An elevated practice that helps you live your best life? That’s a ritual. We've asked women we admire to share the daily rituals that make them who they are. Discover their secrets and try a new ritual for yourself.
When I was going through a difficult breakup, anxiety got the best of me. I must’ve bought about ten post-breakup books on Amazon. Eventually, I discovered meditation as a way to relieve my anxiety. On weekday mornings, I jot down anything creating stress in my mind, followed by 10 minutes of guided meditation. I wish I’d adopted this meditation ritual far sooner, as it would have been super valuable in the face of other difficulties.
I was so sick of feeling tired and sad, but nothing seemed to help. Meditation shifted my perspective and armed me with new tools for dealing with negativity.
This ritual has made me a happier and more relaxed human. Sometimes stress is alleviated by action, but I learned that the quickest path to moving on with my life comes by altering my mental framework. If you want to learn to meditate to deal with stress the way I did, here’s how.
Write it down
Give yourself two minutes to quickly scribble out anything taking up negative mind space. It can be anything from “relationship anxieties” to “groceries.” Just putting thoughts to paper helps me clear my head before starting my meditation. I do this in the morning in a little journal that’s dedicated specifically to this practice: if you don’t have a blank journal lying around, buy a cheap one for this. It helps to have tools that are solely there to aid you in this process.
You might find that the morning works for you, too, but no sweat if it doesn’t. As long as you’re spending a few minutes of your day getting your thoughts out on paper, you’re doing it right.
Do one 10 minute meditation. I prefer meditations that use the “body scanning” technique — the practice of feeling into energetic sensations or pulses throughout the body — to stay present, but everyone is different. Some people like to focus on breathing. With body scanning, I can focus on all kinds of nuance: heat sensations, pain, pleasant sensations, vibrations, etc. It might feel weird at first — sometimes I spend half a session focused on my left arm — but after a while, it’s just calming.
To learn different meditation techniques, like body scanning (or breathing!), I’d recommend the Headspace app. Their guided meditations take you step by step through the meditation process, really simplifying the whole thing and making it easy to master. I also use Calm every once in awhile if I want to customize the experience with music. The nice thing about Headspace is you can set reminders each day, and the app congratulates you when you complete a certain number in a row. I’m also actively trying to get friends to do it with me so that we can create a fun game around accountability.
Take it in
After you meditate, review the previous list of notes you made when you thought of things that were bothering you. Using the calm you found in meditation, ask yourself: “how many of these things are truly dire?” As the next step, applying the peaceful feeling from your meditation, cross off anything that you don’t need to deal with at this immediate moment, especially if it seems silly in retrospect. Sometimes the physical act of crossing something out on paper can do a lot to help you just let go. More often than not, I usually find myself relaxed after the meditation, and I’m able to cross off anything I could reframe or let go.
If something still bugs me, I create an actionable item for my to-do list to solve for it. Somedays, meditation just doesn’t work. Occasionally I’ve even ended up more anxious at the end of a session than when I started, which is when I know I need it most. It’s easy to let the mind go crazy during times of stress. Ultimately, however, building the habit is more important to me than always having a ‘successful’ session. It’s never a waste of time.
Adopt this Ritual for yourself
Taryn Southern is a musician, actress, and the founder of Happy Cat Media, which has produced 1500+ videos for brands like Marriott, MovieTickets, and Today Show, and is now focused on immersive storytelling and consulting