If you’re anything like me, one of your most-uttered phrases is, “WTF did the time go?!”
They say that those of us who are always running late or on deadline are more creative and optimistic than our punctual friends, and I’d be happy to simply accept that, if I meant that I wasn’t continually rushing around wondering how on earth a apparently ten-minute task managed to take up one full hour.
My crappy time management aside, even the most organised feel busy these days, with surveys in the past three years showing people in the US and UK feeling increasingly overrun. Recent research by US Columbia Business School professor Silvia Bellezza even found that “being busy” has become the status symbol of our times.
And yet, the busier we get, the more stressed we feel, with statistics from the UK Health & Safety Executive showing that 11.7 million business days were lost last year ALONE from stress, anxiety and depression-related issues.
Enter meditation, a scientifically-proven treatment for pretty much everything, including stress, anxiety, self-compassion, loneliness, depression, sleep problems, productivity, and memory.
But how many of us find ourselves talking more about doing it than sitting our butts down to actually DO It?
We think that if we don’t have a proper chunk of time, then there’s not a lot of point.
But as the exceedingly-infuriating old Zen Buddhist saying goes: “You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day. Unless you’re too busy, then you should sit for an hour.”
Apart from making you want to throw your coffee at the screen, the phrase hides a real gem of truth: you never need meditation more than when you think you don’t have time.
In all seriousness, discovering meditation saved my life (no, really) when I was at my most anxious as a young professional in one of the world’s busiest cities, and many years later I still manage to squeeze it in most days, no matter what.
Sometimes I love to luxuriate in 30-minute long sessions – and a week-long silent retreat is even on the cards soon – but don’t let that put you off.
Even five minutes (yes, just 60 seconds, five times) is enough to get all those incredible benefits everyone and their (downward) dog can’t stop going on about.
Here’s how.1. Close your eyes: Just sit down or stand up somewhere simple and take two big deep breaths, keeping your spine straight without straining. Close your eyes.
Five-minute benefit: Creates instant focus and proves that you that you can meditate anywhere, no matter how pushed for time you are (yep, I started meditating on a packed rush-hour train, so I promise you it’s possible).
2. Focus on touch: Immediately focus on the physical feel of your body, such as your hands on your lap or the way the soles of your feet feel, or how tense your shoulders are. While letting your lower limbs drop down heavy, imagine your head being pulled gently up towards the sky.
Five-minute benefit: Focuses on your solid body instead of your swirling mind, improves your posture; allows you to breathe deeper and slower, flooding your body with fresh oxygen
3. The body scan: Do a quick run-down of your body from the top of your head to your toes, noticing where you feel tense or relaxed, but not really doing anything about it either way.
Five-minute benefit: Teaches you how not to judge what you’re feeling or thinking, just be curious and move on without stopping to follow one particular thought or red herring.
4. Breathe easy: Start counting your breaths, one for in, two for out, up to six, and repeat, noticing how the breath comes in through your nose and out.
Five-minute benefit: Teaches you to focus on your breathing – a central part of meditation – and gives you an anchor to come back to when your mind wanders.
5. Notice your other senses: Let noises, smells, movement or other distractions wash over you, without following them or wondering much about what they are. Just come back to your breathing, and feel more aware of the air around you before opening your eyes.
Five-minute benefit: Shows how to keep the focus on you, and be aware of distractions without being tempted to fix or follow them. Allows you to cement the benefits of the practice before coming back to reality, feeling more calm and focused.
Focusing on these five steps for 60 seconds each will give you a damn good meditation session and get you to focus on the most important and useful elements, even if you usually think you’re crap at meditating and can barely find time to eat or stand still.
Before long, five minutes will feel too quick, and you’ll want to try 10, 15 or even – GASP – 20 minutes, just to sit with your body and mind for a bit longer.
You might even learn to ENJOY the feeling of sitting, with purposefully f*ck-all to do, for those precious minutes in your day.
I know I do.
If I – a supposed former overthinker, chronic overachiever, wandering daydreamer, constant Instagram-scrolling, anxiety-prone, routine-hating, sleep-loving procrastination junkie* – can do it, then so can you.
Because all it takes is five short minutes.
Convinced about the benefits of meditation, but not sure if it’s for you, think it’s a bit too ‘out-there’ and ‘woo woo’ or reckon you might be a bit sh*t at it?
Never fear, try my free 10-minute No-BS guided meditation track, especially designed for Millennial women who think they might be sh*t at meditation. It’s full of no-BS advice and tips on how to get back into meditation and really make it work for you, even if you’ve tried and failed before. Get it here.Hannah Jane Thompson is a no-BS, certified love & self-worth coach for Millennial women, helping them to unf*ck their love lives and massively boost their self-esteem so they can finally get the love and life they want.(*Kudos if you got this classic Alanis Morissette reference, heh. Singer-songwriter Alanis is also a big zen meditator, FYI, after years of mental health problems, and YES, that angry break-up song.)