Going to the Gym (for your mind)

Originally published in Elite Agent Magazine (Oct 2016)

We all know by now that to have a healthy body there are a few key things to give attention to keep in tip-top shape. Exercise regularly, get enough rest and make sure that you eat the right food in the right amounts. Can we say the same thing for keeping your mind in shape – or do we know that there are ways to actually improve our wellbeing by sitting and essentially doing nothing?

The earliest records of meditation came at around 1500BC in Ancient India. Today we find it hard to go far without some of our most successful people in business, sports, politics and entertainment singing the praises of a daily meditation practice. In fact, meditation has now been scientifically proven to improve many aspects in life, such as:
•    Boosting health in your immune system and decreasing pain and inflammation in the body
•    Increases positive emotions and decreases stress and anxiety
•    Increases your ability to connect socially and your emotional intelligence
•    It improves your ability to be introspective and control your thoughts and emotions
•    It even increases your grey matter!

If you are reading this and thinking you could do with some of maybe even all of the above, you may also ask yourself if sitting and doing nothing gives this – why don’t we all just do it? The easy way to answer that is to try it for yourself, it’s actually a bit harder than it sounds. 

In a world where everyone is ‘turned on’ through technology and especially in an industry such as ours, we pride ourselves on always being contactable and the ‘24/7’ agent. With this in mind, our habits have begun to move ourselves further away from a less cluttered, simple life to an email, text messaging, tweeting and ‘facebooking’ culture. That’s why a lot of us can’t even sit and wait for a coffee and not be on our phone, let alone consciously sit and do nothing for 10-20 minutes (or more). 

The good news is that just like when you first hit the gym after a long winter break and struggle through the first few sessions, it does get easier. Through a regular meditation practise starting at just 5 minutes a day, you can begin to enjoy the benefits listed above. Through right practise, you might even begin to enjoy the space that a practice can bring. For my own experience, the thing I enjoy the most is having space from the constant barrage of thoughts that I experience from when I wake up to when I go to sleep again. 

Here’s a starting point to get going with your own practice:
•    Sit comfortably with a straight spine and relaxed body. Your bed is not for meditating, you will just fall asleep. Find a place where you won’t be disturbed for the duration, and put your phone off or on airplane mode. 
•    After a few deep breaths, begin to follow your breath from the sensation outside of your nose all the way to your lungs, and out again. Repeat this and count each round of breath (in and out) as 1. Count to 10, then just start over again. 
•    When you lose count and get lost in thought, don’t stress, just go back to 1 and start again. 
•    Set a timer for 5 minutes first week, then 10 next and so on. Don’t go on to a higher length of time if you aren’t getting some level of relaxation.
•    Think of this like brushing your teeth. It’s something you just do automatically every morning and night (hopefully), so make your practice at the same time each day. The mind makes it easier when it knows what it’s doing and when its doing it. 

That’s a really quick idea of the practice, I would encourage you to try some group meditation at the beginning to get your enthusiasm up, but most of all, just sit! It won’t take long to start to enjoy the many benefits this practice can bring.