Meditate Your Way To A Clear Mind: Positive Thinking Day

This year, Positive Thinking Day falls on September 13th…

It’s a yearly reminder to pause and observe how we’re responding to everyday events, and an encouragement to get back on track by infusing more positive thinking into our lives.

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// photo credit to @jobimanson, @sefarioutpost, @goflowapp, & @danibeinstein //

Meditation is a way to focus, clear, and transform our way of thinking. In life, there’s so much we can’t control, but it is possible to manage your state of mind. There are many types of meditation, but all those who practice agree on one thing: everyone can benefit from incorporating it into their daily lives.

What You’ll Get From Meditation

In a world with constant chaos, the ability to calm and silence the mind has endless benefits. Many people turn to meditation in hopes of reducing their anxiety levels. A study in Oxford Journals’ Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience confirmed that it works with findings that “provide evidence that mindfulness meditation attenuates anxiety through mechanisms involved in the regulation of self-referential thought processes.” In other words, meditating takes you away from beating yourself up about the past, or worrying about your future, and puts you in the present. According to one study published by JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers found that practicing mindful meditation had the same affect on combatting depression as taking antidepressant medication. And a study from UC Santa Barbara scientists found that meditation improves concentration and attention. No surprise since the basis of meditation is to flex and grow the part of your brain that handles those functions.

How To Meditate If You’re Just Getting Started

Meditation has the power to transcend your mind, which is an incredible feat, but really, it’s just a form of mental exercise. Use these steps as a foundation for your practice, but don’t hesitate to experiment to find the most effective meditation practice for you. Don’t get discouraged when you first start out. Just like you didn’t nail Side Crow pose on your first try, learning to focus and clear your thoughts takes practice.

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  1. Create a familiar space: You’re welcome to set up a shrine as a dedicated meditation spot, but your space can be as simple as the area next to your bed. The important thing is to try to meditate in the same spot every day, as it’ll help eliminate new elements that could be distracting. This goes for time of day, too. Practicing at the same time will help your mind familiarize itself with light, noises, and your mood during that time, and it’s a great way to get yourself into a daily habit of meditating.
  2. Sit up straight: You want your body to be open to what’s about to happen. That means sitting upright, but not uptight. Try sitting on a cushion with your legs crossed, and back lightly engaged. Imagine trying to touch the crown of your head to the sky. If you’re slumped over, you’re liable to lose your focus. If you’re having trouble staying straight, grab a chair with a straight back for the same effect.
  3. Keep your eyes open: This will help you focus since it allows you to be more present in your setting. Closing your eyes often invites thoughts to wander in on the blank canvas. Try lowering your eyes and gazing softly in front of you.
  4. Notice your breath: Returning to the natural rhythm of your breath is an effective way to bring yourself back to the present. To get settled into your meditation, try counting your breath every time you exhale. If you notice a thought wandering in, simply return back to “one” to ground yourself again.
  5. Let go of thoughts: Don’t try to block thoughts from entering your mind. Eventually they’ll build up, and come crashing through. Instead, let them drift in, and then release them by using your preferred technique to bring yourself back into the moment.
  6. Focus on your body: The way your body feels is often an indicator of your emotions. A tightness across your shoulders could be a sign of stress. Pay attention to how you’re feeling physically and use your breath to release thoughts from the areas that need more attention.
  7. Embrace silence: Only in the absence of noise will you get the chance to experience your clearest mind. An exterior silence is also an invitation for your interior noise to quiet down and rest in the moment.
  8. Take your time : As you start developing your meditation practice, begin with just a few minutes a day. The first time out of the gate doesn’t need to be (and likely won’t be) a transcendental experience. Don’t force yourself to meditate longer if you’re fighting your brain. And because you’re working to make meditation a life-long practice, you have all the time in the world.

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Last but not least, be nice to yourself! Great things take time, patience, and persistence… learning to meditate is no exception.

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