Claire, Vet Empowered Co-Founder & Meditation Guide Ommm-My-Gosh - not someone else telling me to meditate?! But wait, hold up. There's a lot to the science of meditation... No, it won't give you a lunch break, and it won't solve veterinary staffing issues or an overbooked diary. We get it. BUT it can: 👏 Potentially reduce stress (Goyal, 2014) 👏 Potentially reduce anxiety (Hofman et al, 2010) 👏 Promote emotional health (Goyal, 2014) 👏 Enhance self-awareness (Dahl, 2015) 👏 Improve attention span (Norris, 2018) 👏 Reduce age related memory loss (Khalsa, 2015) 👏 Generate kindness to ourselves and to others (Galante, 2014) 👏 Improve sleep quality (Black et al, 2015)
What if it could help improve our wellbeing by 1%, 2% or 5%. Would it be worth trying to add in a 5minute daily habit? At Vet Empowered, we are firm believers in the transformative effects of meditation. However, we understand that it can feel daunting for beginners. That's why we're here to take the pressure off and encourage you to find a mindful practice that works for you. At Vet Empowered, we frequently incorporate meditative practices, thanks to Claire, our certified meditation and breathwork teacher. In this blog post, we'll guide you through the process of getting started with meditation, share expert tips, and inspire you to embark on a journey of self-discovery and well-being. Finding Your Meditation Sanctuary aka WHERE could you meditate as a veterinary professional? To begin your meditation practice, create a quiet and comfortable space where you can sit or lie down. Try to eliminate distractions and create an environment that supports relaxation and focus; this will look different for everyone. Whether it's a cosy corner in your home or a serene spot on a walk, find a place that resonates with you and allows you to immerse yourself in the present moment. Now, if you're anything like us, you might have a candle or two around - but do you do. As you become more practised, you might find it easier to meditate in busier spots, for example in between consults, in the staff room at work, or when parked up in the car. Some people don't like sitting still - that's also ok - you might find walking meditations useful, or adding some gentle movement, or even a fidget toy. We have neurodivergent members of our team, and throughout our community - we will always support you in finding ways that work for you rather than being prescriptive. Guided Meditations and Apps for Veterinary Teams: If you're new to meditation, guided meditations can be immensely helpful. They provide gentle guidance and structure, making it easier to quiet the mind and connect with your inner self. For example, the teacher will lead you through where to put your attention. Explore meditation apps like Headspace, Calm, or Insight Timer (which is free), which offer a wide range of guided practices suitable for all levels. Many veterinary employers will offer free access to some of these apps. Find a teacher that suits you and that you resonate with. You can search for topics such as confidence, gratitude, appreciation - you'll find thousands on these apps, as well as YouTube. At Vet Empowered, we have a whole bank of veterinary specific meditations. We'd suggest if you're just starting out to pick a shorter meditation, starting with 5-15 minutes. Once you're in your comfortable spot, you've got a meditation lined up... Breathing, Focus, and Letting Go: Shift your attention to your breath - if you're using a guided app, this will likely help you to do this. Feel the gentle rise and fall of your chest, the sensation of air entering and leaving your body. As thoughts arise, acknowledge them without judgment and gently guide your focus back to your breath. It's natural for the mind to wander; the key is to observe the thoughts without getting caught up in them. Over time, this practice of letting go will cultivate a sense of inner calm and clarity. Some people find analogies for letting their thoughts gently pass on by helpful, for example:
The thoughts being like clouds in the sky. Just as clouds naturally dissipate or float on by, thoughts arise and dissolve in your awareness.
Consider your thoughts as waves in the vast ocean of your consciousness. Like waves, thoughts arise and fall back into the depths of your awareness.
Envision your mind as a busy train station, with thoughts arriving and departing like trains. Instead of boarding every train (thought) that arrives, you choose to remain on the platform, watching the thoughts come and go without attaching significance to them.
Embracing the Learning Process: Remember, meditation is a skill that requires patience and practice. Don't be discouraged if you find it challenging in the beginning. Like any skill, it takes time to develop. Start with short sessions, even just a few minutes, and gradually increase the duration as you become more comfortable. Consistency is more important than the length of each session. Be kind to yourself and celebrate each moment of presence, no matter how fleeting. Unlocking the Benefits: As you continue your meditation practice, you'll begin to experience its incredible benefits. Reduced stress, increased focus, improved concentration, and enhanced overall well-being are just a few of the positive effects you may notice - as well as the whole list of scientific evidence we gave at the start. Meditation provides a sanctuary for self-reflection and self-care, allowing you to cultivate resilience and inner peace amidst the demands of your veterinary career and personal life. Top Tips for a Successful Meditation Practice as a Veterinary Professional: 1. Start small and build gradually: Begin with short meditation sessions and gradually increase the duration. The apps we listed even have 1-2minute long meditations if you want a micro-practice. 2. Consistency is key: Set aside regular time for meditation, even if it's just a few minutes each day. Check back in on yourself with what a difference it made after various time points. 3. Experiment with different techniques: Explore various meditation styles such as breath awareness, loving-kindness, or visualisation to find what resonates with you. 4. Be gentle with yourself: Embrace meditation as a judgment-free space and let go of expectations. It's ok if you find meditation tricky, with busy minds it can take a while to get used to and it's very normal for minds to wander at first. Don't be afraid to try new methods and find what helps you. Importantly, the aim of meditation is not to be the world's best meditator, it is to increase your non-judgemental self awareness and benefit your wellbeing in the long run, not just during the session. 5. Seek guidance and support: Join meditation communities, attend workshops, or connect with experienced practitioners to deepen your practice and find inspiration. We'd love to have you come and be a part of what we do. Embrace Your Individual Meditation Journey: Now, it's time to embark on your meditation journey! Take a deep breath, let go of any preconceived notions, and open yourself up to the possibilities that lie within. Remember, meditation is not about achieving perfection or earning accolades; it's a personal exploration of self-awareness, growth, and inner peace. We'd love to hear about your experiences. Our awesome friend Chloé Hannigan from VetYogi also offers meditation services too - as you know, we are all about collaboration so wanted to give her a shout out!
Meditation Scientific References: Black DS, O'Reilly GA, Olmstead R, Breen EC, Irwin MR. Mindfulness meditation and improvement in sleep quality and daytime impairment among older adults with sleep disturbances: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA Intern Med. 2015 Apr;175(4):494-501. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.8081. PMID: 25686304; PMCID: PMC4407465. Dahl CJ, Lutz A, Davidson RJ. Reconstructing and deconstructing the self: cognitive mechanisms in meditation practice. Trends Cogn Sci. 2015 Sep;19(9):515-23. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2015.07.001. Epub 2015 Jul 28. PMID: 26231761; PMCID: PMC4595910. Goyal M, Singh S, Sibinga EM, Gould NF, Rowland-Seymour A, Sharma R, Berger Z, Sleicher D, Maron DD, Shihab HM, Ranasinghe PD, Linn S, Saha S, Bass EB, Haythornthwaite JA. Meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Intern Med. 2014 Mar;174(3):357-68. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.13018. PMID: 24395196; PMCID: PMC4142584. Galante J, Galante I, Bekkers MJ, Gallacher J. Effect of kindness-based meditation on health and well-being: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Consult Clin Psychol. 2014 Dec;82(6):1101-14. doi: 10.1037/a0037249. Epub 2014 Jun 30. PMID: 24979314. Hofmann SG, Sawyer AT, Witt AA, Oh D. The effect of mindfulness-based therapy on anxiety and depression: A meta-analytic review. J Consult Clin Psychol. 2010 Apr;78(2):169-83. doi: 10.1037/a0018555. PMID: 20350028; PMCID: PMC2848393. Khalsa DS. Stress, Meditation, and Alzheimer's Disease Prevention: Where The Evidence Stands. J Alzheimers Dis. 2015;48(1):1-12. doi: 10.3233/JAD-142766. PMID: 26445019; PMCID: PMC4923750. Norris CJ, Creem D, Hendler R, Kober H. Brief Mindfulness Meditation Improves Attention in Novices: Evidence From ERPs and Moderation by Neuroticism. Front Hum Neurosci. 2018 Aug 6;12:315. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2018.00315. Erratum in: Front Hum Neurosci. 2018 Sep 05;12:342. PMID: 30127731; PMCID: PMC6088366.