One of the best ways how to get through life’s challenges is by using meditation for hard times.
We all go through challenging times in our lives. Maybe you’re going through a financial crisis, as many people are in 2021. Maybe you have a health problem that is causing you stress and anxiety. Maybe you’re going through depression after a breakup.
Let’s be honest with each other. There are a lot of hard times in life, and one of the best ways to protect your mental health is to adopt some strategies how to get through life’s challenges.
Meditation can definitely help.
Meditation is a Hindu, Buddhist, yoga, and now therapy practice that has swept the world by storm. As you may know, meditation is about focusing the mind on the present moment in a non-judgmental (i.e. mindful) way. And there are many ways to use mindfulness for difficult moments in your life.
Let me take you back ten years. When I was 29, I went through a terrible time in my life after a breakup. I went through depression and what my therapist called an “Extreme Stress Reaction”. My mind was full of negative thoughts. I had chronic eczema from constant stress. I was a mess. It took me a long time to heal.
I remember when I started healing. I was sitting in a garden and I decided to simply focus my mind on the feeling of the grass on my bare feet. It was a very simple moment. But it was the first time in months that I had focused on Now. And there is a terrific power of now, as Eckhart Tolle would say. By simply connecting to the present moment, I gave my mind a break from stressful thoughts and anxiety. It was the beginning of my recovery. One single moment of mindfulness was the way how I got through life’s challenge at that time. Of course, I didn’t heal immediately. It took time. But that moment when I connected with the grass under my feet was the first step—and the first step is always the most important.
Now that I give online meditation lessons, I am lucky to be able to show others how to use meditation for hard times in life. And today I will teach you the same thing. Let’s begin.
What follows is a meditation script that will give you strength when you need it. Along with the instructions, I have provided scientific analysis to show why this meditation for hard times works.
Use This Meditation For Hard Times In Life [follow the script slowly]
Take your time with each of these steps. If you are an advanced meditator you might be able to progress through this meditation script quite quickly. If you are relatively new to meditation it will take longer, but it is worth it. So, take your time with each step. The total meditation should last at least thirty minutes.
1: Sit or lie down with good posture
[Instructions]: Before we start meditating, we need to sit or lie down with good posture. To sit, get a meditation chair or other comfortable chair. Plant your feet on the ground at shoulder-width apart. Check your spinal alignment. You should be sitting comfortably with good posture. Tuck your chin down slightly to lightly extend your neck. Roll your shoulders back. Relax.
To lie down, lie comfortably on the ground on your back. Place your feet shoulder-width apart. Rotate your ankles out 45 degrees do your toes point slightly away from your body. Place your hands palm-up by your side. Check your spinal alignment. Rotate your neck lightly from side to side. Relax. (Note: This is Shavasana Pose from yoga).
[Explanation]: We know that body language has a significant effect on the mind, affecting both our mood and our ability to focus . [source: Towards the neurobiology of emotional body language, B De Gelder – Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 2006]
When you go through challenging times in life you might notice you have bad posture; you might be scrunched up. That’s not going to help you to relax or focus. You want good posture because it helps you relax and focus your mind, as well as helping chi (the life force from Daoism and traditional Chinese healing) to flow around your body, which increases feelings of wellbeing.
2: For our meditation for hard times, we will use Gyan mudra
[Instructions]: For our meditation for hard times, we want to use Gyan Mudra. To do this, simply place the pad of your index fingers on the pad of your thumbs.
[Explanation]: Mudras are hand positions used primarily in Hatha Yoga. Mudras use the acupressure points in the hand to stimulate certain regions of the brain. Gyan Mudra is considered one of the best mudras for inner peace and focus—and one of the best ways how to get through challenging times in life is to relax and focus your mind. So, adopt Gyan Mudra.
3: Now we will start by breathing mindfully
[Instructions]: As with the majority of meditation techniques, it’s important to start by relaxing. The best way to relax is by breathing mindfully.
Simply observe your breath moving through your nostrils, through your mouth, into your diaphragm and back. Continue to focus on the breathing process for at least 28 breaths (one quarter-mala). If you struggle to relax, you might find it helpful to use Box Breathing, a breathwork technique (breathe in for four, hold for four, breathe out for four, hold for four, repeat).
[Explanation]: When we are going through hard times in life, we will naturally feel stressed. This means that there is amplified activity in the amygdala (the part of the brain that causes the “fight or flight” response). We want to quieten this region of the brain. This is precisely what mindful breathing does. Meanwhile, mindful breathing also increases connectivity between the amygdala and prefrontal cortex, which improves emotional regulation. Overall, it makes you more relaxed and more in-control. [source: Doll A, Hölzel BK, Mulej Bratec S, Boucard CC, Xie X, Wohlschläger AM, Sorg C. Mindful attention to breath regulates emotions via increased amygdala-prefrontal cortex connectivity. Neuroimage. 2016 Jul 1;134:305-313. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2016.03.041. Epub 2016 Mar 24. PMID: 27033686.]
At the same time, mindful breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system to produce feeling sof wellness and relaxation. [source: The physiological effects of slow breathing in the healthy human Marc A. Russo, Danielle M. Santarelli, and Dean O’Rourke, Breathe]
Overall, mindful breathing leads to relaxation, which is essential for getting through challenging times in life.
4: Bolster your strength by visualizing support from others [Loving Kindness and Karuna]
[Instructions]: What we want to do now is feel immense support and love from those around us. To do this, visualize the people you are close to in your life. Imagine those people smiling at you and sending you love. Imagine them reciting the Metta Meditation script, “May [your name] be happy. May [you] have inner peace and joy. May [you] also have the strength to overcome any obstacles in [your] life.” You can also imagine those same people actively helping you and supporting you with whatever challenge life is throwing at you.
[Explanation]: You might notice that when you are facing hard times in life, you feel lonely. That loneliness makes it hard to feel strong and confident. What we want to do is increase your sense of connection with people in your life, such as your family and friends. And this is what Loving Kindness Meditation and Karuna Meditation do [Source: Hutcherson CA, Seppala EM, Gross JJ. Loving-kindness meditation increases social connectedness. Emotion. 2008 Oct;8(5):720-4. doi: 10.1037/a0013237. PMID: 18837623.].
5: Visualize success. Accept life’s challenges. Imagine working positively through your challenge
[Instructions]: Now we are ready to create motivation for change so we can overcome life’s challenge. To do this, visualize yourself achieving whatever it is you need to achieve. Imagine your success. But (and this is crucial), also acknowledge the challenges you will face on your way to success. Imagine working through those challenges towards success.
[Explanation]: So far in this meditation for hard times, we have focused on preparing the mind. We’ve focused on relaxation, confidence and strength. Now we want to create the motivation to actually overcome life’s challenge. We do this in two stages. Firstly, we visualize overcoming life’s challenge. This provides positive motivation. However, we know from science that simply visualizing your success will not actually help you to change anything. This is because the mind presumes that what we are imagining is real (so your mind is tricked into thinking you have already been successful and therefore don’t need to work on anything). This is why we also accept the obstacles on our path to success, and we imagine overcoming those obstacles.
6: Set your intention, open your eyes, and do one positive thing that will help you to overcome the challenge in your life.
[Instructions] We are now ready to take action. But before we act, we want to set our intentions. So, choose your goal. Now choose one thing you can do right now to help yourself. Open your eyes and do it.
[Explanation]: Your mind is now calm and focused, and this is the perfect time to get to work. By choosing one single task to complete, you will focus all your energy on one thing, which will make you far more productive and far more likely to get things done.
In this meditation for hard times, we have changed our mindset to one of confidence and productivity. At first, we relaxed and focused the mind. We then cultivated feelings of love and compassion from others, which helps us to feel more supported. Finally, we set our intention and took one action towards success. If you followed this meditation script, you should be feeling a lot more confidence about overcoming life’s challenges.
For more, read my guide to Remaining Positive In Difficult Times.