Danica Patrick: Spring clean your mind

May 02, 2016 | by Danica Patrick

These days, we never have to be alone with ourselves.

Interesting things to watch and read – videos, articles, recipes and movies – are just a swipe away on your smart phone. When you’re bored, the easy, reflexive thing to do is grab your phone and start scrolling.

But there is a huge benefit to sitting still and focusing on something simple, like breathing.

Studies have found meditation – spending time in quiet thought – can ease the symptoms of anxiety and depression (add exercise to it and it’s even better!). It’s also linked to lower blood pressure, a stronger immune system and better sleep.

You’ve spring cleaned your house and your yard already this year. Now try sweeping the cobwebs of negativity and anxiety out of your mind.

When I practice yoga, I like to end with a meditation. To be honest, I’d like to meditate a lot more often.

It sounds simple – just sit someplace quiet and focus your thoughts on one thing. But it’s not easy. It is definitely worth the effort and practice, though.

Meditation takes bit of trial and error to figure out what you need to do to focus. When I meditate, I count my inhales and exhales. Focusing on the numbers helps me clear out all the other thoughts.

Sometimes, instead of counting, I think about white as I inhale and black as I exhale, mentally releasing negative thoughts.

The idea is to keep your mind on one thing so you can shut everything else down. It’s a tough challenge.

Guided meditation apps can be helpful – I like one called Headspace. You can start with everyday mindfulness as a step toward meditation. Notice simple things like your breath, or the way the wind sounds, or the warmth of sunshine on your face.

Even if you’re not stressed right now, slowing the crazy whirl of thoughts for a while makes a big difference in your mental state. Forcing yourself to stay in the moment keeps worries and negativity at bay. You walk away relaxed and calm.

When you’re ready to try meditation:

  • Block out 20 or 30 minutes. First thing in the morning is best, but anytime will work. Make an appointment with yourself on your calendar if you have to, and set an alarm to remind you when it’s time.
  • Find a quiet place to sit or lie down. Get comfortable. You don’t want pain from an uncomfortable position disrupting your focus.
  • Take deep, slow breaths and focus all your attention on them. Try counting them, like I do, or repeat a mantra (a word or phrase) you can focus on. If a random thought enters your mind, let it pass by and bring your focus back to your breath.

Have you tried meditation? How has it helped you? Share your experience in the comments below.

Sign up for Healthy Driven yoga and meditation classes at our Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness Centers.

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