I know meditation needs to be a part of my everyday routine but I’ve failed dozens of times to make it a habit. Can I find 10 minutes out of my day to make it happen? Sure! I even made meditation one of my twelve goals for the year, but I still haven’t made it a priority and find myself starting and stopping the practice so many times.
Why is important for migraine sufferers to meditate? To over-simplify, it’s because so much of our lives are spent in a state of constant stress (known as fight-or-flight mode). Back in our hunter-gatherer days, we would turn on this mode to run away from a predator, and then turn it off when we would go back to our daily activities. Nowadays, we’re constantly firing on all cylinders and never give our bodies a break. This causes chronic, widespread inflammation that, over time, wreaks havoc on the body and can easily contribute to your migraine trigger load.
In order to decrease your migraine frequency, you have to get your body out of its stressed-out state and meditation is an effective, proven way to help make that happen. But if you've started and stopped like me (or haven’t even started), I hope you’ll learn from my experience:
1. Don’t get fancy
You don’t have to go to a meditation center, sit on a plush pillow or hum. You just have to block off some time where all you do is focus on this one thing for a very limited amount of time. Just find a quiet place where you can focus on your breath for a few minutes. You can just sit by yourself, use an app, or lie down and do a breathing exercise, like Dr. Weil’s 4-7-8 exercise.
2. Find a time of day that works for you every day.
I used to think that first thing in the morning would be the best time to meditate. But now I have a baby that wakes up and demands attention at 5am, so first thing in the morning is out of the question for me. So I figured right before bed was the next best thing. But I quickly learned that I'm so brain-dead at night that I wouldn't be able to benefit from the exercise. I'm now trying to find a consistent routine in between, and for me, it's after I put my daughter down for her first nap around 8am.
3. You’ll think about a million things and that’s OK
When I sit down to meditate, I inevitably think about a laundry list of things I have to do, or something that is bothering me, etcetera, etcetera. Then I would stress out that I was distracted from my meditation and I wasn’t fully absorbing the benefits, which is obviously a vicious cycle that didn't get me anywhere. Now, whenever this happens I acknowledge whatever it is I'm thinking about, tell myself that I will get to it later and re-focus on my breathing. I’m hoping over time I will have to do this exercise less and less, but for now, this is the best I can do, and that’s OK!
4. Electronics can be a blessing and a curse
Using apps has facilitated most of my meditation practice. I liked having someone “talk” me through the exercise. Most recently I used Headspace and really liked it because they also give you mini-lessons as you make progress. But the act of being tied to my phone while trying to re-center myself seemed counter-intuitive. So now I am working on ways to guide myself that's completely independent of the convenience of using my phone.
5. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good
Don’t worry if you miss a day or you don’t have time to sit through a whole 10 minutes. Just aim to do it every day and if life gets in the way every once in a while, it's not the end of the world. If you can, aim to meditate for 30 days straight so you maximize your chances of it becoming a habit. As with anything lifestyle related: to reap the benefits you must do it consistently over a long period of time.
This is all still a work-in-progress for me. But I really hope to make meditation stick for me this year! Got any tips that have worked for you? I would love to hear them!