WHY I'M OBSESSED WITH MEDITATING (AND WANT YOU TO BE TOO)
- INCREASED SELF AWARENESS: Who would have thought that the simple act of sitting down to check in with yourself for a moment could be such an eye-opening experience? So many of us are so disconnected from what we're feeling in our bodies and what's going on in the back of our minds, often because we think it's the only way to survive the crazy pace of life these days. I was a big fan of "self unawareness" for a long time, until I realized that actually paying attention to my brain, body and emotions is a valuable exercise in self exploration; one that has led to a lot of personal growth AND has allowed me to more compassionately address my needs and the needs of those around me.
- BETTER ANXIETY/STRESS RESPONSE: My meditation practice and the heightened self awareness that comes along with it has helped me recognize and address anxiety and stress triggers more effectively and deal with them as they arise. It truly is the most effective stress-reducing reset I have EVER employed (and I've tried everything from walking it off, talking it off, various forms of exercise, therapy, throwing things, cookies, and so on).
- FASTER HEALING: I use Headspace, which usually includes a body scan. Not only is a body scan the most effective way for me to downshift into meditation mindset, it has also been really helpful in noticing aches, pains or discomfort in my body that I should be paying attention to. When I'm more aware of things like tingling sinuses, mild headaches or low back pain, I'm able to address the cause and adjust accordingly. (I had back surgery about 5 years ago and have spinal ostheoarthritis so this is especially important for me. I've gotten so accustomed to discomfort that it's easy for me to ignore when it evolves into pain, which inevitably makes it worse and brings the eventual 2nd surgery that much closer.)
- HEALTHIER RELATIONSHIPS: I'm more patient, compassionate and less reactive with my husband, family and friends. I'm also more often able to recognize when it's MY mood, hormones or hanger that is making me sensitive or irritable more than ever before, which is probably my husband's favorite benefit.
- MORE MINDFUL EATING: Allergies, gut related sensitivities, a history of disordered eating and surgery complicated my relationship with food enough, throw in stress and I was one inhaled jar of nut butter away from losing it. Meditation has helped me reconnect to hunger and fullness signals, recognize and address urges to drown my feelings in brownie batter, and discover what foods work best for me on a daily basis.
- IMPROVED WORK PERFORMANCE: The increased awareness that comes with a mindfulness practice has made me more in tune with my stress levels, more likely to take breaks when I need them, and better at stepping back to look at situations from different angles. I've seen an improvement in my problem solving skills, heightened levels of emotional intelligence that serve working relationships well, and an increase in creativity since I started meditating. Although I'm funemployed currently, I look forward to leveraging these benefits again soon.
WHY YOU'RE CRAZY NOT TO TRY IT
- It's FREE!
- It's an excuse to REST (sit still or lie down) for a few minutes.
- It's EASY (as long as you don't put unnecessary pressure on yourself)!
- You can do it ANYWHERE, ANYTIME.
- You can use it to COPE with that annoying colleague at work, that terrible commute, you're cranky partner or scary in-laws!
- It's CALMING and grounding, which is invaluable when you're in situations where you have zero control. Think family feuds at Thanksgiving.
- It's your own PRIVATE paradise. No one is watching, judging, or asking you what season Lululemon pants you're wearing.
- It's an easy way to show yourself love and COMPASSION.
TIPS & RESOURCES
- Don't overcomplicate it. Download an app and let an expert ease your learning curve. (I love Headspace largely because of Andy Puddicomb's soothing British accent), but there are plenty of alternatives out there.
- Don't expect it to be easy, perfect or blissful right away. That is a fast way to make it uncomfortable and frustrating and you'll probably give up before you've even given it a real chance!
- Be patient with yourself, acknowledge that it's totally normal to have a racing mind and remember that learning new things takes time. I still get distracted often, my mind wanders for at least part of my meditations and sometimes I can't get it to calm down at all. It happens! You still got a rest out of it!
- Integrate meditation into your routine at a time when you're less likely to make excuses. I recommend first thing in the morning because there's less of a chance to let the day get away from you. I also see the greatest benefits when I start the day this way.
- Give it a real chance. 2 weeks, or better yet, 4! Get past the learning curve before you decide whether or not it's for you.
- Start with 2 minutes, or whatever feels doable. Increase your duration every month or so and before you know it, you'll be doing 15 minutes each day like a champ!
THE BACK STORY
A few years ago, family, health, career and relationship bombshells exploded into a shit storm that forced me to face my past, deal with my present and examine what I truly want for myself in the future. (see "the backstory" in this article for more.) I think (?!) I held it together well in public, but behind closed doors it wasn't pretty. As I mentioned in my last blog, I went through a period when I often felt anxious, depressed or downright angry at my circumstances and the world in general. It was probably normal and expected to freak out a little after so much had happened all at once, but feeling so out of control of my emotions was deeply uncomfortable for me. I felt a little lost, untethered from my sense of self, and disconnected from the sense of control that had anchored me in my adult life.
In search of comfort, peace of mind and something that would bring me back to my self, I started meditating daily upon the recommendation of a CBT therapist. I immediately found it soothing, calming and grounding, which was just what the doctor ordered. As my practice has progressed, I've seen and continue to see much more profound benefits than just the calming effect though. Yes, research shows that meditation can improve our mental and physical stress response, sleep quality, relationships, performance, anxiety and depression symptoms and so much more, but I didn't believe all this until I felt it.
It's been such a powerful tool for me in so many ways that it's almost difficult to put into words. But because I want everyone I know to give it a try so I can watch you all enjoy the incredible mental and physical health benefits, I've tried above! I mean it's a fast, free, easy, drug-free way to better health, so what are you waiting for anyway?!