Allow me to let you in on a little secret: We'll never be totally rid of stress. And trying to live in pursuit of a stress-free state of mind will only continue to infuriate us — and make us feel like we're falling short of an impossible standard. Instead, the key is learning how to effectively deal with those moments of stress (without losing sight of everything else) so we can move on with what really matters in our lives.
To that end, may we suggest meditation? Go ahead, scoff all you want. But, like stress, meditation has been around for thousands of years and isn't going away anytime soon. In fact, studies have shown that meditation can help us build our mental resilience against stress, keep our reactions to stress under control, and even ease clinical anxiety. All of that is supported by research suggesting that meditation changes the physical structure of the brain in a few key areas.
So, if you've got five minutes to complain and stew in your frustration, you might as well give meditation a shot instead. Seriously, that's all it takes.
"I wanted a practice that I could bring to my everyday life," says Ellie Burrows, CEO of MNDFL, a meditation studio in NYC, of her introduction to meditation. "[Since then,] I've become a much less reactive person — if something's upsetting me, I have a lot more space between that thing and my reaction to it."
Lodro Rinzler, MNDFL's Chief Spiritual Officer, has been practicing meditation since his childhood years. "Stressful, painful things are going to happen in our lives," he says. "But, as a result of meditation, we're much more able to just touch on them lightly and come back to whatever's right in front of us — we don't get as knocked over by them."
Although it may be intimidating to go to a class, you can build your confidence by practicing on your own. In our 30-day meditation challenge, we'll build you up from a quick five-minute daily practice all the way to a cool 20-minute session. After these few weeks, you'll be ready to hit the cushion and, hopefully, feel a little more chill.
Here's how it works: Every day you'll practice with the help of our guided meditations (led by MNDFL's own Adreanna Limbach). Check the calendar below to know which ones to do on which days. Before you move on to the next level, there's an optional challenge to practice without the recording. That'll help you gauge how much you're absorbing the lessons of meditation. If it feels like too much, it's totally fine to skip that. When you're starting out, you want to get as comfortable as possible (use a chair if you need to) and try practicing at different times of the day. But when you find something that works, do your best to stick with it.
To complement the actual practices, you can also incorporate the other meditation-related tasks on the calendar that can help make your new habit stick. (Each activity is explained in more detail here.) These include things like setting an intention for your practice (e.g. "stop sending emails when angry" or "feel more hopeful about the rest of the day") and keeping track of things you're thankful for in a gratitude journal.
Every beginner runs up against his or her own set of challenges. So MNDFL's Ellie and Lodro will be watching the comments here to answer any questions you may have. Take a deep breath — and get to it!
1. Breathe (approx. 5 minutes)
2. Focus (approx. 10 minutes)
3. Aware (approx. 15 minutes)
4. Calm (approx. 20 minutes)