After a few years bouncing between meditation apps and classes, I started to wonder if something in my brain was broken or just not wired for meditation. I'd sit down, close my eyes, and start to count my breaths . . . but something just wouldn't turn off.
We all hear that the benefits of meditation are seemingly boundless, and it's not just the yogis and alt-wellness crowd saying it; meditation has significant clinical data and scientific research to vouch for its superpowers. Whether the goal is to relieve stress, lose weight, ease pain, or improve your mental health, meditation has proven that mind over matter really is legit. But if you're anything like me, it's easier said than done.
It didn't matter what program I was doing or how much I wanted to clear my head, the damn thing would not clear. And if I'm being frank, it still doesn't always get completely quiet. However, I've finally begun to have breakthroughs — moments where I'm mentally screaming "I'M DOING IT!!!" before quickly telling myself to hush and enjoy the silence. How? It's so simple, it feels almost stupid to admit: making a list.
I know, I know. A list. Seriously! I realized that my mind would race through a number of thoughts, but most often they pertained to my to-dos. Work, chores, errands, scheduling, story ideas, dog-mom responsibilities . . . I'd find myself wondering if I scheduled that vet appointment, or if the laundry needed to be put in the dryer, or how many emails I needed to get through, or when I was going to find time to get groceries in between deadlines.
The lists in my head are not linear, and they're infinitely long. Perhaps it comes down to being a Type-A Virgo with anxiety and seemingly infinite ideas, but nevertheless, my brain is a constant frenzy of thoughts; a hundred internet tabs open at the same time.
One day, it just dawned on me: get the list out of my head and onto some paper. I did this first, then started my meditation audio, and voila: my brain got quieter. My thoughts fizzled down, and it was like parts of my brain were able to go to sleep for a few minutes. I tried this strategy again the next day, and sure enough — a little quieter still.
This is now my go-to if I'm trying to take a solid 10 minutes or more for truly quiet, regenerative meditation. Get this list (or just your thoughts, if you're not as to-do focused as I am!) onto a piece of paper; write, journal, plan, then leave it there in the notebook or on the desk so you can have some peace and silence.
While I still have days when my brain is having a time and the damn thing won't shut up, I'm a thousand percent (rough guesstimate) improved from where I was before, and now meditation is actually starting to make a difference in my life. Hopefully this impossibly simple tip helps transform your practice the way it transformed mine.