The Benefits of Meditation

By Natalie, Sustainable Materials Manager and Toad’s resident meditation expert.

In its simplest form, meditation is the process of training your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts. A meditation practice depends on the individual and can take many forms. Anything done with complete mindfulness and intention can become a form of meditation.

I’ve found that the swath of meditation benefits are all interconnected. For example, if I’m less stressed, I sleep better and wake up happier and more focused. Here are some other benefits of meditation, according to the experts (and corroborated by me!):

1. It can reduce stress and all of the negative side effects of stress. No more “Sunday Scaries.”

2. It improves your sleep by helping you control your ability to relax and turn off the racing thoughts in your brain.

3. It helps control anxiety, which helps keep your stress down (Seeing a pattern yet?).

4. It promotes emotional health and decreases symptoms of depression.

5. It enhances self-awareness and grows a stronger sense of self and confidence.

6. It can lengthen your attention span, increase your ability to focus, and may even reduce effects of age-related memory loss.

7. It can increase your compassion toward others and yourself by helping you focus on the ability to be kind and forgive (Like forgiving your mother for gifting your dog a squeaky toy…).

8. It can help fight addictions. Trying to give up sugar this year? Meditation might be your secret weapon.

9. It helps control pain and can even raise pain tolerance levels (Time to get that tattoo!).

10. It can lower blood pressure and boost your immune system.


The Physical Benefits of Meditation

Your body loves meditation. Study after study has found that the benefits of the mind/body connection have a lasting impact on your overall physical health. The benefits of meditation and yoga, for instance, is that they help send breath to your muscles which increases your flexibility, which decreases your chance for injury.

Meditation and running and meditation and swimming have a similar effect. When you exercise at a low-impact, consistent pace with intention, your body and mind can align to enter a state of flow – or being “in the zone.” So think of meditating like a runner’s high that you can tap into at any time.

Meditation also benefits the brain by strengthening your neural connections. When you practice the skill of mindfulness, you’re also sharpening your willpower. You can increase your attention span, manage your stress better, and master self-control.

Meditation can actually alter your brain structure – in a good way. Studies have found that meditation adds wrinkles to your cortex – the outer layer of your brain that helps us think critically and introspectively (more wrinkles = better problem solving). It can also increase the volume and density of the hippocampus – the area in the brain that helps us with our memory. Here’s a great Harvard Gazette article on the brain science behind mindfulness.


How to Meditate

This is a complex question, but luckily there are many types of meditation and many ways to incorporate a meditation practice into your life. We’ll cover some of the most basic types of meditation.

Mindfulness meditation – Keeping your attentions fixed on your thoughts and physical sensations in the present moment.  This is great for meditation before bed – or in bed!  

Guided meditation – Exercises guided by an instructor (or an app) to walk you through various techniques and breath work.

Body scan meditation – a guided meditation meant to sync body and mind by observing the state of your body from the crown of your head to the tips of your toes.

Transcendental meditation – this is the champagne of meditations. It’s a complex practice that involves multiple sessions per day using various mindfulness and mystical techniques – and it’s technically only taught by specialized instructors and comes with a price tag.

Loving kindness meditation – directing positive energy, compassion and goodwill toward ourselves and then toward others.

Yoga meditation – not high-intensity work-out yoga, more slow and intentional yoga designed to strengthen the nervous system. Yoga Nidra and Kundalini yoga are common forms. Extended savasana (“corpse pose”) is a founding principle of Yoga meditation.

Moving meditation – just like it sounds: keep it moving! Tai Chi, walking or gentle hiking are all forms of moving meditations.

Mantra meditation – focusing your mind through repetition. It’s not an affirmation, more of a repetition of sounds to deepen breathing and sense of peace. “Om” is just the beginning!

There are so many types of mediations, so try a few versions and find the one that feels right for you. And remember: what’s right might vary from day to day. I integrate all kinds of meditation into my life, depending on what I need or what my schedule allows.


Start Your Practice 

The most important part of meditation is that you aren’t forcing it. You don’t need to practice meditation 3 times a day – even meditating for 20 minutes a day might be too much at this point. So start with a small goal – 5-minutes of mindfulness or a quick morning breathing exercise – and work your way up.

Check out my blog on meditation techniques for beginners for some quick pointers for getting started! 

How to Look on the Bright Side

Gratitude jars, daily mantras, appreciation journals, happy hours… however you practice gratitude, keep it up. There have been loads of studies about how gratitude makes us happier, and in times of unpredictability and stress, a little hit of serotonin can do wonders.

On a recent Zoom-powered company happy hour, we went around and shared each of our shelter-in-place silver linings. It was just about the happiest hour we’ve ever had! 

Use these questions to jump start your mind to look on the bright side:

I have more time to… 

I reignited my love of… 

I spend more time with… 

I have a newfound appreciation for… 

My favorite part of my day is… 

We posed the same questions to a few Toads. From slow morning routines to tapping into the green thumb, their responses reflect a gleaming, beaming Bright Side. 

Sarah:

I have more time to… appreciate the mind of a 15-year-old. 

I reignited my love of… fresh air yoga.

I spend more time with… my 9-year old golden retriever…social distancing is NOT her thing.  #shadow

I have a newfound appreciation for… fresh herbs, they make the most boring dinner feel gourmet! 

My favorite part of my day is… happy hour, it truly feels happy!

Guin: 

I have more time to… cook

I reignited my love of… gardening

I spend more time with… pups

I have a newfound appreciation for… living in a rural area

My favorite part of my day is… lunch in the sun on my patio, sometimes with my husband Andy which we have NEVER been able to do before.

Lucinda: 

I have more time to… perfect my breadmaking technique

I reignited my love of… my community. Venturans are being so helpful and kind to one another, it touches my heart every day.

I spend more time with… my feline colleagues, but I think they might be getting tired of having me around so much. 

I have a newfound appreciation for… all the skills my mom taught me as a child (cooking, baking, gardening, knitting, sewing) that I am putting to good use these days.

My favorite part of my day is… after dinner when my beloved and I settle in on the couch to watch my latest Netflix obsession, The Protector.

Neil:

I have more time to… sleep in 😊

I reignited my love of… working on the house

I spend more time with… my wife and three kids

I have a newfound appreciation for… group activities

My favorite part of my day is… dinner!

Divas:

I have more time to… spend with my family.

I reignited my love for… gardening and movies.

I spend more time with…my extended friends and family circle around the world whom I have not connected with in a very long time.

I have a newfound appreciation for… how much my wife does for our home and family. 

My favorite part of my day is… evening when kids ride bikes in the front street.

Christina:

I have more time to… channel my inner Ina Garten (trying all sorts of new recipes, and yes, that includes supersized cocktails too)

I reignited my love of… carbs (never really went away, but stronger than ever in quarantine)

I spend more time with… my garden. My fiancé and I are proud parents right now – our vegetable and herb garden has never looked better.

I have a newfound appreciation for… technology. Spending more time catching up with long-distance friends and family via Zoom and Facetime has been a big bright spot.

My favorite part of my day is… after work neighborhood and beach walks. Feel like I’m noticing plants, trees, and architecture that I’ve never seen before.

Lucas:

I have more time to… get that extra hour of sleep I desperately need

I reignited my love of… laying on the couch and reading a good book on a lazy weekend afternoon

I spend more time with… my 6-year-old (although balancing WFH and Homeschooling is challenging)

I have a newfound appreciation for…. my daughter’s teachers (actually ALL teachers, but Mrs. Trac especially)

My favorite part of my day is… the slow morning routine

Steve:

I have more time to… enjoy a “slow” morning of coffee and breakfast taking in the day.

I reignited my love of… Santa Barbara. Being able to get outside and enjoy the neighborhood and the smells of spring.

I spend more time with… my mother-in-law. She has become part of our “family unit.”

I have a newfound appreciation for… my neighbors. The optimism in our community is so uplifting.  

My favorite part of my day is… walks, hikes, bike rides with my 2 year-old.

Kyle:

I have more time to… be present with and appreciative of those special people in my life

I reignited my love of… inventing new cocktail recipes from things found in our garden. I’ve also reignited my love affair with the push up. 💪🏼

I spend more time with… my diehard crew of beagle and husband

I have a newfound appreciation for… my meditation practice

My favorite part of my day is… walking the pup in the morning right after sunrise with a warm mug of coffee

Work from Home Tips

Full disclosure: We’re optimists. With the whole Toad team reporting from dining room offices and couch calls, we’re right there with ya on the pros and cons of working from home (PROS: immaculate sock drawer, more family time, no commuting / CONS: constant snacking, technical difficulties, anxiety pangs).

No one likes forced change, BUT we’re trying to see this “great indoor migration” as just another adventure… albeit, one where pants and shoes are entirely optional. So here are our tips on how to work from home effectively and HAVE MORE FUN. 

1. Watch “The Office”

Missing water-cooler culture and that coworker who always drops random trivia? (Shoutout to Lucinda and her Hungarian Empire facts!) Turn on a steady stream of Dunder Mifflin’s Scranton Branch. Nothing gets you through a WFH day like Michael Scott’s conference meetings (“Make friends first, make sales second, make love third. In no particular order”). Stream all 9 glorious seasons on Netflix…all day, every day. In no particular order

2. Work Less Hard 

Mental health = productivity. If you’re distracted and stressed by deadlines, homeschooling, restless dogs, and generally living in a bubble, then take an extended fiver. Go on a walk, roll around on your floor, get really invested in the shower grout. Whatever gives you the mental space you need. Giving 80% in quarantine really is good enough. So file that under “Working from home tips for success and productivity.” 

3. Cookies = Brain Power 

This is just science. Just as you catch more bees with honey, give yourself some incentives when you feel the WFH burnout. Fresh baked cookies, another slice of banana bread, a little Baileys for your third Zoom meeting of the morning…we call these “benefits of working from home.” Enjoy it while it lasts, and get this recipe in cookie rotation. 

4. Trade Spaces 

That tip to “make a dedicated workspace” is bologna. We say change up your spaces, change up your thinking. Here are a few more home office setup ideas: 

Morning Office: Your bed. Must have coffee and furry creatures.  

Coffee Shop: Your kitchen. Stand at the counter with your second cup and fire off those quick little to-dos. Do some squats while you stand. Break for lunch and go on a neighborhood walk. Keep that 6 foot buffer! 

Afternoon Office: Your dining room. Spread out, make a mess, get those creative juices flowing. For the next two hours you are a genius.  

Happy Hour Office: Your deck/patio/stoop – find an outside space. Make yourself a quarantine drink (we like Ina’s style) jot down tomorrow’s to-do list, and call it a day’s work. 

5. Quarantine Bingo  

Some people call this “setting daily goals.” We call it Quarantine Bingo. Make a grid, write an easy goal in each box, and tick one off per day. Some goals: smile at yourself, go upside down, send a postcard, spot wildlife…you get the point. Not really a true “work from home tip,” but clearly it’s not ALL about working.

6. Dress for Success Joy 

Newsflash: success is not contingent on what you wear (And we make clothes, so we’re experts on this). Here’s our work from home style tip: Dress for JOY and the success will follow. If pants don’t bring you joy right now, forget ’em. If you want to put on a spring dress and blast ABBA (just us?), you go right on ahead. CHOOSE JOY. 

7. Take a Safari

Both literally and figuratively. Every sunrise and sunset, check our WildEarth’s safari live stream. Seriously – it’s bananas. It’s also a great reminder that nature is thriving and will be even more glorious when we finally emerge from our dens. And remember, the same tips apply to both Safari and work from home safety: keep your hands and arms inside the vehicle at all times. Keep that social distancing up, friends! 

How to Stay Sane During the Holidays

Blame it on the weather, but the holidays can be stressful (like when you plan a dinner for 10 and it turns into 16…or your flight gets delayed AGAIN…or you have to make 60 cookies for the holiday class party). But remember: every day (even the trying ones) is an adventure! Here are 7 tips for how to stay sane during the holidays—and beyond. 

Checkbox HYDRATE 

Staying hydrated will do wonders for your mind and body. Keep a reusable bottle on hand and never forget the party rule: for every libation, chug a glass of water. 

Checkbox PEOPLE WATCH 

Stuck at the airport or standing in the longest check-out line of your life? Avoid the temptation to look at your phone and watch your fellow human beings. It’ll restore your faith in humanity…or at least be entertaining. 

Checkbox  BREATHE

You’ve heard it before, but it’s worth repeating. When you’ve just about had it to HERE, close your eyes and take 3 or 4 deep, slow breaths. The rush of oxygen triggers a dopamine release in your brain which makes you calmer. 

Checkbox FORGET THE PRESENTS 

Ah, gift anxiety—not knowing what size to get, dealing with shipping, dealing with timing, spending lots of money—just don’t do it. Instead you can donate to causes in people’s names, write poems or heartfelt letters, or commit to an adventure in the spring. It really is the thought that counts. 

Checkbox RE-GIFT

Okay okay, we just said don’t do presents. But if you must, feel free to re-gift wine you’ve gotten, jewelry you’ve never worn, your own personal copy of a book that you love… no shame in taking the sustainable route (PS—if you need to wrap, here’s how to avoid the wrapping paper)! 

Checkbox WALK IT OFF  

We can’t stress this enough: Exercise makes you happy. Get your blood pumping at least a few times a week and you’ll be happy every day (trust us, we are scientists). Stuck inside? Turn on your favorite tunes and dance it out.  If you need a playlist, here’s our Rock the Holidays playlist

Checkbox PRACTICE GRATITUDE   

The key word is PRACTICE. It’s easy to give thanks when things are going well. It’s when things have fallen apart—the pies burned, the traffic is horrendous, you’re on your second hour of the annual Smith Family political debate—that’s when you practice gratitude and find something (ANYTHING!) to be grateful for. You’ll find that it is, indeed, an imperfect but happy holiday! 

Vintage Denim 101: How to Cut it and Make it Your Own

The 90s called, and they’re not getting their jeans back anytime soon. We’re thrilled to announce that we’re now offering vintage denim on our website. By rocking vintage, you’re doing your part to keep clothes out of the landfill, which keeps the circular economy in motion, and lets Mother Nature rest easy (most denim production also uses a ton of water, so shopping vintage is just as water-wise as it is a win for your closet).

Because each pair of vintage 501s has its own unique story, inseam lengths will vary and some pairs are more washed and worn than others. We think it’s awesome that no two pairs are the same, and love the idea of adding your chapter to your new (well….old) pair’s story.

Our in-house denim gurus (AKA Kyle, our Head of Product, Design, and Supply Chain, and Lindsay, our Web Merchant/Style Superstar) share their super simple, step-by-step guide on how to cut denim to make it your own. Give it a try and we can guarantee that your newly acquired jeans will thank you for keeping them from the landfill, and breathing some extra life into them too.

And a pro tip from the rest of the Toads: Make it to the end for a good laugh.

 

Shop Men’s Vintage Levi’s 501s and Women’s Vintage Levi’s 501s.