Resilience 101 - Meditation as a Resilience Practice

meditation resilience Aug 21, 2022

Welcome back for our second blog post focused on resilience basics, and how to cultivate specific skills that help you build more resilience. 

Resilience is defined as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness. 

As highlighted in last week’s post, there are a number of factors that are generally linked to enhanced resilience, including the presence of skills and tools that can be built over time. In a 2016 article, HBR summarizes: “More than five decades of research point to the fact that resilience is built by attitudes, behaviors and social support that can be adopted and cultivated by anyone.”

Today’s post is focused on meditation as a resilience practice, and where to begin in establishing a meditation habit.


What is meditation?

According to the Cleveland Clinic, “Meditation is a practice that involves focusing or clearing your mind using a combination of mental and physical techniques.” 

There are many different types of meditation, and we'll introduce a few of the most common ones below. They all offer the benefits of meditation, but use a different attention anchors. An attention anchor in meditation represents where you place your focus. When distractions or thoughts emerge, you bring your attention back to that anchor. 

Some of the most common types of meditation are: 

  • Breathing meditation - A breathing meditation is where you focus your attention on your breath. You might say “in….out….” in your mind as you breathe. When thoughts emerge (as they always do), or you get distracted, you come back to the breath. In breathing meditation, the breath is your anchor. Breathing meditation is a wonderfully simple way to begin, but it can be challenging to remember to release passing thoughts and distractions. For beginners, breathing meditation can sometimes become a daydreaming session. 
  • Mantra meditation - In a mantra meditation, you repeat a certain sound, word or phrase, generally synchronized to your breathing. A mantra is another type of anchor. When thoughts pop up, you release them and return to the mantra. Examples of mantras might be:
    • A sound, such as “Aum” or “Om”
    • A meaningful sentence or affirmation, such as “I am at ease (on the inhale), I am at peace (on the exhale)”
  • Visualization - A visualization meditation is a type of guided meditation where you focus on a mental image, or a series of images. These pictures serve as the anchor for the experience. Some might find visualization meditations easier to stay engaged with, as they can be a bit more dynamic, particularly for beginners. 
  • Loving Kindness - Loving Kindness is a type of visualization meditation where you imagine offering love and light, first to yourself, then to loved ones, and over the meditation expanding the circle eventually to include all of earth’s beings. Loving Kindness meditation has been shown to boost positive emotions and compassion and reduce stress. 
  • Body scan - In a body scan meditation, your attention is placed on various body parts, from the tip of your toes to the top of your head. The anchor is your awareness of the sensations happening throughout your body. 
  • Walking meditation - In a walking meditation, you bring your awareness to the experience of being in movement, and the various sensations that are part of walking. For some, trying a movement based meditation can be a more accessible way to find inner space. Learn more about walking meditation here.

What type of meditation is right for me?

Our suggestion is to try what you’re most drawn to. There’s no “right” or “wrong” meditation style. Remember, just because the style you try first doesn’t suit you doesn’t mean you should give up. Experiment to find what style feels best for you. 

Meditation can be a challenge at first, especially if you are accustomed to always “doing”, and being constantly busy and distracted. Like any skill, it takes practice to build more comfort. Generally it takes about two weeks of consistent practice for meditation to become more comfortable and easy. 


What position should I meditate in? 

For most meditations (except movement based ones) you can either sit or lie down to meditate. If you are prone to falling asleep when lying down, start in a seated position. You can sit on a sofa or chair, on the ground, or on a meditation pillow to prop your hips up (our favorite is this one). You should aim for a position where you feel comfortable, while being able to keep your awareness on the meditation.

How long do I need to meditate for? 

Although there are slightly different perspectives on the amount of time needed to experience the full benefits, the general consensus appears to be around 10 minutes. A 2018 study showed that 13 minutes of daily meditation over 8 weeks had measurable impacts on attention, memory, mood, and emotional regulation. If 10 minutes seems out of reach for you, don’t worry, there’s also evidence that even a few minutes registers benefit. Any amount of regular meditation will be beneficial.


How does meditation help resilience?

A study of the impact of meditation on stress resilience found that “meditation causes an immediate enhancement in resilience that is sustained.” Meditation practices help us respond to stressful events with more clarity, intention and perspective. A consistent meditation practice has been shown to reduce stress, reduce negative emotions, and increase self awareness. It has also been linked to physical wellbeing impacts, like lower blood pressure and improved sleep quality. 

How do I get started with meditation? 

It’s as easy as 1-2-3!

  1. Pick a time - Choose a time of day where you can spend a few minutes without interruption for your meditation practice, and decide how long you’ll meditate for. Mornings are a favorite for many, because you are less likely to be interrupted by competing priorities, and it sets the tone for a more mindful day. Others choose to meditate right before bed. There’s no universal perfect time, select whatever time you think will work best for you. Then, decide on a duration. While science tells us that shooting for 10+ minutes is ideal, you don’t need to start there. Choose a duration that feels realistic in your life. Prioritize creating a consistent habit that you can be successful at, and build up over time, over doing it “perfectly”.  
  2. Pick a spot - Decide where you will meditate, and in what position (sitting/standing/in movement). An environment that is calm and where you can ensure you won’t be interrupted is ideal. 
  3. Pick a style - Select the type of meditation you’ll be trying in advance. Breathing, mantra, visualization, loving kindness, body scan, movement based - they are all great. Simply decide what you are most drawn to, and then do it.

Can I get some help?

You don’t have to figure this out alone. There are some wonderful resources that will guide you through establishing your meditation practice. As a beginner, following guided meditations can be a wonderful way to get introduced to meditations.

Here are a few of our favorites: 

  • Insight timer - This free app (which you can also access online) boasts tens of thousands of recorded meditations of every style and every duration. Some of our favorites are music by Andrea Tomasi as well as guided Future Self visualizations like this one by Clare Connelly
  • YouTube - A search for "meditation" will return millions of videos. We love Hollie Jordan's excellent channel.
  • Fitness Apps, like Peloton - Many fitness apps now also offer meditation programming. As of this blog post, the Peloton app has over 1,000 guided meditations of various lengths offered by 10 different instructors. 
  • Calm & Headspace Apps- These apps charge a fee, but offer very comprehensive introduction to meditation programs. 



The recap

A regular meditation practice is a wonderful, science-backed, effective way to reduce stress, reactivity and improve resilience. There are many different styles of meditation, and it’s worth trying a variety to see what works best for you. Commit to at least two weeks of consistent practice, because that’s how long it takes to get the hang of it. The benefits will compound over time, so stick to it!

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