The Best Holiday Gift For Yourself: Meditation

It has been a little over a year since I first enrolled in a mindfulness meditation class. The eight-week class concluded with an all-day mediation retreat. I am not overstating by saying this day was one of the best days of my life. A year later, I am still meditating.

I think you should start meditating too. Here’s why:

  • Increase cognitive control
  • Decrease mind-wandering
  • Increase positive mood and decrease stress/anxiety
  • Boost immunity
  • Lower blood pressure, reduce risk of heart attack and stroke
  • Better pain control
  • Improved sleep
  • Learn more of the science with this free ebook from Headspace

The course I attended was based on a practice called “Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction,” or MBSR. This type of meditation is based in science and is non-denominational, making it accessible for all people, and classes are offered around the U.S. Just Google MBSR and your area and you should find classes with little trouble.

Of course, while the class is a fantastic way to start a meditation practice, the real work comes afterward, in maintaining the behavior. And, because classes are not free, I have a free “no excuses” tip to get you meditating today.

Just do 5 minutes

Just do it. Do it once. And then try to do it daily.

The number one reason people cite for not meditating is lack of time. I assure you, if you have 5 minutes to watch your sixth YouTube video today, you have 5 minutes to meditate. In fact, there are plenty of tutorials on YouTube if you’d like guidance. Other guidance can come from smartphone apps. The two I have used and absolutely love are Headspace and Omvana.

But you don’t even need an app! Here is how your 5 minute session will go:

Step 1: Sit down, in a chair, on the couch, or on a cushion — whatever is most comfortable for you (crossing legs not necessary).

Step 2: Close your eyes.

Step 3: Focus all of your attention on your breath. The breath coming in the nostrils, how it lifts your stomach and chest as it fills your body, and the feeling of exhaling.

Step 4: When your mind wanders (which it will, frequently) simply bring your attention back to your breath. Don’t get angry or upset about having a wandering mind — even trained Buddhist monks have wandering minds. The entire practice of mindfulness meditation is to train your mind to control your awareness. This is like a superpower. So when your mind wanders, just notice that you have wandered, and focus again on the breath. Repeat.

That’s it.

When 5 minutes is up, take one last deep breath, and open your eyes. Go about your day.

You can set a reminder on your phone, do it first thing when you get up, or last thing before you go to sleep. It doesn’t matter — whatever works for you. Don’t think 5 minutes is enough to notice benefits? Test it out! Be the scientist in your own life. Log one week of 5 minutes a day and see what you notice. If you want to do more, do more! The far more important factor is regularity. Meditating daily for 5 minutes is far more beneficial than meditating once a week for two hours. Regular practice is the name of the game. Once you get more comfortable you can start to focus on extending your sessions. For now, just pick an amount you will actually do.

I can’t think of a better time of year than the holiday season to begin this practice. With the added stresses of holiday shopping, cooking, cleaning, decorating, and entertaining family and friends, you could use some mindful space. Don’t wait til January 1st to start your new health habits — sit down right now and take 5 minutes to create space in your mind.

This holiday, give yourself the best gift you possibly can: a more peaceful and relaxed mind.