
You may want to repeat the same affirmation every day for a week, so that it can make a significant impact on your mind. But, it may be more helpful for you to choose a new one each day. Play around with it, and see what works best for you.
3. Say it out loud…
Every morning, read the positive affirmation of the day — aloud. Spend the next few moments planning how or when you intend to implement it.
Internalizing a purely intellectual concept can be difficult. Saying important information aloud makes a more significant impact upon the mind and memory. So, don’t be afraid to say your positive affirmation aloud. I know it feels a bit weird, as most of us don’t often talk aloud to ourselves, but it really works.
4. …a lot.
Whenever your mind is free — at home, in the car, on your break — repeat your positive affirmation. To promote healthier habits, “Repeat an affirmation to [yourself] while walking, or … post it on the bathroom mirror or refrigerator door to receive encouragement from it every day.”
5.: Visualize the outcome you want.
Imagining yourself achieving a specific goal is a way of mobilizing the unconscious mind to assist with conscious goals.
For example, imagine yourself healthy and at goal weight. Take note of how confident you are, how healthy you feel. Athletes use this technique to improve their game by imagining how the perfect execution of their task feels.
Guided imagery has been used as a medical therapy for centuries, and may be helpful in everything from managing stress, anxiety, and depression to lowering blood pressure, reducing pain, and reducing some side effects of chemotherapy.
You probably meditate multiple times a day without realizing it. Meditating just means inducing consciousness. But, the more intentional it is, the more beneficial. This method adds some structure and offers a practical and simple way to reinforce your mind, mood, and perspective so that you can take on any new challenge.