I’m not going to lie — the first time I tried to meditate, I felt utterly ridiculous. I’d read about all of the benefits and how it was going to be “completely life-changing,” but for the most part, I just sat there with my eyes closed and worried I was doing it wrong.
No one bothered to tell me that there’s a bit of a learning curve when it comes to meditation. You can’t just plop down on a pillow and become a master in 15 minutes. Like so many things in life, it takes practice. However, once I got the hang of it, I found it to be just as cathartic as all the meditation and yoga blogs had promised.
The benefits of meditation most often touted are lowered blood pressure, more restful sleep, and stress relief. For this anxiety-ridden writer, it was the promise of reduced stress that really called to me. I hoped that by lowering my stress levels I could find a bit of peace in life — but I never expected it to have the impact it did on my career.
Meditation & Your Career
Even people that absolutely love their jobs are subject to work-related stress. And since stress can have a serious effect on our mental and physical health, it’s important we find healthy ways to deal with it. One of those ways is meditation.
When we’re under physical or mental pressure, our bodies release stress hormones (e.g. cortisol, adrenaline, norepinephrine) and go into “fight or flight” mode. However, researchers from the Benson-Henry Institute found that practicing meditation causes what they call the “relaxation response” — this is effectively the opposite of “fight or flight.” Their studies have revealed that the relaxation response not only lessens stress and anxiety, it also positively affects heart rate, blood pressure, and brain activity.
Being able to tap into meditation exercises in the office can reduce stress, help you to make better decisions, enhance your creativity, and boost your concentration. What’s more, it can give you the perspective you need to deal with workplace anxiety.
One of the nicest things about meditation is that it can be practiced almost anywhere — I’ve done it in my car and even at my desk. All it takes is five to 10 minutes of meditation during your lunch break to release tension and get some clarity. That said if you really want to make the most of your meditation, practicing for 30 minutes to an hour every day is better — especially if you have a dedicated space at home to do it in.
Designing a Summer Meditation Space at Home
While an indoor meditation space is awesome for year-round use, an outdoor area can really shake things up (in a good way!) Summer mornings and evenings are the perfect time to get outside and meditate. There’s something so soothing about meditating when surrounded by nature. You can feel the breeze on your skin, hear the birds in the trees, and smell the sweet summer air. It’s heavenly.
Here are the fundamentals you’ll need to create a zen summer meditation space:
It’s difficult to meditate when you feel exposed. Create a feeling of safety and security with fencing, hedges, trees, trellises, umbrellas, folding screens, or hanging tapestries.
Flora, Stone, & Water
When creating a meditation area, it’s important to incorporate the elements.
- Even though you’re already outdoors, you’ll still want to add some greenery into your space. Use your senses as a guide when choosing plants — look for pleasing textures, brightly colored flowers, and calming fragrances.
- Stone will add to the strength and stability of your space. Use flat stones, river rock, bricks, and pavers to build an altar, labyrinth, or rock sculptures.
- A recirculating patio fountain will not only bring water into your outdoor haven but also produce a marvelous sound to train your focus to while meditating.
A truly refreshing meditation session will call for a certain amount of comfort. Fashion a comfy spot to meditate by layering outdoor rugs, cushions, and throw blankets. To help beat the heat (and avoid a sunburn), tie fabric to trees or structures to create a shaded cover.
Lighting & Decor
Minimalism is the best approach when it comes to decorating your meditation area — you don’t want it to be overly cluttered and distracting. The trick is to select decor that fills you with a sense of serenity and tranquility. Popular items include meditation beads, crystals, bells, singing bowls, wind chimes, and affirmation stones. Light your space with candles, fairy lights, decorative lanterns, or a fire pit.
Your summer meditation space can be as small or as large as you’d like. Personally, I prefer a cozy nook to a large, open space, but it’s all about personal preference. Choose a space that brings you peace and turn it into a meditation haven.
Spend at least 20 minutes each day meditating outside. Close your eyes, follow your breathing, and practice visualization. You can do this before work, after work, or both. The more you practice meditation, the more you’ll see the benefits. So grab a cushion, go outside, and get your summer meditation on—you’ll be feeling happy and centered in no time!
Liz Greene is a feminist, makeup enthusiast, and anxiety-ridden realist from the beautiful city of trees, Boise, Idaho. When she’s not writing, she enjoys eating fancy cheeses, fantasizing about what life would be like if she had an Iron Man suit, and re-watching Venture Bros. episodes for the 100th time. You can follow her latest cosmetic misadventures on her blog, Three Broke Bunnies or follow her on Twitter @LizVGreene