10 Minutes Can Make You Happierby Jeremy on 12/5/2012
“The art of living… is neither careless drifting on the one hand nor fearful clinging to the past on the other. It consists in being sensitive to each moment, in regarding it as utterly new and unique, in having the mind open and wholly receptive.”
―Alan Wilson Watts
Anxiety of daily consciousness
Life can be stressful. Especially around the holiday season. But even in the quiet times, our minds are prone to wander off and get lost in internal mazes of unreality. We either revisit and reanalyze increasingly inaccurate memories of the past, or we fantasize about the future or our desires. Our attention jumps from one arising thought to another, loses interest, and then does it all over again. In doing so, it sacrifices awareness of the present moment.
But it’s OK, because there are ways of slowing the racing mind and practicing awareness of the now. It’s pretty easy to get started. You don’t need a Guru, a yoga mat, a 10-week intensive course, a $1500 weekend retreat, or any bells or whistles. If you’re reading this right now, you have everything you need to get started.
Does it work?
How to meditate
- Find a quiet place
- Sit down
- Breathe naturally
- Focus on your breathing, either on the movement of your abdomen or the sensation of the air moving through your nostrils
- When you notice your mind wandering (as it will), gently and lovingly guide it back to your breathing
Start with just 10 minutes. Or 2 minutes, or whatever you can do. Don’t push yourself too hard. If it helps, try counting your breaths up to 10, then starting again at 1. It may surprise you how difficult counting 10 breaths can be. Or, if you want to keep the verbal center of your brain occupied, try mentally asking yourself “What is this?” on one breath, then reply “I don’t know” on the next.
If you’re going to make this a daily thing – something I’ve found enormously helpful – avoid setting your initial goal too high. This should be something you look forward to, not a chore you dread. If you make it too difficult, you’re more likely to just stop doing it. But if you make your goal attainable, you’re likelier to maintain your practice, and you may feel like going further.
Meditation is one of those things that can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. If you’re interested in this kind of thing, there’s plenty more to read about. Here are a few great starting points:
- How to Meditation: A Guide for Beginners (A Conscious Life)
- A Guide to Meditation for the Rest of Us (Lifehacker)
- A Simple, Illustrated, Guided Meditation
- Mindfulness With Jon Kabat-Zinn, from a class at Google
- Guided meditations from the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center