Master your mind

You could do a lot of thinking here. 

You could do a lot of thinking here. 

If you know me, you know that patience is not one of my strong suits. I'm very quick to anger and I let little things get to me. A lot of this has to do with the fact that I'm extremely logical and I do things quickly. So when people don't behave with common sense or they're somehow inhibiting my progress in a timely manner (or what I deem timely), I have a hard time being ok with that. It's a flaw and one I'm acutely aware of. 

The problem with this isn't just lack of patience, it leads to lack of presence. In other words, if I’m always getting frustrated, it's hard to be present in a moment or feel happiness or gratitude for accomplishments. As I talk about a lot on this blog, my fitness journey is a journey. And that extends beyond working out and eating well. It extends to the journey of the mind. Stay with me here. I'm not spiritual or religious and I don't believe in God, but there’s so much evidence that having a mindfulness practice leads to more success and a happier life. 

You all know my obsession with podcasts. And if you don’t, please sign up for my Healthy Humpday Email in which I highlight three of my favorites each week. Well, it seemed that lately every one I listened to was talking about meditation and journaling. And while I don’t believe in God, I do believe in listening to the signs of the universe and in this case, it was clearly trying to tell me something.

So in my quest to be the best me, I decided to give it a try. Now, I tried meditating and journaling last year and stuck with it for only a short time. Why? Well, the methods I was using weren’t right for me and/or I wasn’t ready. Just like you need to find those small changes you can stick with in your exercise and nutrition routines, so goes for mindfulness. I needed something easy and doable on a daily basis that I could fit in my schedule. I wasn’t ready to start recapping my entire day in a journal every night and meditating for 30 minutes. That was simply too ambitious and would only set me up for failure.

Enter the Five-Minute Journal. I heard about it on the Tim Ferriss podcast and it seemed like exactly something I could handle. It’s literally five minutes a day, some days less. You simply complete the lined fields in the morning and at night, setting your intentions for the day and then recapping what went well and what you can improve on each night. It’s perfect and I’m loving it. I feel like in a few minutes I can think about what I want to accomplish and set positive affirmations each day. Then at night I get to think about what I could have done better each day, whether it’s emotionally or work-related. It’s just enough to make me reflect and be accountable. And that’s the whole point.

Now, meditation has been harder because turning off my brain is a nearly herculean feat. But there’s something enticing about finding some time during the day to just be quiet and think — or not think. I knew sitting for any great length of time wasn’t going to happen. So I needed to think about an amount I could make time for every day. I decided to start with 10 minutes. I figured that’s essentially the equivalent of a bathroom break or stroll to the office kitchen. And since I have the benefit of working from home, finding a quiet space wasn’t going to be a challenge. But tearing me away from one of five projects I might be working on, would be.

Now, I’ve tried guided meditation before, where someone tells you where to focus your breath and energy but I felt like I needed to just sit with quiet. A friend recommend this app called Insight Timer, which offers both guided and timed meditation and it even allows you to add music to your timed meditation. I thought that would be a good start. So the first week I did 10 minutes. And then each week or so I add a minute. My goal is to get to 20 minutes consistently.

Yes, sometimes I can’t stop thinking, but another podcast addressed this. It said, don’t try to rid your mind of thoughts. There’s a reason those thoughts are popping in your head. So acknowledge them and move on. Sometimes I’m almost asleep by the end, but that just means I’m at peace. I do think it has helped my anger (although not while driving — that would require true divine intervention). And I do feel more clear and focused on days I meditate. I don’t beat myself up if I miss a day, but I do schedule it in my calendar so I’m reminded daily.

Remember, all we can do is our best every day and be better today than yesterday. Have you tried meditation or journaling recently? I’d love to hear your experience.