Here's some beneficial screentime.
I struggle with anxiety. I used to think I was alone, but now I know I'm in the company of more than 40 other million adults in the United States. My anxiety is the kind that starts with a little thought in my mind and gradually grows until my heart races, my chest tightens and my mind spirals down a rabbit whole of what ifs.
For years, my therapist suggested meditation as a way to calm my mind. But as a working mom, the thought of taking a few minutes to stop everything, when my laundry list of to-dos felt a mile long, made me even more anxious. So, I never tried.
But recently, I came across Netflix and Headspace's new meditation series, Headspace Guide to Meditation. The series is an animated look at the benefits of meditation and the purpose behind the practice. Featuring eight 20-minute episodes that focus on different techniques, like how to deal with stress, how to be kind and how to deal with anger, the series explains the science behind meditation followed by a short meditation session.
I decided to start this series with my daughters, who are five and six. After nearly a year of pandemic parenting that includes facilitating virtual school, 24-hour-a-day togetherness, constant meal making, handling kids and mom meltdowns and working, I felt meditation could do us all a little good. Plus, what kid doesn't love a little extra screen time, especially if it's a cartoon?
Each episode is an immersive meditation experience that took my daughters and me on a visual journey through the mind. The vibrant colors combined with the calming blue hues of the cartoon provided a sense of ease and comfort; it made taking deep breaths in and out feel mindless, when in the past, it's taken so much thought.
My goal with this was to start each morning with one of the meditation episodes. That hasn't happened. There are days we get a late start in the morning and rush to eat breakfast, get dressed and sign on to virtual school. On those days, we watch the episode later in the afternoon. And then there are some days when we just forget.
In the past, this would give me anxiety; the idea I set a goal and didn't fulfill it the way I envisioned. But surprisingly, what I've noticed is when I think about not accomplishing this goal, I go back to some of the techniques I've learned from the episodes we've watched, note my feelings, and move on.
By taking the time to learn about the meditation process instead of diving right in, I gained a a greater level of understanding as to why meditation is so beneficial, no matter how it's done. Here are a few tidbits I've gathered:
- Just get started. There is no perfect time to start something new. I still don't feel like I have the time to meditate because I always have a list of tasks on my mind. But I got started anyways. It's ok to take a moment, pause and regroup.
- Meditation is a practice. Practice doesn't mean perfect and I don't think I will ever be perfect at this. My mind wonders while I'm doing it, the images that pop into my mind aren't always the ones I want and the experience isn't always how I anticipated it; all feelings that tend to give me heightened anxiety. But Andy Puddicombe (founder of headspace and the narrator of this series) says, "There is no good or bad meditation—there is simply awareness or non-awareness. To begin with, we get distracted a lot. Over time, we get distracted less. Be gentle with your approach, be patient with the mind and be kind to yourself along the way," and that's a message he revisits and reminds us of throughout the series.
- There are different types of meditation for different types of emotions. Before watching this series, I had no idea there were different techniques for different feelings. This series not only introduced me to the mediation practice but educated me on what tools to use depending on my feelings of the day.
- It's working, even if you don't realize it. There were many times during the meditation series where my daughters and I followed along, but I didn't feel like anything was happening. My mind wandered and I tuned out the noise. But since starting the series, I've noticed myself revisiting some of the techniques throughout the day; the same techniques I didn't think I was paying attention too.
- You can implement the techniques with the kids. Recently, my daughters and I had a morning filled with bickering. I felt my pulse increasing and my patience decreasing. In that moment, I said out loud, "remember the meditation practice focusing on feeling kindness? Let's try it and see if we can come up with a compromise." Immediately the girls spread out on the floor and listened as I asked them to think about one another and imagine what would make the other feel happy. It took about two minutes before they both popped up and said, "we have an idea, we can do both things, each one for an hour." We had no tears, no whines and no meltdowns. The practice allowed us all to reset before spiraling out of control.
I'm not a meditation expert by any means, I'm simply an at-times overwhelmed mom looking for ways to ground my family and felt drawn to this mediation series. Even though the way we are practicing doesn't look like I pictured it to look before starting, I'm sticking with it. I just took the next step in my meditation journey and downloaded the Headspace app.
Now, my goal is still to practice every day, but I don't think that will happen right away. I don't even know if I will practice every week. What I do know, is it's a practice and I'll grow and as I go.