By Jen Taylor, LCSW-C
“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day – unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.” ― Dr. Sukhraj Dhillon
Meditation is widely recognized as an effective tool for managing anxiety and stress and for increasing feelings of well-being. Dr. Dhillon reminds us that there are many things that we know are “good for us” but often the details of our lives make it difficult to find time to actually get them done. The struggle with meditation is that many people find it difficult to concentrate for even five minutes, so 20-60 minutes feels overwhelming.
However, there are several ways that you can use meditation and hopefully, when you find one that works for you, the practice will become easier to incorporate into your daily routine.
Sitting Meditation: Focus on Breath
This is what most people would refer to as traditional meditation with your eyes closed or gazing into the distance a few feet in front of you. The goal in a sitting meditation is to find a comfortable place to sit and simply focus on your breath as it goes in/out. When your thoughts wander, notice it and then return to your breath. You might notice the way that your chest expands from the deep belly and the sound your breath makes as you release it from your body.
Walking: Focus on Movement
Some people find that a sitting meditation increases anxiety. If that is the case, then a walking meditation might feel more enjoyable. Obviously, in a walking meditation, you will keep your eyes open. Find a place inside where you can walk 15-20 steps back and forth or in a circle. Focus on the movement of your legs as your feet come off the floor and then land again. Match your breathing with your steps. Change your pace from slow to fast, then from fast to slow, then to normal. Continue rotating your pace and notice how your body responds. You might count your steps as you are walking to focus on your present experience within your body rather than allowing the distracting thoughts of the day to intrude.
Writing: Focus on Thoughts
Finally, a third option is to do a writing meditation. Find a place where you can sit and write comfortably for five minutes. Set a timer or decide in advance on a page limit (3 pages). Write in a stream of consciousness any and all thoughts that come to your mind, as they come. Do not pay attention to your handwriting, grammar, or punctuation. If you are not sure what to write or can’t think of anything specific, write “I don’t know what to write next” over and over again until something comes to you. In this style, you are purging or “dumping” the types of ruminating thoughts that are causing anxiety, distress, or just taking up space in your brain and allowing them a place to rest. Writing meditation works well if you normally have a hard time quieting your thoughts enough to be able to meditate. After getting those thoughts out onto the page, many find that those thoughts are less intrusive throughout the rest of the day.
I encourage you to try out one or all of these types of meditation and see if any resonate with you. Do you find yourself feeling more relaxed after meditating? Can you incorporate one or two of these kinds of meditation into your weekly routine?
If you are struggling with anxiety, depression, extreme distress or have a history of trauma, it is best to practice these strategies in conjunction with a licensed therapist. To learn more about therapy services offered at JCS, call 410-466-9200.
Jen Taylor, LCSW-C is a Clinical Therapist at Jewish Community Services
JCS is a comprehensive human services organization providing a broad range of services that meet the diverse, multi-dimensional needs of individuals and families throughout Central Maryland. To learn more, visit jcsbalt.org or call 410-466-9200.