A fun thing that I do sometimes is ask you guys to help me decide on a blog post topic! On Twitter and Facebook, I regularly ask what you guys want to see, and sometimes I ask you to vote in my Instagram stories. That’s how this post came about, so be sure to follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to contribute in the future.
Anyway. As you can tell from the title of this post, today we’re talking about meditation. This is something that is a hard concept to understand (sitting or lying still for a while but you can’t sleep and it’s good for you?) and can be an even harder one to put into practice. Today we’re going to talk about meditation, its benefits, and how to do it. Plus, I’ll use my personal experience to give you a more concrete understanding of what it looks like in practice.
What is meditation, anyway? Meditation is a means of obtaining “a state of ‘thoughtless awareness’ in which the excessive stress producing activity of the mind is neutralized without reducing alertness and effectiveness” (x). Additionally, “By engaging with a particular meditation practice you learn the patterns and habits of your mind, and the practice offers a means to cultivate new, more positive ways of being” (x). Another way to think about it is, “You’re not trying to turn off your thoughts or feelings. You’re learning to observe them without judgment. And eventually, you may start to better understand them as well” (x). When you meditate, you focus on one thing – breathing, a word, a sensation, etc. – for a certain period of time.Why you should try meditation Click To Tweet
Why should I try it? There are so many reasons! One is that it’s great for stress and anxiety. I have generalized anxiety disorder, and it’s one of the tools I use to quiet my mind, at least for a little bit. (I also do a lot more than just medication, including go to therapy and sometimes take medication, so I am not saying that this is The Thing for anxiety disorders, and I’m also not a doctor.) Meditation can also improve your sleep, improve quality of life for chronic pain patients, better relationship with your partner, help you stress less, boost your memory, make you more creative, help you do better in school, and more. Basically, meditation is ah-mazing for you.
If you’re still on the fence, let me tell you from personal experience that I feel amazing directly after meditating. When I start meditating, it can take me a bit to get into it, as I’m sure it does for many people. Once I get into it, I feel like I’m in a different world. Nothing else exists except that moment. Immediately afterwards, I feel calm and free in a way that I have never experienced in any other situation in my life. No matter what’s happening in my life, I feel like a weight is lifted off my chest. So if you’re the type of person who needs a more immediate incentive (nothing wrong with that!), definitely give it a try!
In another personal note, you should know that meditation has never affected my chronic pain. I’m not saying it won’t for you – there’s an entire medical study that shows it can, which is linked above – just that it doesn’t for me. On the other hand, meditation has helped me mentally deal with my pain, especially when things have been hard. In the months leading up to my ankle surgery, I made sure to meditate on a regular basis to help me deal with my feelings about the recovery. The recovery is very slow and very painful in the beginning, and when I had my left ankle done in 2009, I had a very difficult recovery at the beginning. I was afraid and nervous, so I meditate regularly to help cope with those feelings.
How do I meditate? Great question! It’s deceptively easy, but also difficult if you’ve never done it before. The Buddhist Centre says “to set up your meditation posture in a way that is relaxed but upright, usually sitting on a cushion and probably cross-legged. If this is not easy you can sit kneeling or else in a chair. Then you close your eyes, relax, and tune in to how you are feeling” (x). As said above, when you meditate, you should be focusing one one thing, whether it be a word or an idea.
Need some more help? There are apps and websites for that! Here are some:
Kate, what’s your experience with meditation? Well, I’m glad you asked! I started doing it first and foremost after yoga. I’ve been into yoga for several years now as its one form of exercise I can do and is actually good for me with my health issues. If you’ve ever been to any yoga class, you know that at the end is something called shavasana, which is an actual yoga pose where you lie on your back for 5-15 minutes. You’re actually not supposed to fall asleep, but instead relax and “Scan the body from the toes to the fingers to the crown of the head, looking for tension, tightness and contracted muscles. Consciously release and relax any areas that you find. If you need to, rock or wiggle parts of your body from side to side to encourage further release” (x). When my generalized anxiety disorder got worse, I started meditating even on days when I didn’t do yoga. I personally meditate by counting and controlling my breathing. I breathe in for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds, and count the number of times that I do this. It helps me to maintain focus on one thing – aka activate my mind while staying in the moment – and control my breathing. I try to do this for 10 minutes, but sometimes I cheat and only do 5. It’s a really great addition to my GAD control toolbox.
Have you tried meditation? What has been your experience?
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