After Tabata, I find a comfortable spot, which is usually sitting at my desk, for the next step – meditation.
Meditation has become something of a buzzword over recent years and months, aided by technology and a range of very cool free apps like Calm, Headspace, and, one of my favourites, Brainwave (which uses binaural beats to access deeper levels of relaxation).
No longer strictly a religious practise, or the preserve of the New Age movement or celebrity fads, meditation has become mainstream. Global CEOS and leaders incorporate meditation into their daily schedules, companies are starting to introduce meditation and mindfulness as part of their overall employee mental health strategy, and teachers are introducing meditation into the classroom.
And it’s not hard to see why, with research showing the benefits of meditation ranging from better sleep to improved mood, soaring levels of creativity and just simply being happier.
For me, meditating is like turning the dial on a radio to tune in to a calmer, saner frequency. Answers to problems I’ve been wrestling with for days suddenly seem to pop up. The rollercoaster ups and downs of life level out to a more manageable state. There’s less drama.
There’s a wide range of online meditation recordings to choose from, including guided meditation routines to mantras on YouTube to audio recordings with embedded binaural beats, as mentioned above.
A meditation can be as simple as a body scan, focussing on relaxing all the parts of your body. Or it can encompass greater themes like compassion, gratitude and forgiveness (a personal favourite is MindValley Academy’s 6 Phase Meditation).
If meditation is like turning the dial on a radio to tune into a better mood, then practising gratitude is like flicking a switch to change night to day, dark to light in an instant. It’s that powerful a mood changer.
Recent research shows that people who practise gratitude say they experience fewer aches and pains, have improved relationships and deeper, uninterrupted sleep. In addition they suffer less from anxiety and low mood while finding pleasure in the small day-to-day things. Overall, people who feel gratitude are more satisfied and contented with life, regardless of the circumstances they find themselves in.
How you practise gratitude is, of course, a personal thing.
Some people like to keep a gratitude journal, writing down three things they are grateful for every day; others like to have a gratitude jar which they fill with notes of gratitude on a daily basis. Or you could incorporate gratitude into your meditation routine.
An acupuncturist friend of mine keeps a photo album on her phone filled with photos of people, places and things she loves. She takes time out of her day to scroll through that and remind herself of all she is grateful for.
I personally think of one or two things I am grateful for every day and hold them in my thoughts for a few minutes.
But don’t just go through the motions. Rather than just list the things you’re grateful for, the trick is to fully immerse yourself in the emotion. Tap in to all your senses – what you see, hear, smell, taste and above all feel, for a more powerful experience.
We all get busy, too busy sometimes. But if you try just one of the above three practises, know you’re doing something profoundly positive and wonderful for your everyday physical, emotional and mental health. And that your day will be better because of it.