‘Meditation: a way to give yourself space to breathe, to hear yourself think, time to consider what you want. No outside noise. Just peace.’
This year is my year of healing. As part of that, I am getting back into meditation and I thoroughly recommend it. In day to day life, work, parenthood, friends, social media, TV, partners and more all get inside your head. It’s like a tug-of-war, many people telling you who and what you should be. Sometimes they make you feel guilty for not being those things but ask yourself: do you actually want to be any of them?
That’s where meditation comes in. It quietens down the noise and gives you the freedom to think. What do I want? And how do I achieve that? It doesn’t take long to do, but that short period of ‘me time’ and those simple questions can transform your life and make you feel much better about yourself, giving you control again and a productive way to move forward.
But, if it’s so good, why don’t more people do it? The simple answer: misconceptions. Let’s clear up some of the most common.
1. I cannot meditate.
This is completely wrong; anyone can meditate, it just takes practice. Take a few minutes, when you have the time, and go into your breath. You can do this.
2. Meditation is a part of religious practice.
Well, it can be, but many people do it without it being spiritual or religious. It’s popular amongst health lovers, spa lovers, politicians preparing for speeches and many athletes and Olympians use it to help them achieve goals, prepare for competitions and recover from injury. Even doing it at home as part of your daily morning routine can be very relaxing and calming, and will give you confidence and clarity to make the best of the day. 'Meditation is a big part of my off-snow training. Competing is such a mental game. In order to confidently go out and push yourself, you need to be in a good space mentally. Meditation has really helped me with that. It centres me, giving me all of the calmness and clarity I need to be able to go out, compete and stay focused' says Team USA snowboarder Elena Hight.
3. I cannot make my mind blank.
The mind is made to think; it wanders. That is normal. If that happens, acknowledge the thought and refocus on your breathing. The more you do it, the easier it will become.
4. There is only one kind of meditation.
No, there are dozens of varieties. Transcendental, guided, mindfulness, movement... and that’s just from the top of my head. When choosing your meditation style, think about why you want to meditate in the first place. The reason I started meditation was because I really struggle to relax, so I practice the guided version. The more I do it, the better I feel within myself and the better I sleep. It also keeps me focused and mindful throughout my day. Try a few and see what works best for you.
5. I don’t know how to do it or where to learn.
The great thing about meditation is that you can do it at home, in parks, alone or in groups, all you need is you. Sometimes it can be difficult to get into the habit or know what to do, especially if you haven’t tried it before or have a particularly busy mind, but there are some great books and apps available to help you get started. Here are 5 of my favourites:
1. Headspace app. Recommended by Team Canada luger Arianne Jones. Free to download (optional subscription £9.99/month, £74.99/year or £399.99/lifetime), available for iOS/Android.
2. Calm app. Free to download (optional subscription £35.99/year), available for iOS/Android. This has some great meditation techniques for facilitating better sleep and reducing stress.
3. Mindfulness app. Free to download (optional subscription £9.99/month, £54.99/year), iOS/Android.
4. The Obstacle Is The Only Way by Ryan Holiday (£9.99).
5. The Good Psychopath’s Guide To Success by Kevin Dutton and Andy McNab (£7.99). Recommended by Team GB rower John Collins.
Give it a go. And remember: be kind to yourself, this is your year to shine.