Week One: Meditation Challenge
Incorporate at least 30 minutes of meditation into my day, every day
Why did I choose meditation?
I chose meditation as my first challenge because I wanted to begin a practice and turn it into a life long habit.
Meditation requires no money, no special space, it can be done alone, and it has well documented benefits.
Five reasons to meditate:
1: Understand your painSource: How to Meditate from Minful.org
2: Lower your stress
3: Connect better
4: Improve focus
5: Reduce brain chatter
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years. Meditation originally was meant to help deepen understanding of the sacred and mystical forces of life. These days, meditation is commonly used for relaxation and stress reduction. Meditation is considered a type of mind-body complementary medicine. Meditation can produce a deep state of relaxation and a tranquil mind.” Meditation: A simple, fast way to reduce stress
Who couldn’t benefit from relaxation, less stress, and a tranquil mind?
Listen to the podcast that inspired this week’s challenge
Rather than setting myself up to fail by trying to meditate for a thirty-minute stretch, I decided to break the time up into three more manageable ten-minute blocks. Even though it seemed relatively simple in theory, I found my first week’s challenge to be difficult.
Day 1: Saturday
My daughter has an amazing internal alarm clock and woke up at 5:00 a.m., ready and raring to go, needless to say, I was absolutely not ready to wake up. I had stayed up late to watch TV with my husband the night before and didn’t get much sleep.
I spent Saturday at home with the kids while my husband went into work. While the weekend is a much more relaxed time in our household, my two-year-old and four-year-old were definitely working overtime to stress me out. They fought over toys, what to watch on TV, who could sit on my lap, what we had for lunch… you get the picture.
My kids follow me everywhere, so I wasn’t able to find a peaceful spot to sit and meditate. Finally, I settled for sitting on the couch while Sesame Street played in the background. I tried to close my eyes, block out the noise, and focus on my breathing for ten minutes. It actually didn’t go too bad, until I got poked in the eye by my son.
Later in the evening when my husband was back home, I sought a few minutes of refuge in the quietest place I could find to be alone, the bathroom. I set my phone’s timer for ten minutes and sat on the rug. I didn’t make it for the whole ten minutes because I could quickly hear my kids searching for me.
After the kids’ bedtime, I sat on my bed and was able to spend a lovely ten minutes of tranquility before settling into sleep myself.
Day 2: Sunday
On Sunday my daughter (amazingly!) slept in and didn’t wake me up until 7:15 a.m. I had fallen asleep cuddling with my son on his toddler bed after he’d cried and called for me at 4:30 a.m. He was so cuddly and warm that I had to drag myself out of bed.
The kids played in the living room while I made coffee. Although not the ideal spot for meditating, I leaned against the kitchen counter and focused on my breathing for a few minutes while listening to the sound of the coffee maker percolating and dripping.
Later, my husband watched TV with the kids while showered. After my warm shower, I felt wonderfully relaxed so I decided to use the opportunity to spend an extra ten minutes in meditation on my bed. I know it wasn’t much, but the comforting shower and short time meditating helped me to feel much more patient and calm in the kid chaos for the rest of the morning.
I was not so successful being patient and calm for the rest of the day, nor so successful getting any more meditation time in. Each time I tried I was interrupted or unable to focus due to the kids.
Day 3: Monday
On Monday morning I woke up early in an effort to start the day with ten minutes of meditation before the rest of the household was awake. I was extremely tired so I decided to sit on one of the kitchen chairs instead of the much more comfortable floor pillow in the living room, afraid that I would doze off. I completed my ten minutes and roused the rest of the family to get their day started.
My daughter hadn’t slept well and had a terrible cough that morning, so my husband took her to the walk-in clinic. She had strep throat and thus couldn’t go to preschool. I left work to take care of her. Since she wasn’t feeling well she wanted to be cuddled most of the day. I tried to listen to a guided meditation with my earbuds while she watched cartoons on the TV as we snuggled but that didn’t work out.
Finally, after supper, I was able to listen to twenty minutes of a guided meditation while my husband played with the kids.
Day 4: Tuesday
Tuesday was a relatively warm day for the beginning of February, so I put on my jacket and headed outside at noon. The hospital where I work has a meditation garden, which I had walked by tons of times but had never visited before.
I sat on a bench and ate my sandwich, then sat and enjoyed the peacefulness of the garden. Since it is winter there are no flowers, but the ornamental grasses made a soothing sound in the breeze and I enjoyed sitting in the sunlight. It was a very calming and comfortable environment. I plan to spend more lunch breaks there in the warmer weather.
Day 5: Wednesday
Wednesday I listened to a twenty-minute guided meditation in my office during my lunch break. It was easy to follow and I had no problem with my mind wandering or losing my focus.
Later in the afternoon I was feeling very stressed. I decided to sit in my office for ten minutes with my eyes closed while listening to some soft music. Afterwards I felt so much better. I was still stressed but I felt lighter and more centered.
Day 6: Thursday
Thursday I was scheduled to have a job interview. I woke up feeling anxious and felt that way all morning, more so as my interview neared. I left for my lunch break early so that I could spend a few minutes in my car.
I sat in the driver’s seat and tried to focus on my breathing, hoping to reduce my anxiety and not feel so nervous. After five minutes I drove to my interview. Since I was still early, I sat in the car and as a mantra, I repeated the nightly affirmation my daughter and I say together: I am smart, I am strong, I am brave, I am kind, I am helpful, I can be anything I want to be, and I love myself.
Feeling calmer, I went into my interview trying to exude the confidence and self-assurance that I hope to give my daughter with our bedtime affirmation. I was still incredibly nervous but I had an easier time ignoring the butterflies in my stomach.
Afterwards, I drove back to work and spent another five minutes in my car trying to soak up the sunshine and to quiet my keyed up feeling.
I finished the day feeling successful in achieving my thirty-minute goal and also because I was able to use meditation as a tool to help myself feel more calm, focused, and relaxed.
Day 7: Friday
Friday I listened to a twenty-minute guided meditation in my office during my lunch break. It was easy to follow and I had no problem with my mind wandering or losing my focus.
I asked my husband to pick up the kids after work so I was able to get ten quiet minutes of meditation before they arrived at home and I began to cook dinner.
As I stated earlier, this challenge ended up being harder than I thought it might be. It wasn’t necessarily difficult for me to meditate; I found it more difficult to have the alone time to be able to do so. Meditating at home with my kids around is certainly not ideal and I tip my hat to any mom who can!
I knew already, but this exercise really highlighted the fact that at this stage of my life I have to make an effort and have a plan in place in order to fit time for myself into a normal day.
From now on I will utilize the hour I have for lunch to meditate when I am able. It is much easier to find solitude in my office, car, or outside- plus, the chance to meditate in the middle of the day had a positive effect on my overall mood and outlook for the rest of the afternoon.
I would like to explore other ways of meditating and to also set up an area in my home office where it may be easier for me to find a peaceful spot.
Even though I do believe this week of meditation has been beneficial, I don’t think that one week is long enough to determine how helpful meditation has been to me, as the effects seem to be seen and felt in the long term. I will continue to work meditation time into my day because I think it will be a great way to help de-stress, reduce my anxiety, feel calmer, and be healthier.
A great article about how to meditate from Mindful.org
A great article about 12 science-based benefits of meditation from Healthline.com
Do you meditate? What ways have you noticed it make a difference in your life?
I would love to hear from you!
I hope you’ll come back to read about next week’s challenge, which is to use at least 3 self-care tools each day!