“This isn’t working.”
I sat cross-legged on my yoga mat with my knees crooked in a way that would have made my rheumatologist mad and threw my headphones down to the floor. I had just been “meditating” which means I really was just sitting in a painful position for all of 90 seconds, frustrated that I hadn’t transcended onto some promised astral plane.
Lately, it’s hard to get through any sort of self-help or self-care newsletter or Twitter thread without the mention of the what I like to think of as The Big Three: sleep, meditation and journaling. Supposedly, if I can get those on track, my life will open up for me, tasks will magically be done without delay, and I will never have a bad day for the rest of my life.
I spent the month of August testing out these self-care hacks and surprisingly, I learned a lot about just what meditation and journaling can do for my mental health. I re-downloaded the Headspace app, carved out 10 minutes in the morning or before bed to sit still for a while and dove in.
Meditation is not as easy as Twitter users make it out to be. It. Is. Painful. Tiresome. Long for no reason. And in the same strain, it has been one of the best ways for me to quiet my mind. I tend to overthink and spend a lot of time wondering and worrying obsessively. It’s a habit I picked up years ago before I knew the words anxiety and major depression and how the right medicine makes a difference. Pairing my medication with meditation and a daily free-writing session helped me make sense of all the swirling words my brain latches onto throughout the day.
For the first few times I meditated, I could manage maybe one or two minutes in silence before my mind wandered away to the landscaper mowing outside, the cats fighting over breakfast, the ceiling fan that could desperately use some WD-40. But the key, I learned, is to be gentle with yourself as you pull your mind back to the present and connect with your breath and body. I’ve become better at stringing together words. I’ve noticed when my breath becomes tight and my shoulders hug my ears. I’m more aware of how my body moves through this world, and my thoughts are more focused on making each hour count, not reacting to a future that hasn’t happened yet or longing for a past where I did something differently, better, faster.
Meditation is about creating space for yourself without judgement. So sure, I might have multiple intrusive thoughts daily, but sitting still for those minutes takes me out of the chaos. I don’t have to prove myself to anyone or be the best at everything. All I have to do is be still.
Staff picks for favorite meditation apps: