20 Things We’ve All Thought During Meditation (And What To Do About It)

Meditation Daily originally published this article. Read it here.

Meditation is all about quieting the mind, right? Anyone who has tried it knows that’s easier said than done. We’re here to tell you it’s completely normal to sit on the cushion and then have your mind wander. It’s no wonder: Our brains are built to run, to think, to problem solve. Even experienced meditators find that their mind just will not be quiet from time to time. If you’ve had any of the following thoughts during meditation, we feel you:

1. “Okay, breathe. Breathe. Wow, do I always breathe like that?”

Seriously, how distracting can breathing get?

2. “What’s that noise?”

It’s a murderer in my house. I know it.

3. “Grounded. Grounded. Ga-round-ed…”

And now I can feel a lump in my cushion.

4. “Okay, seriously. I’ve gotta do this.”

Seriously. This is good for you.

5. “I can’t forget to go to the grocery store.”

Why do all the to-do’s show up during meditation?

6. “I wonder what Meghan Markle’s wedding dress is going to look like.”

Stunning, probably.

7. “When is that timer going to go off?”

I swear time slows down.

8. “Ooh, what’s that color? And what does it mean? Should I be seeing colors?”

I mean, you can.

9. “Burr, it’s cold in here.”

Your body temperature can drop during meditation, so dress accordingly!

10. “Gah! My nose itches!”

Well, depending on the type of meditation you’re doing, scratch it. Or don’t.

11. “Wow. This is pretty cool.”

I know, right?

12. “Is my sage going to burn the house down?”

Probably not. But you should make sure it’s in a non-flammable container before meditating, just to be sure.

13. “I really like this.”

And you’ll like it even more with practice.

14. “Am I doing this right?”

Unless you’re practicing a couple of specific, advanced modalities, there’s no wrong way to meditate.

15. “My foot is going to sleep.”

Yeah, they do that. Most modalities allow you to move around, so you’re comfortable. Next time, try sitting on a taller cushion that allows your knees to drop.

16. “The teacher’s voice is so soothing.”

Meditation teachers are trained on how to do that.

17. “Don’t fall asleep. Don’t fall asleep.”

Sleep sometimes happens during meditation. Although it’s not encouraged, look at it this way: if you’re so relaxed you fall into a light sleep, that might be what your body needed that day.

18. “I bet so-and-so would like this. They really need it.”

Don’t be judgy during meditation. It’s not Zen.

19. “This is great. I need this me time.”

Yes, you do.

20. “Wow! Are we done already? It feels like I just started.”

You’ll probably think this one after you’ve been practicing for a while, but it’s a great feeling!

How to clear your mind during meditation

We’re going to let you in on a little secret. It’s incredibly difficult to clear your mind during meditation. That’s why guided meditation is so popular — it gives you something to focus on during meditation. If you want to try meditating without a teacher, though, here are a few tips:

Play music

Musical rhythm adds an interesting element to your meditation practice. When your mind wanders, you can always tune into the song and notice how it changes and flows.

Tune into your breath

It sounds trite, but the breath is your best meditation tool. Don’t just notice that you’re breathing. Notice that the breath moves your body when you breathe. Count to three, then to five, and then to ten to lengthen the breath and give your mind something to do.

Set the space

Setting the space before meditation helps to give you the mental break between your meditation session and the rest of the day. Set the space by lighting a candle — in a heat-safe container — journaling before your practice, or thinking of an affirmation to use during meditation.

Use a mantra or affirmation

There are a number of traditional mantras and chants that may assist you in meditation. One widely known chant is Om Namah Shivaya, which means “I bow to the inner self.” If so inclined, recite this chant silently in your mind. You can also pick a secular affirmation like, “I am peaceful,” to repeat to yourself during meditation.

Reduce distractions

Make sure your meditation space is free of distractions. Turn your phone on “do not disturb” and make sure your computer is logged out of all your social media accounts if you’re using it for music.

Exercise compassion

Finally, don’t judge yourself during meditation. No person — and therefore no meditation — is perfect.

What thoughts run through your mind during meditation?

Don’t Like To Meditate? Here Are 15 Other Ways To Reduce Anxiety

This article first appeared on Meditation Daily here.

We all experience anxiety on some level. If you experience it regularly, some well-meaning person has probably recommended meditation as a remedy. What happens if you don’t like meditation? Are you just supposed to live with your anxiety? Of course not. That’s why we’ve pulled together a list of 15 ideas for reducing anxiety that don’t involve meditation.

De-clutter

By now, you’ve probably heard of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo. Obviously, there are benefits to de-cluttering your life in a physical sense, but it also influences your mental state. De-clutter mentally by journaling out your day, taking five minutes of silence for yourself by turning off the television and setting your electronic devices aside, or physically tidying up your workspace to make things seem less overwhelming.

Smile

Smiling can help reduce your stress level — even if you’re faking it. In a 2012 study, participants were challenged with stress-inducing tasks. Some were asked to hold a neutral expression — achieved by asking participants to hold a set of chopsticks with their lips — and others were asked to smile during these tasks. Other participants smiled with awareness, others without. Some even held a chopstick in their mouth to produce a Duchenne smile, which we recognize as a genuine smile. The results found that smiling while you’re stressed helps you recover from it better. While scientists aren’t sure exactly why it happens yet, it’s still a great argument for smiling in the face of your anxiety.

Express gratitude

If you live with anxiety — especially if you experience anxiety attacks — it can be very easy to default to noticing the worst in every situation. To an extent, this is normal. The brain is continually looking for errors in the environment to keep us safe, and it’s far easier to believe the bad that it is the good — it’s something called the Negativity Bias. But, if you can consciously express gratitude, through a gratitude journal, recording yourself speaking about what you’re thankful for on your phone, or by painting or drawing with gratitude, you might find your anxiety levels drop.

Make a to-do list

Having a lot of things to do can feel overwhelming. Often, it seems like you have so much more to do because you’re trying to keep everything in your head. Recently, I felt overwhelmed by everything that I “had” to do; I was sure there were 20 some items on my mental to-do list. Once I put pen to paper, I realized that there were only six things I had to do by the end of the month. Six! In many ways, I was creating my own stress and anxiety. When you sit down to make a to-do list, make sure to use it and mark your done items off as you complete them. You’ll receive a little spike of dopamine, the reward neurotransmitter, as a result.

Create a vision board

You probably know at least one person who has created a vision board. They likely have their dream vacation, their dream car or their dream fitness level plastered on it. But what about a vision board focused on how you want to feel? Page through your old magazines and newspapers and find images and words that convey the feelings you want to bring forward. They might be emotions like happiness, contentment or love or they might be physical feelings like warmth or safety. Create a vision board to help you remember the things you do want to feel when you aren’t feeling your best.

Reduce caffeine

If you’ve ever had too much coffee, you know how jittery it can make you. In fact, some psychologists warn that the heart-racing, jittery feeling that can be mistaken for an anxiety attack might be too much caffeine. Especially if you do live with anxiety and you love coffee or tea, it’s a good idea to reduce your intake. If you tend to be anxious, then too much caffeine can just make your symptoms worse.

Breathe deeply

The fight-or-flight mode has multiple effects on the body, not the least of which is faster, shallower breathing. When your body is in the stress response, it’s preparing to avoid or confront a threat. With time, it’s easy to become triggered by smaller day-to-day, non-life-threatening events so that you’re in a continual stress state. One of the effects of that state is your breathing isn’t supportive. By breathing deeply, you can interrupt the stress response and put your body in a state of relaxation. To do this, simply sit or lie down. Place your hands on your belly and breathe so that your hands move up and down with the abdominal muscles.

Dance it out

Have you ever cranked up the radio when you were stressed or angry? Next time, turn the music up and dance with it. Like other forms of exercise, dancing helps you think about something other than what’s stressing you out. Even if you have no formal training, shaking your groove thing can have major emotional benefits and put you in a better mood. It’s so effective that people are seeking out dance movement therapists to help them with severe anxiety, depression, PTSD and other trauma.

Get out in nature

Nature is incredibly healing. Next time you feel anxiety creeping in, tie your walking shoes on and get moving outside or sit under the shade of the tree in your yard. Being around nature grounds you and the bonus of fresh air and vitamin D after several hours indoors can’t be understated. In fact, nature can even help soothe your physical pain, as a study conducted by Dr. Robert Ulrich found. Patients who had a view of trees after gallbladder surgery tolerated pain better and spent less time in the hospital. So, if your anxiety brings headaches with it, nature may help with that too.

Play

Play can have a huge impact on your anxiety levels. Recent research has found that when children aren’t able to play as often during the day, their anxiety and depression increase. It’s not unreasonable to conclude that a lack of play has a similar negative effect on adults. The physical movement and laughter that accompanies a game of hide-and-go-seek with the children in your life or the challenge of a video game can help you disconnect from your worries. Sign up for an adult soccer or volleyball team, or make it a point to shoot some hoops with your friends more often for increased anxiety relief.

Stop “should-ing” all over yourself

It’s very easy to take on tasks that you feel like you “should” do, or “have” to do. Take some time each week to look at the things on your to-do list. Then, notice the things that have to get done and the things that you would like to complete. For instance, you have to go to work because you have bills to pay, but you may want to go to the bookstore to grab the latest book in your favorite series. Likewise, replace the word “should” with “I would like” when you speak to yourself or others. It will help you decide how important it is to you — and how much you’re acting from a sense of obligation.

Accept your anxiety

Believe it or not, accepting your anxiety can help you deal with it. There’s a lot of talk about fighting anxiety but, simply put, fighting is a function of the stress response. What if instead of trying to fight anxiety, you accepted that sometimes anxiety creeps into your life? The anticipation of a panic attack can be the worst part of anxiety for some people. Recognizing that you will have bad days but that it doesn’t make you a bad person — or a failing person — can help reduce your anxiety. If you can, think of it as a grumpy relative or a suddenly dark and stormy day. Sometimes the best thing you can do is just do the best you can with the situation you’re given, and that’s okay.

Use essential oils

Most of us are aware that lavender has calming effects, but there are a number of other essential oils that can help reduce your anxiety with just a couple of drops. Rose essential oil is said to help you through a panic attack, and vetiver oil can give you a sense of grounded reassurance. Ylang ylang can help boost your happiness and reduce fear, while bergamot oil is a good option if your anxiety comes with insomnia; the oil is said to help induce a sense of relaxation. Diffuse one of these oils at your office or home. You can also dilute one with your favorite carrier oil and use it as perfume to carry it with you throughout the day.

Cancel subscriptions you don’t use

One of the most common sources of anxiety originates in our finances. It’s very easy these days to sign up for a subscription thinking you will cancel before the free trial expires and then forget about it. Or, if you’re like me, you and your partner both have a subscription to Netflix but only ever use one. Cancel the subscriptions you no longer use or can live without. It will leave you with fewer bills throughout the month, and less anxiety about your bank account.

Take a bath

It’s practically cliché to tell someone to self-care by taking a bath. However, doing so with Epsom salt may be the key to reducing your anxiety levels. Studies have shown that magnesium deficiency can contribute to anxiety. While there is a lack of peer-reviewed studies about the effects of magnesium in Epsom salt being absorbed through the skin during bath time, there are plenty of anecdotal references that suggest it can help restore magnesium levels in the body. Not only that, but the warmth from the bath water can calm the nervous system and help regulate anxiety.

Do you have another anxiety relief method we haven’t covered?

10 Ways To Fight Depression That Don’t Cost A Dime

This article was originally published on Meditation Daily right here.

When you hear “self-care,” do you cringe? Does it draw to mind expensive massages and vacations to exotic locales? We understand, but self-care is essential to fighting depression, and it’s not limited to expensive treatments and experiences. So, we’ve put together a list of depression-fighting activities that won’t cost you a thing.

1. Talk to a friend

It seems so simple, but talking to a friend about something that stresses you out is a great way to fight off depression. Even just exchanging some texts can be helpful, and don’t underestimate the value of silly Snapchat filters. Don’t worry about trying to find a friend who has experienced the exact thing you have. As long as they’re supportive and the friendship is healthy, talking it out can be incredibly helpful.

2. Exercise self-compassion

We are our own worst critic, but if you can train yourself to exercise self-compassion, you’ll stave off depression much easier. First of all, don’t blame yourself. Instead, look at it as if you’d been diagnosed with a physical condition like cancer or heart disease. Just like these diseases, depression doesn’t just go away by thinking about other things. Give yourself the space and love you need to fight depression by taking the guilt out of it.

3. Get moving

When we exercise, our bodies release endorphins that boost our mood. Ever heard of a runner’s high? That’s caused by endorphins that reduce the perception of pain, boost your mood and help prevent anxiety. Exercise should also help you sleep better, which will allow you to move out of the stress response a little easier.  When we’re tired, our brains have a limited capacity for dealing with the world and default to fight-of-flight quicker that when we’re well-rested.

4. Get some sleep

Speaking of sleep, if you can manage to get a good night’s sleep, you’ll be better able to fight off depression. In fact, depression and insomnia go so hand-in-hand that people with insomnia have ten times the risk of developing depression than those who sleep well. So, drink some soothing herbal tea, diffuse some lavender oil and put your phone away 30 to 60 minutes before bed — you don’t need the stress of comparison from social media before going to sleep anyway.

5. Meditate

You don’t have to go to a yoga or meditation studio to give yourself the self-care treat of meditation. Grab a free meditation app for your phone and queue it up when you’re feeling down. Meditation has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. It might also help relieve your headaches and sleep problems.

6. Cook a healthy meal

When we’re depressed, we want comfort food. For some people, that’s sweets. For others, it’s fried food, but when you’re feeling dragged down, the last thing your body needs is junk food. Gluten, sugar, dairy and vegetable oils like corn, safflower, canola and sunflower oil are among the worst things you can eat. Instead, try cooking a meal rich in nutrients, like grilled salmon and fresh vegetables. The omega-3 fatty acids in the fish may help fight off depression too.

7. Create or maintain a daily routine

Our brains crave predictability, and we’re naturally happier when things go the way we expect. Creating and adhering to a daily routine can give you the predictability and pattern you need to start your day off right. Don’t be overly ambitious with your routine, though. You want to make sure you can maintain it. Otherwise, you might be setting yourself up for even more depression. In other words, don’t try to cram time at the gym, 20 minutes of meditation, breakfast, journaling, a shower and getting the kids off to school by 7 a.m. unless it’s actually doable.

8. Write in a journal

Writing — especially expressive writing — can help improve your mental and physical health. Dr. James Pennebaker, from the University of Texas at Austin, has written several books on the subject. Dr. Pennebaker’s research has found that writing with the intent of researching your own emotional state for just 20 minutes a day can result in amazingly therapeutic and mood-boosting benefits. A gratitude journal is another way to keep depression at bay. We notice what we focus on — if you focus on gratitude, you’ll be more apt to notice the positive aspects of your life.

9. Seek alternatives to alcohol

Just like junk food, alcohol is tempting when you’re depressed, but it can just make your depression worse. Instead of pouring yourself a drink, make a cup of tea or drink some filtered water to stay hydrated. There are several herbal teas on the market that help support elevated moods, or you could give reliable herbs like peppermint and chamomile a try. The tea may give you the comfort you’re looking for in alcohol, without the adverse health effects. Try some of the other activities mentioned here to distract yourself, if you need to.

10. Avoid over-scheduling yourself

One of the easiest ways to practice self-care is to avoid over-scheduling your days. A tense, full schedule can lead to adrenal fatigue and exhaustion. It can also make you feel helpless and increase your stress. Spread your obligations out over the week instead of trying to cram them all into one day, and you’ll be able to keep depression at bay a little easier.

How do you practice self-care to help fight depression?

If You Have Any Of These 11 Chronic Conditions, Yoga Can Help

This article was originally published on Meditation Daily here.

Yoga enthusiasts will tell you all about the benefits of their practice. It turns out there’s more than just anecdotal evidence that yoga is good for you. In fact, it can help people with a number of chronic conditions from heart disease to insomnia, from PCOS to depression. Read on to learn how yoga might help you remedy, or even prevent, some of the most common chronic conditions.

Anxiety and depression

Stress exacerbates depression and anxiety, so it makes sense that yoga can help manage both. Yoga has been shown to increase levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the nervous system. GABA is a neurotransmitter that helps calm nervous activity in the brain, thereby helping to relax the brain and body. Yoga also serves as self-soothing technique like relaxation, socializing with friends or exercise, all of which have been shown to elevate people’s moods.

Try it at home: To boost your mood and reduce anxiety, try lying in corpse pose with your left hand over your heart and your right hand over your belly.

Arthritis

The American College of Rheumatology suggests physical activity as an essential treatment for both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Early studies into yoga for arthritis are promising and show that yoga helps improve joint health and physical mobility in addition to being great for your emotional wellbeing. Yoga classes are also a social experience, getting people who might be tempted to stay home when in pain out and about in the world, thereby boosting their emotional state.

Try it at home: Tree pose can help improve the muscle tone of your legs and hips, giving your joints more support. If you do not suffer from neck pain, you might also find bridge pose helpful for relieving tension in the hips and spine.

Asthma

Yoga is a great alternative to certain physical activity if you experience exercise-induced asthma. There’s evidence that yoga helps improve lung function and reduces symptoms — which might be partially caused by stress — in people who have asthma. Most experts agree that poses that open the chest and throat will help with a variety of breathing problems.

Try it at home: Corpse pose is a great way to calm your breath and may help improve asthma symptoms. Other poses like forward bend and butterfly are simple, non-stressful poses that may benefit people living with asthma.

Cancer

While there’s little evidence that yoga can help treat cancer, it can help ease the symptoms of treatment associated with cancer. A team at Ohio State Universityfound that just three months of yoga lowered inflammation and reduced fatigue in breast cancer survivors. Each participant had finished all treatments for breast cancer before starting three months of formal yoga training. In small groups, twice a week, the women in the study learned and practiced yoga together. Three months after formal practice had ended, fatigue was 57-percent lower for the women who had practiced yoga, compared to the non-yoga control group. Their inflammation was also reduced by 20 percent.

Try it at home: Go for a combination of cat pose and cow pose to keep your back flexible, or reclining butterfly pose to relieve shoulder and back pain — especially if you’re receiving treatment for breast cancer.

COPD

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is among the most common causes of death around the world, but yoga may help ease its symptoms and extend the lives of those with the condition. One study found that a 12-week Iyengar yoga program reduced distress related to shortness of breath (dyspnea) and improved patients’ functional abilities in everyday life. Another showed that patients’ anxiety and fatigue reduced with the use of an Iyengar program.

Try it at home: Standing mountain pose or standing side bends may help open your chest and strengthen the diaphragm. Be sure to avoid any poses that put pressure on your diaphragm and could inhibit breathing. Your yoga teacher can also help you find the best poses for you.

Diabetes

When combined with other healthy lifestyle habits, yoga can help reduce symptomsfor people with diabetes. Poses that boost blood flow to the pancreas — the organ that produces insulin and helps regulate blood sugar levels — are among the best for people with diabetes and even those who are pre-diabetic.

Try it at home: Bow pose and cobra pose help open the chest and abdomen, and stimulate the pancreas. If you have good mobility in your neck and spine, give shoulder stand, spinal twist and wheel pose a try.

Heart disease

As with any stress-relieving exercise, yoga is great for your heart. When compared to usual care for a heart condition, yoga improves one’s exercise capacity and health-related quality of life. Yoga can also help lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure. When combined with a healthy diet, yoga has also been shown to reduce how often people feel chest pain.

Try it at home: Big toe pose, which involves bending at the waist and holding onto your big toes, helps to reduce anxiety and high blood pressure. Head-to-knee forward bend is another great yoga pose to help lower your stress levels.

Indigestion

Instead of reaching for a medication to help ease indigestion or heartburn, try yoga. According to Zayna Gold, creator of Healing Through Movement and a long-time sufferer of Crohn’s disease, just 15 minutes is all you need. Gold suggests starting in a reclined pose and then moving to seated poses and then finally to standing positions.

Try it at home: Among the best poses for indigestion are knees hugged to the chest and spinal twist. These poses help relieve bloating. They also massage the abdominal muscles that need relief when you’ve over-indulged at the dinner table.

Insomnia

Drawing from a foundation of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), researchers at Baylor College of Medicine believe yoga is the “next wave” of therapeutic practices to help overcome insomnia. Viewed as a more holistic way to treat sleep conditions, yoga might help reduce the stress that prevents some people from sleeping.

Try it at home: Easy, restorative poses like legs up the wall, corpse pose and child’s pose are simple enough for even beginners. And according to Vyda Beilkus, founder of Health Yoga Life, they can help improve your sleep.

PCOS

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a chronic condition and one of the most common hormone abnormalities in women of reproductive age. The good news is yoga might help ease the symptoms of PCOS, which can include painful or irregular menstrual cycles, ovarian cysts, and depression. A 2012 study from India found that yoga improved the quality of life for adolescent girls who live with PCOS. In fact, researchers found that one hour of yoga a day was even better for subjects than one hour of exercise a day.

Try it at home: A series of sun salutations improves flexibility and helps improve hormonal balance. Give the series a try if you have been diagnosed with PCOS or suffer from similar symptoms.

Have you tried yoga for a chronic condition?

Here Are 5 Ways Mindfulness Improves Your Relationship

This article was originally published on Meditation Daily here.

 

Looking for the secret to love? It might be waiting for you on your meditation cushion. Studies have shown that mindfulness practices — including meditation — can help improve your self-awareness, boost your empathy and relieve stress. It makes sense, then, that mindfulness can make your relationship better. Here are five ways the practice improves your relationship.

Mindfulness helps you learn what you want

Mindfulness teaches you to listen to inner self, that part of you that will reveal what you really want out of life. Even in an existing relationship, your mindfulness practice will help you tune into what’s important to you, so you can request those things from your partner. For instance, if you notice that you need some alone time on the weekends to recharge, mindfulness can help you identify that. Your practice will also help you put words to your thoughts and emotions, leading to more balanced, open conversations.

Researchers have found that mindfulness practices change the anterior cingulate cortex, a part of the brain associated with our sense of self. With practice, mindfulness helps you observe your behavior in real time, and redirect your attention back to something that’s more emotionally supportive and conducive to a healthy relationship.

Mindfulness improves emotional regulation

Numerous studies show that in as little as eight weeks, mindfulness changes how the brain regulates emotions. One of the changes happens in the amygdala, the part of the brain that takes over when you’re stressed and sends you into the fight-or-flight mode. Mindfulness practice actually shrinks the amygdala’s volume, draining it of power. A change in the amygdala like this is correlated to lower stress levels and lower incidence of anxiety.

As mentioned above, the anterior cingulate cortex changes during mindfulness practice. This part of the brain helps with emotional regulation, so you’re less likely to burst out in anger at your partner. They’ll also be less likely to push your buttons — the “buttons” simply begin to disappear after a while.

Mindfulness teaches you how to stay in the moment

With so many distractions these days, it’s easy to get caught up in the latest controversial Tweet or a photo montage on Snapchat, but mindfulness can train your brain to remain in the present more often. You’re also less likely to zone out when your partner is telling you about their day. That’s because the posterior cingulate, which is involved in mind wandering, changes when you practice mindfulness. Dr. Sara Lazar of Harvard Medical School and her team found that the posterior cingulate thickens with mindfulness practice, meaning there are more neurons — and more power — in that area.

Dr. Judson Brewer of Yale School of Medicine also found that experienced meditators show deactivation of part of the default mode network (DMN) — a region involved in daydreaming and self-referential processing. His findings, using fMRI technology, show that experienced mindfulness practitioners have an easier time remaining focused on everyday tasks, like conversations.

Not only that, but mindfulness is designed to bring you back to the present moment. In meditation, you meditate on your breath, the moment, a mantra or something else that’s happening in present time. Rather than focus on the past or the future, mindfulness teaches you to focus on what’s happening at the moment. With practice, this pattern spreads to every part of your life.

Increase compassion and empathy

Compassion and empathy help you to understand others and put yourself in their shoes. Mindfulness can help you increase these characteristics in just a few short weeks. For instance, a 1998 study found that Jon Kabat-Zinn’s eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program had a significant impact on the empathy of medical students.

Another study in 2005 found that MBSR increased self-compassion in participants. This increased empathy and compassion for yourself and others encourage you to slow down, look at things from your partner’s point of view and move forward with more love.

Know yourself; know your partner

Whether it’s meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, Qigong or something else, your mindfulness practice helps you to get to know yourself better. As a result, you might find yourself able to relate to the people around you in a more constructive, compassionate way. When you notice the emotional connections you have with certain memories, words, or actions, you can begin to — compassionately and with empathy — notice your partner’s triggers too.

When you figure out what triggers their negative responses, you can avoid them and have more productive conversations from a place of neutrality rather than stress, because of course, you’ve been practicing mindfulness and know what it’s like to live with less stress in every part of your life.

How has mindfulness improved your relationships?

Here’s What You Need To Know About Mercury Retrograde

This article originally appeared on Meditation Daily here

I’ve never been one to read my horoscope or explain my behavior quirks by talking about how I’m an Aquarius. Sure, I’ve had my star charts read, and I know that my moon is in Taurus. I enjoy the entertainment value of these readings, but that’s about it. When someone mentions Mercury retrograde, though, I could go on all day. Nothing has made me a believer in the influence of the astrological world like Mercury retrograde. We’re coming up on another retrograde period, and it’s time to batten down the hatches. Here’s what you need to know.

When is Mercury retrograde?

This retrograde will begin on December 3 and will end on December 23, 2017. The phenomenon happens three or four times a year. This round will mark the fourth of the year; we began 2017 in a period of Mercury retrograde that began in the previous year.

What is Mercury retrograde, Anyway?

“Retrograde” refers to the apparent reverse movement of a planet through the sky. Mercury isn’t the only planet that appears to move in its opposite direction when viewed from earth. It’s just the only one that gets so much attention because Mercury is said to govern our communications.

Most of the time, planets move from west to east through the sky, in what is called prograde motion. When a planet moves across the sky in the opposite direction, it is said to be in retrograde. Quite simply, retrograde happens when a faster-moving planet — the earth — catches up to and passes a planet that is moving slower around the sun.

It’s similar to two vehicles passing one another in traffic. Both are moving forward at the same time, but if you’re in the faster vehicle, you might notice that the car beside you appears to be moving backward for just a moment. Try it next time you pass a semi-truck going relatively the same speed as you.

Why is Mercury retrograde important?

Astrology hinges on the belief that the planets influence life here on earth. Science readily accepts some of these influences — the moon’s influence over the waves, for instance — and others are a little harder to prove. For some reason, though, even people who are skeptical about horoscopes and moon charts believe in the power of Mercury retrograde.

Mercury is all about communication, like the Roman deity for which it’s named. The planet is said to rule over our memory, intelligence and all forms of communication: emails, texting, writing, phone calls, in-person calls, etc.

Communications tend to go crazy during a Mercury retrograde period. Misunderstandings are more prevalent, and seemingly well-running websites, phones and computers suddenly crash, lose files or just act strangely.

Here’s how to prepare for Mercury retrograde

First and foremost, backup everything. From your photos to your website content, make sure you have a separate copy somewhere else. You don’t have to go crazy, though. For instance, my photos are stored not only on my phone but also in two different cloud storage areas throughout the year anyway. If you have a similar setup, you’re probably safe.

Next, make sure you enter the period with an understanding that the universe is not out to get you. Expect some misunderstandings at work. Expect flight delays and texts that suddenly don’t go through. If something goes haywire with your communication, just breathe to reset yourself and fix the problem. We go through these periods a few times every year — and always have. It’s going to be okay.

Things you should avoid during Mercury retrograde

Since our communication methods aren’t at their best during Mercury retrograde, it’s best to avoid a few activities, if possible.

Don’t sign contracts or accept a new job

If you can avoid it, wait to enter into any agreements or contracts during Mercury retrograde. While this isn’t always realistic — we all have bills to pay! — it’s ideal to execute these agreements at other times of the year. Just like the apparent motion of the planet during retrograde, things aren’t always what they seem during this period.

Avoid extensive travel

You probably shouldn’t schedule your three-week long trip to Europe during Mercury retrograde, unless you’re willing to deal with delays. I’ve experienced this myself, coming home from a vacation on the first day of the retrograde. Several things went wrong that day, from a flight delay to several pieces of luggage getting left behind and a re-routed flight because of weather. Sure, you could argue that those are coincidences, but it seemed too coincidental just to be bad luck.

Don’t schedule big meetings or start new projects

Again, Mercury governs communication. If you want your seminar or project to resonate with audiences, use this time to plan, but not present them. Be aware that you may have to deal with more appointment cancellations during this time as well. No shows also increase during a retrograde period.

Don’t make big life decisions

It’s best to wait to ask your love to marry you or move in with another person until after Mercury goes direct. What seems like a good idea during the retrograde period might end up being the wrong choice for you in the long run.

The good news about mercury retrograde

Remember that Mercury retrograde only lasts for three weeks. It’s just long enough for us to notice it, but not so long that it wrecks opportunities or a whole financial quarter at work.

For this retrograde, we also get the treat of the only supermoon of 2017. While this might sound like a disaster waiting to happen, full moons aren’t anything to be afraid of. During this supermoon, the moon will be closer to the Earth than it has been all year. It will also be in Gemini, which is ruled by Mercury.

The good news is that astrologists say this particular supermoon is “lighthearted,” which is a nice way to end the year. It may also bring a new love interest your way. Just wait to make any big decisions until after December 23!

So, as we enter this period together, remember that we’re in it, together. We’ll get through this seemingly hectic period and hopefully do so with a little humor.

Have you ever experienced the effects of Mercury retrograde?