Meditation: The What & The Why

pool of water one drop blue

Why Meditation?

As part of my self-care these days I have been practicing meditation and mindfulness. It was a little difficult at first for me to accept this practice as I always associated it with an eastern religious belief system. Not something that as a Christian I should be doing. There has typically been a stigma surrounding the word “meditation” in the Christian community.

My interest in meditation began as I was looking for ways to combat my anxiety. I began to dig in and found several apps that were helpful in meditation and/or mindfulness. I was looking for ones that didn’t feel like they were drawing me into a religious practice but just the basic secular practices of meditation. These tend to focus on breathing, mindfulness, mood check-ins and more. A few of the apps that I think are pretty great are:

All of the above apps have free and premium options, I am sticking with the free options for now as they satisfy me (and I’m cheap).

What is Meditation and Mindfulness?

But let’s back up a bit. You may be wondering, what exactly is meditation and mindfulness? (Definitions from English Oxford Dictionary)

Meditation:

  1. Focus one’s mind for a period of time, in silence or with the aid of chanting, for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation.
  2. Think deeply about something.

Mindfulness:

  1. The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.‘their mindfulness of the wider cinematic tradition’
  2. A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

There are different types of meditations, including mindfulness meditation, contemplative, visualization, and spiritual meditation. To learn more about the various types of mediation, I recommend this article from MindWorks.

What Works for Me

For our purposes today, I am going to focus on the types of meditation that I prefer to do. First, I usually practice mindful meditation in the form of breath control. This practice helps to settle not just the mind but the body as well and can be very useful in providing some relief during times of high anxiety or stress. It forces you to focus on your breathing in a way that calms both the mind and the body. I have found the more I practice, the easier it is to utilize it at a moment’s notice, should I become stressed.

The other meditation that I find effective is visualization, sometimes used in conjunction with breath exercises. For me, these are usually guided meditations. Meaning, I am listening to someone verbally guide my thought process to a calming setting. For example, the guide may tell me to picture in my mind a location that I find peaceful, such as viewing the ocean or walking in a field.

The guide may direct me to use all of my senses and pay attention to the sounds, the smells, the sights, etc. Really become focused and aware of all that is present around me. When I am doing this, I am truly focused on this scene and not focusing on what my current reality might be. Good or bad.

As I mentioned before, I am a Christian and part of my journey is to grow spiritually. So while I was looking for various sites and apps to help with meditation, I found a few interesting ones that are considered Christian Meditations.


These are contemplative meditations that focus on scriptures and prayers but often incorporate breathing and mindfulness practices as well. That is the third type of meditation I enjoy. They help to center me, calm me and also feed me spiritually.

A few of the Christian Meditation Apps/Sites that I prefer are:

How I Practice Meditation

woman long brown hair in a ponytail on rocks at the ocean meditating

When you think of meditation, you may picture someone sitting cross-legged with their hands resting on their knees and chanting some word or phrase. While that may be one way of practicing meditation, it usually isn’t for me.

I often begin my day with a spiritual meditation and I do so while I am still lying in bed. The room still dark, eyes closed, I put on my earbuds and spend about 15 minutes in meditation. It’s a great way to start my day.

I try to do a different type of meditation before I go to bed to help me relax. Maybe the visualization. Sometimes I might be sitting up or even lying down on the sofa. If you are trying meditation, you do whatever feels most comfortable for you. Get in whatever position works best for you.

Why It Works

Meditation is helpful mentally and physically because it guides you into focusing on something other than your present reality. It trains and redirects your mind. It helps you to increase awareness of yourself and your surroundings (mindfulness) and helps your body relax.

With continued practice, meditation can help to reduce stress levels, help your mind become more focused, help you sleep better and a whole host of other wonderful benefits. It is a discipline just like exercise. You need to do it more than once to reap the rewards. Think of it as a workout for your brain but a lot less physically demanding.

If you haven’t tried meditation yet, I suggest you check out a few of the sites/ apps I mentioned and give it a shot. Find what feels most comfortable for you. It may seem a bit awkward at first, but after some practice, you will start to look forward to it daily.


“The goal of meditation isn’t to control your thoughts, it’s to stop letting them control you.”

Anonymous

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TLC Elements: Treatment for Depression. Could This Really Work?

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TLC Elements (Therapeutic Lifestyle Change)

Lately, due to a recent family diagnosis, I have been doing some research on depression treatments and stumbled upon a Ted Talk by Dr. Steve Ilardi. He and his clinical research team have developed a program they call, TLC Elements (Therapeutic Lifestyle Change) that has been highly effective for many people suffering with depression.

I listened to his Ted Talk and further researched Dr. Ilardi and the TLC program on the University of Kansas’s website. In the talk, he lays out the reasoning behind depression in the first-world and how our lifestyle has contributed to the increased rates of depression. With each generation seeing a rise in those who are depressed.

So what is this program? It consists of six basic elements of a lifestyle change.

  1. Exercise
    • 30 min of cardio exercise 3 times a week. Ideally, get average heart rate between 120-160 bpm. Depending on age, etc.
  2. Omega-3 fatty acids
    • Omega 3. Recommended supplement brands that have 1000 mg of EPA and 500 mg of DHA per day.
  3. Anti-Ruminating Activites
    • Activities that distract you from ruminating (replaying, continually thinking about negative things)
  4. Sleep Hygiene
    • Create a bedtime routine, turn off lights, screens, etc, get into pj’s, avoid alcohol and caffeine. Ideally, 8 hours is optimal
  5. Light Exposure (Sunlight or other)
    • 30 minutes of sunlight per day or utilize a light box..
  6. Social Connection
    • Find ways to interact with family and friends, in person when possible.

So let’s say you are going for a walk with a friend on a sunny day, chatting about life. Laughing and reminiscing. This activity alone would cover elements 1, 3, 5 and 6. These elements seem simple enough, but as we all know, to do these it takes discipline and consistency. But aren’t we worth the effort?

Benefits

This plan can seemingly not only help to benefit our minds but our bodies as well. I have not yet implemented this into my life, but I plan to. It seems to be a program with very limited negative effects if any. It is simply a lifestyle modification. If you are interested in incorporating these elements into your life and are currently taking an anti-depressant, do not stop. As always, talk with your doctor.

If you would like more information, Dr. Ilardi discusses this in great detail in his book, The 6 Step Program to Beat Depression without Drugs.

book entitled, The Depression Cure
by Dr. Stephen Iliadi.

The concept of the TLC Elements make a lot of sense to me and it is definitely worth a try. I plan on journaling my experience and will post updates periodically.

If you have tried this already or if you are considering trying this,
we’d love to hear from you.

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My Daily Self-Care Plan. What Does Yours Look Like?

self-care definition on
image of beach

Disclosure: FindingTheFearlessLife may receive a small commission via affiliate links. See our full disclosure policy here.

To Start

The following are some of the self-care practices I do daily. I hope to inspire and encourage you to create a self-care plan for yourself if you haven’t already. Yours will likely be very different than mine. You are unique and your self-care ideas must be pertinent to you.

As you look at my daily self-care plan I hope you will be inspired to find things you can do each day for yourself. You are worth every bit of effort.

I promise.

As I touched on in a previous post about anxiety, it is important that we think about ourselves as a whole. Body, Mind, and Spirit. And we need to take care of each part of ourselves. I challenge you to start a list for each category. Write down things that make you feel good or relaxed in each area. Find ways to implement them daily. Even a few minutes at a time.

Plan

Let’s dig into my daily routine. I didn’t start out thinking this all through like I recommended you do, I just sort of fell into it. Here is a breakdown of my daily self-care plan.

Morning

  • Before showering, while still lying in bed, I reach for my phone and earbuds and check my email for my daily Meditation from Encountering Peace. It is as biblical/scriptural based guided meditation. (They also have an iTunes podcast.)
  • I shower with my favorite shower gel from Bath & Body Works Aroma Therapy Line. I like the Stress Relief (it has eucalyptus and spearmint). It’s calming yet perks me up for the day.
  • I then use the companion body lotion.
bath and body works aroma therapy lotion stress relief
  • Next, I use essential oils. My favorite brand is DoTerra. If you don’t know much about the oils, I highly suggest doing some research on them ( I may do a post at a later date). I usually use the Balance Blend in the morning to help me stay calm and peaceful.
  • I spend a few minutes doing my deep breathing practice via my Pacifica App. I love this app because it does so much. (They have a premium option which I am considering, but I currently use the free version which is still pretty good!) They have breathing and mediation practices of all kinds as well as mood check-ins and so much more.
  • Make my breakfast and decaf Green Tea with locally produced honey. (I sip this on my way to work and throughout the morning. Then I sip water the rest of the day.) Water is important!
  • Listen to my favorite music on the way to work.
  • While at work, when I have a break, I try to read or listen to a quick devotional (Our Daily Bread or InTouch.org).
  • By lunch time…some times earlier if needed, I will once again practice my breathing routine. Either with the app or just from memory.

Mid-Day

  • Eat a mindful lunch. Trying to be focused on what I am eating and enjoy each bite. Then actually stop eating when I am full.
  • Listen to favorite music on the ride home from work.
  • On certain days, 2 to 3 times per week, I try to get to the gym. I mostly just walk the treadmill. But I love it. I work up a sweat and get to zone out for a little while.

Late-day

  • After dinner is done and I’ve settled in for the night, I burn a candle that I love to help me wind down and feel peaceful. My new favorite candle is from Chesapeake Bay. It’s their Mind & Body Collection. I have been using the Peace and Tranquility Candle. It burns a very long time and the scent permeates a large area. The house smells great!
jar candle with wooden top, chesapeake bay mind and body
peace and tranquility
  • If I don’t burn the candle I will use a diffuser with essential oils instead.
  • I then pull out my yoga mat and do a short wind-down routine via Youtube and Yoga with Adriene. She is great and offers a variety of yoga routines for all levels and needs. I am new to yoga and often chose the simplistic, relaxation ones.
  • Next it is time to get pj’s on, wash face, use my current favorite nighttime moisturizer (maybe do a mask once a week).
  • I then apply my favorite before- bed lotion to arms, legs and feet. It is Aveeno Stress Relief (with lavender, chamomile and ylang ylang). Smells so good and helps me to get a restful sleep.
aveeno stress relief lotion with lavender calms and restores
  • After that, I find a bedtime snack ( a must have for me) and I plop on the couch ( or snuggle up in bed ) and catch up on my DVR’d shows.
  • Then hopefully a solid 7.5 – 8 hours of sleep.

Summation

While this routine isn’t always followed to the “T”, I try most days to implement all of it. Keep in mind, I do have a life with family and household responsibilities. So I do give myself some slack when I don’t do it all.

As you can see, I incorporate time spent listening to scripture or devotions. I also pray in between which I didn’t mention as it is interwoven throughout my day. If that is not something you are into, no problem. But find something that feeds your spirit in other ways.

I’d love to see what your daily self-care plan looks like. If you don’t have a formal one, I encourage you to actually put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and write it out. Seeing it written out may help you to acknowledge the things you already do that are good for yourself and reveal areas that need more attention.

Once you have the daily plan in place, think about a weekly or monthly one as well. Maybe that includes a lunch with a friend, a weekend trip or a massage. The sky is the limit.


Be good to yourself. Your Body, Mind, and Spirit will thank you for it.

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