I felt it necessary, with Meditation Month closing–okay, I am a few days late with this– to write one more article about the importance of meditation. As a caregiver, practicing meditation will not only help you feel better, it will give you a better mindset to care for your clients.
I started my meditation practice just about three years ago. It was always something that interested me, but I never made a routine of it. Part of the reason I never stuck with it was I didn’t understand it enough. I expected significant results to jump out at me once I started. Meditation, however, is a marathon, not a sprint. Accountability is a big factor for me sticking to a routine. If there is something tracking what I do and keeping stats, for whatever reason, it motivates me. In June of 2014 I downloaded an app for my phone and since then I have meditated nearly every day.
What are the benefits?
There are probably as many benefits to meditation as there are articles about it on the internet. Here is a good resource I refer to in groups or working on articles. As I got deeper practicing meditation, these are benefits and changes I noticed in myself:
Less Reactive to Stressful Events/Situations
I currently work with adolescent males in a mental health/criminal justice setting. Needless to say, some days could get pretty intense. Meditation helped develop an inner calm making me less reactive to disrespectful behaviors and stressful situations. This calm allows me to handle situations and better interact with my clients despite the troubles they are going through.
More Aware of Inner Chatter
Practicing mindfulness meditation regularly highlights just how much chatter goes on inside the head. By being aware of thoughts, emotions, and sensations, you soon realize they all are just passing through your awareness and not part of you. This creates a buffer between the “self” and thoughts. Although this doesn’t seem like much, it goes a long way in identifying thoughts and emotions that are not serving you and letting them pass through.
With the inner chatter held at bay, I am better able to focus on the thoughts and tasks that serve me. This is especially true when I catch myself dwelling on something that was said or happened. I could then let those thoughts and emotions go and focus on more positive self-talk.
When there is a particularly difficult client (or sometimes coworker) on the unit or someone else in my life that is causing issues, I find a particular meditation called “Metta” useful. There are many versions of this meditation, but it basically involves projecting your love and good intentions on someone you care about very much, someone neutral to you, and someone causing you difficulty. Though this may seem hard at first, it is a very useful meditation with scientific backing to increase compassion.
If you are one of those people that have great ideas pop into your head while taking a shower, consider meditation the waterless shower of inspiration. A great example is this blog. A couple months ago I was meditating when an idea of creating a Recreation Therapy blog popped into my head. I knew nothing about web hosting, wordpress, coding, SEO, promotion, metatags, and everything else that goes into a blog. I just knew I loved to write and writing about Recreation Therapy seemed like a logical choice to start. Considering I have a little tike running around at home and a full time job, there is little time for me to even be at a computer. The idea was prominent enough, however, that I used the little time I had to research and learn how to start a blog. So you could thank meditation for what you are reading right now.
Also, when I am struggling with activity or group ideas, I take a few moments to clear my mind. This little “reset” of the mind helps clear things out to bring new perspectives and ideas.
Start Practicing Meditation
The great thing about meditation is it’s a free activity that could be done just about anywhere. The problem is there are so many meditation techniques and information available. The choices are daunting. Where does one even begin?
Take a deep breath.
You just started practicing meditation. How does it feel?
Sure there are countless guided meditations on the internet, scores of books, classes, online courses, and music to put you in a deeper state of relaxation. You could contort your body into various postures, light incense and candles, buy singing bells…the list goes on and on.
To start, however, just take a couple minutes out of your day to pay attention to your breath. Sit in a comfortable position with your feet on the floor and spine straight. Lay down if your prefer, but for a short meditation, I would advise you to sit.
Then, pay attention to the breath. Focus on either the rise and fall of your chest or the air going in and out of your nostrils. You don’t have to alter your breathing in any way. When your mind starts to wander, which it certainly will, acknowledge the thought, let it pass, and return to your breath. Don’t judge your breathing, your intrusive thoughts, or if you are doing it correctly. Just breathe and pay attention to it.
After a couple minutes, return to whatever you are doing. Take note if there are any changes in your mood and energy. It is that simple to start out.
Tools to Help
As I mentioned before, if something is tracking my stats and holding me accountable, I am better able to maintain my routine. That’s what works for me and may be helpful to you. Here are two apps I used, but I am sure there are plenty available. Neither of these apps are affiliates–I used them with my own free will without compensation.
I started my meditation practice using Headspace. It was free for ten days, but then a subscription was required. It has been a couple years since I used the app, but it helped me to establish my meditation practice. There are different categories to choose, and the guided meditations are simple. They start at ten minutes and gradually increase after a certain number of sessions.
The narrator’s voice had a conversational, reassuring tone that inspired relaxation. The meditation exercises were simple. For example, imagining a tiny pinprick of light in the middle of the chest slowly expanding throughout the body. It is a great app, but I felt I could find a different option that wouldn’t require a monthly subscription. You could do a lot worse with your money then pay for a couple months of Headspace to establish your routine.
After moving on from Headspace, I started using the Insight Timer app. This app is free, but a premium version could be purchased for a few dollars. This app has a lot of features, and I feel it is an invaluable resource. At it’s simplest, you set the time you want to meditate and a bell goes off when the meditation is finished. It tracks all your meditations and gives you detailed statistics of your progress.
Insight timer also has over five thousand guided meditations available. Categories range from sleep, emotional balance, stress, acceptance, nature sounds, and many more. There is something for everyone. The app is easy to navigate and finding specific types of meditations as well as their duration only takes a minute.
Both apps have a social aspect where you could invite friends, engage in groups, etc. I did not use these much, but they do have value. For those of you that aren’t motivated by an app keeping your meditation stats, the social aspect might be useful.
YouTube has plenty of guided meditations, relaxing music, and other related meditation resources. Some people find listening to guided meditations are easier than just sitting there paying attention to your breath or thoughts. Countless choices include eight hours of peaceful music for sleep to shorter guided meditations to help with anxiety, relaxation, creativity, and communicating with your higher self. There is no need to dwell on choices, find one or two meditations you enjoy and stick with them for a week or two. Find what works best for you and go with it.
Add Mindful Moments to Your Day
Mindful meditation doesn’t always have to be a sitting in a quiet spot for a specified amount of time. Opportunities present themselves more often than you think. Here are a couple ideas:
Red Light Meditation
Instead of cursing out the traffic light because it turned yellow before you could speed through it, use that minute or so of red light to take a few deep breaths and clear your head.
This Meeting is Way too Long Meditation
Instead of getting frustrated that coworkers are discussing a topic that could have been resolved fifteen minutes ago, take a minute or two and count your breaths. Surely you’ll catch up to the meeting’s conversation when you are done.
Break Time Meditation
Taking a few moments off from the daily grind? Spend the last minute or two checking in. As you focus on your breath, pay attention to what thoughts pass through your mind. As you watch each thought pass through your mind, briefly label them positive, negative, or neutral. Don’t judge them, just label the thoughts and let them go.
Commercial Break Meditation
As your favorite shows take time to feature their sponsors, you could take some time to be mindful. Turn the volume down, close your eyes, and focus on the rise and fall of your chest. Using Netflix? Pause before the next episode begins and take a couple minutes for yourself.
Go for a short walk. Instead of listening to all the chatter echoing through your mind, pay attention to your feet as they touch the ground. If necessary, count your footfalls as you would your breaths. Or recite a mantra. For example, as your right foot touches the ground mentally say, “I’m calm.” The left foot, “I’m grounded.”
As a caregiver, you want to be your best for clients. I firmly believe meditation is one way to help you better serve your clients and improve the quality of your own life. (I just took a few seconds to follow my breath to finish this paragraph.) Meditation is free. It is not complicated. It is something you could do briefly after reading this post. Unless, however, you want to comment or share–which I would appreciate. Don’t let it the idea of practicing meditation overwhelm you. Just breathe, relax, and breath again.
I hope this helps.
Ask the The Real Recreation Therapist
How do you practice meditation?
How has it helped you?
What are your thoughts about meditation?