You know that meditation can help improve concentration, decrease muscle tension, promote relaxation and alleviate depression. You’ve even tried it – but two minutes felt like two hours and after each 20-minute session, the result was the same: You had a mental to-do list and a sore behind.
You’re not alone.
“We are so used to multitasking that we find it difficult to sit down and turn off our thoughts,” explains Scott Zashin, MD, a rheumatologist and clinical assistant professor of internal medicine at University of Texas Southwestern Medical School at Dallas. “Meditation is not a quick fix; it takes time.”
Not sure it’s worth the effort? Consider this: rheumatoid arthritis patients who meditated 45 minutes per day, six days a week for six months reduced their psychological distress by one-third, according to a study published in the October 15, 2007 issue of Arthritis Care and Research.
And researchers at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital reported a 36 percent drop in clinic visits among patients with chronic pain who practiced meditation 30 minutes a day for at least two years.
Maybe it’s time to give meditation another try. These tips can help you succeed.
Get an instructor: Meditation classes can be effective for beginners. Having an instructor to guide meditations and answer questions is one of the easiest ways to ease into the practice, Dr. Zashin says. Check yoga studios, churches and community centers for classes.
Focus on one thing: Counting your breaths or repeating a word can help keep your mind from wandering. “Choose a word that makes you feel calm and relaxed,” advises Kate Hanley, a meditation instructor and author of the Anywhere, Anytime Chill Guide: 77 Simple Strategies for Serenity (Globe Pequot Press, 2008). Repeating the word with every exhale will help keep you focused on the meditation.
Forget the time: Does meditating for 20 minutes seem impossible? Stop watching the clock. Instead, sit quietly, focus on your breathing and repeat a calming word or thought for as long as you’re comfortable. Slowly work your way up to meditating for longer periods.
Forgive yourself: Don’t call it quits if you focus on a conversation with a spouse when you’re supposed to be clearing your mind for meditation. Instead, acknowledge the thought and redirect your focus. “Meditation is all about doing the best you can,” says Hanley. “It’s called a practice for a reason; it’ll never be perfect.”