Most people that do not meditate say that it is because they do not know how to meditate. A Tibetan Buddhist monk explains that a person can meditate anywhere, anytime, just as long as they are aware of their breathing (Healthy Living, Huffington Post, 7/12/2016, Madeline Diamond). He said that you can meditate for 1 second, 2 seconds, or longer. This means that during your day there are millions of moments that you can take to meditate, even for just a few seconds: as you step onto the subway or pull out of the garage in the morning, as you wait in line to buy your coffee or newspaper, as you are waiting for the tab at lunch, as you are sitting in the staff meeting (waiting for it to begin), as you pack your bag to leave work for the day, or as you begin your early evening exercise – you can remind yourself to be aware of your breathing for just one or two seconds and then tell yourself that you have just meditated and given yourself a peaceful moment.
While you are aware of your breath, you can think of anything you desire and continue your activity (driving, jogging, waiting in line, etc.), but you are giving yourself a small positive reward (peace of mind), knowing that you have taken a glimpse of a moment for yourself. When a person realizes they have done some meditation, regardless of how long the meditation period, it helps ease their mind of stress, and gives them a positive feeling, just knowing that they have meditated. The more times you do this throughout the day, the more your stress is reduced throughout the day. Try it out and see how you feel. If you need some more encouragement to focus on your breathing, then try deep breathing – breathe in through your nostrils and out through your mouth; you can even hold your breath for a few seconds to slow your breathing to a more relaxed pace.
A research study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine (2015), highlighted in the Harvard Health Publications (Harvard Heart Letter, 2/18/2015, Julie Corliss), included two groups of older adults (all with sleep difficulties) who joined a 6-week program. One group participated in a sleep education class and the other group learned mindfulness awareness and meditation. After the six week study, the group who participated in the mindfulness awareness and meditation reported less fatigue, insomnia, and depression, as compared to the group who participated in the sleep education course. Mindfulness meditation focuses on a person’s breathing, and the present moment, without shifting ones thoughts to things from the past or worries and concerns about the future. The purpose of the mindfulness meditation is to achieve relaxation.
Try being mindful and meditating throughout the day. Dr. Herbert Benson, of the Harvard-affiliated Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine, suggests doing a mindfulness meditation during the day, preferably for about 20 minutes, in order to be in good practice and able to do this mindful meditation at night when you have trouble sleeping. The meditation should be so relaxing that in order to avoid falling asleep in the middle of the day, you should perform your meditation in a seated position or while standing. Remember though, that even if you cannot take 20 minutes out of your day for the meditation, any amount of meditation (relaxation) is better than none at all. If paying attention to your breathing is not sufficient to help you focus, then chose a sound (maybe humming to yourself), a positive word, phrase, or prayer that you repeat to yourself. Then, continue this sound, word, phrase, or prayer as you breathe in and out. If your mind starts to wander to other thoughts, bring them back to your breathing and your sound/phrase (if you include one along with your breathing).
Another way to help calm your stress is to accept that there are things you may not be able to change. Accept that you might not be able to get 8 hours of wonderfully sound sleep at night, and then remind yourself that once you have accepted this fact and you are going to stop stressing about it, then you might be able to at least get 6 hours of sleep; whereas, if you continue stressing about how poor your sleep quality is or how few hours you have left to sleep, then you might only get 4 good hours of sleep. Therefore, since it is hard to stop yourself from worrying about things (during the day and particularly at night), bring to the forefront of your mind exactly what is stressing you, acknowledge that you are stressed about it, and then return your focus to your breathing (and/or phrase) for your mindfulness meditation and relaxation.
MIT Medical suggests doing a total body scan with your own thoughts. During the day, sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor, at night you can do this while lying down in bed. Start either at your head or at your feet and slowly think of each portion of your body, slowly, gradually moving through your entire body, trying to relax your entire body. Also, consider your surroundings in your bedroom. Being aware of your environment can help you make changes to your room that help you relax at night. If your room is cluttered or disorganized, it might be bothering you subconsciously, and correcting it can help you get a more peaceful night’s sleep. Also, remove distractions from your bedroom. It is best not to work in bed, not to have a television in your bedroom, and not to use electronic devices (tablets, laptops, cell phones) in bed.