This meditation challenge review is part of our Good Sport series. We’re up for any challenge (physical or mental) and this is where we prove it – and then convince you to do the same! Daily crunches anyone?
I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Instead, I adopt a word or action to carry me through the new year. This year, I deliberately chose meditation as my magic mantra. Ushering in a new strategy to face whatever 2023 throws at me, meditation seemed like a good add-on to my rigorous workout schedule. I already play hockey three times a week, as well as running and HIIT classes at my local Orangetheory. So the premise for my meditation challenge was simple: Be in the moment with mindful meditation for a minimum of 10 minutes every single day for two months.
But here’s the catch: I am unable to sit still and have a difficult time shutting my mind off for even a minute. Every distraction is a call to abandon this practice.
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Does the meditation challenge work?
From the experts I’ve spoken to, they agree that adding a committed moment during the day to meditate can provide significant mental and physical health benefits. Breathwork and visualization as part of a morning routine can manifest in a more predictable and in-control mindset to start your day. Deep and precise breaths while connecting to the moment can provide a calm sense of security and a reliable stress outlet during the day. There is no downside to meditation, and anyone can explore the benefits.
However, meditation is no medical cure-all. The results can be slow or even non-existent for some. Tapping into a spiritual connection doesn’t translate for everyone.
What about myself? I wasn’t sure which camp I’d be part of, but with no downside to trying meditation, I decided to commit to two months to really see if there were physical and mental benefits.
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How to meditate for beginners
As a newbie to meditation, I had some pent-up nerves and mild anxiety about committing to the practice. Running a busy household with kids, pets and a Ring doorbell competing for my limited attention span, setting aside a specific time to meditate was crucial to my success.
I also set up a dedicated space with a yoga mat, pillows and a salt lamp to energize and lure me in.
My practice initially began with a five-minute sound bath on Spotify with breathwork. The breaths were long and slow, with counts of four seconds for inhaling, seven sections to hold and exhaling for an eight count.
My goal was to increase the duration of my meditation sessions from five minutes to 15. I also really worked on closing my eyes – and keeping them closed for longer meditation practices.
I also tried walking meditation in my local ravine and forest. Walking meditation involves taking steps with the mental focus. I find it helps me relax, clear my mind and improves my well-being. I’d done it before, but this meditation challenge was a great excuse to do it again. Obviously you keep your eyes open for this practice. Surrounded by nature and resting on a tree stump was a powerful invitation to linger a little longer. The fresh air also hit better than my stale salt lamp environment.
I had hoped to drop into a class at Othership for guided meditation, but with eight to 10 hockey games a week between myself and my daughters, I didn’t get the time. So, I’m saving this as a reward after the hockey season wraps up.
I did however take a meditation class led by Karen Raymond at EFT Peaceful Rebel. She is a certified tapping practitioner, which means she gently strikes specific parts on the body, such as the head and face, during meditation. After that class, I felt empowered to add some tapping to my meditative movements.
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How does meditation affect the body?
There are numerous reasons why meditation is proven to bolster our health. Affecting our sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the “fight or flight” response, meditation is proven to aid us in reducing stress and anxiety, allowing our sympathetic nervous systems to deactivate.
Meditation can help to improve your ability to focus and concentrate by training your mind to stay focused on a single object or thought. Most practitioners report better sleep and a boost for the immune system.
While sustainable bliss sounds a little far-fetched, meditation experts suggest adopting the discipline can “purify your physiology.” I just found that taking time for myself to quiet my mind improved my mood, especially if I began the day by meditating.
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How to be better at meditating
When it comes to approaching any challenge, whether it’s a throwdown of burpees at City Shred or running a half marathon (although those are pretty bold comparisons), you should be meeting specific targets. Meditating is great, but I’ve found it only works if you’re being mindful. Accessing a core belief that I can and should take time for myself, and take care of myself, was crucial to committing to this challenge.
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What it’s like doing a meditation challenge
To be honest, the first few days were extremely humiliating. I could not get into a rhythm of being alone and silent. I felt preoccupied with every noise and often didn’t make it to the five-minute mark. I was flustered by my lack of self-awareness. I think the years of participating in high-level “fast” sports, like running and hockey, have conditioned my mind to keep moving.
I forced myself to sit still and shut down. And, after about a week, I did find that I could build on the previous day, finding calmness more quickly and reliably than previously imagined.
By the end of the two months, I looked forward to these little mystical moments, an opportunity to connect with my mind in ways I didn’t think possible.
Being mindful of my overall health goals – like drinking more water and taking supplements like collagen – felt like I was promoting good intentions in tandem with my meditation. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by trying to be healthier, meditation made it all seem like it all fit together. And incorporating healthier meals and plenty of dark leafy greens in my diet felt sage and practical rather than another thing to have to do.
And, mentally, I found myself feeling less negative and I was more open to invitations and situations I may not have been so amenable to previously.
Physically, while running and skating hard, I noticed my lung capacity increased with my improved recovery time.
I am now integrating meditative practices into my daily routine. I wouldn’t observe another ‘challenge’ as I feel like I have finally tapped into the benefits of meditation. I now just wonder what took me so long.