I’ve always heard people talk about the benefits of meditation but never really understood just how someone’s claim like ‘meditation changed my life’ could be proven. Isn’t meditation after all just sitting in silence trying to empty your mind? Well, as I found out, not so much.
When my best friend got onto the ‘meditation train’, I had to give it a go too (this was 5 years ago and I, like so many of my friends, suffered from a huge dose of FOMO at the time). She recommended I start with guided meditation and I’ve downloaded the app called Buddhify. I had an open mind and hoped that the promise of mental clarity, better sleep and more energy were all attainable.
My competitive nature and this relentless desire to experience the hype everyone was talking about, kept me going. Just like with any habit, you need to be in it for the long haul, so I persisted. At first, it was really hard not to think about my ‘to do list’ for the day but with time I’ve leaned into this dance between my thoughts and desire to still my mind.
You see, it’s impossible to quiet the mind, let alone empty your mind of thoughts. The key is to become the observer of the self and the perpetual nature of thoughts and inner chatter.
What does the research say?
Through meditation, the frequency and location of electrical brain waves change. In particularly when one pursues the so called ‘non-directive’ meditation, which is conducted in silence. This became the next stage of my exploration – parting with the apps and instead just allowing my body and mind to experience what happens when I sit in silence. Studies show that non-directive meditation yields more marked changes in electrical brain wave activity associated with wakeful, relaxed attention, than just resting without any specific mental technique.
The evolution of my practice
OK, so what happened, you might ask? There was a lot of frustration at the beginning and I felt like throwing in the towel pretty much every day. I’ve set my meditation time for the mornings but some days it had to be in the evening or night time. I’ve noticed that when I meditated in the morning, my day was a lot more balanced and relaxed whereas when I skipped it, I definitely had feelings of overwhelm more often than I’d like to admit.
About a year in I’ve noticed a shift in my overall reactiveness. My natural tendency has always been to keep achieving and fit as much into my daily schedule as possible. I basically had no concept of doing things differently but with this new found perspective and a more balanced view of myself and the world I live, it enabled me to start changing some of my default conditioning. In time, I’ve noticed how much calmer I am in times of stress, how much easier it is to make decisions and how my sense of anxiety subsided. It truly was a noticeable change not just by me but also by my family, friends and work colleagues.
It’s been 5 years since the day I’ve decided to give mediation a go and yes, it has changed my life too. I hope my story has encouraged you to start your meditation journey and experience the many benefits of this amazing yet simple practice. Further to that, when you look at the daily routines of highly successful entrepreneurs and CEOs, they all list meditation being one of their top ‘go-to’ secrets for improved decision making and productivity.
To get you started, I’ve compiled a list of some of those apps I’ve tried early on and also a list of top 5 benefits that hopefully will encourage you to pursue this wonderful daily practice.
Some of my go to apps are:
You don’t need to dive into a 20 minute meditation practice right away but instead start with 2-5 minutes and gradually build up the time you choose to spend in meditation. Building a habit of course requires a daily frequency rather than just here and there so why not schedule some time for mediation into your calendar? I’d recommend starting your day with meditation. It really sets up your day for success.
Top 5 benefits of a regular meditation practice
The research on mindfulness suggests that meditation reduces stress, sharpens skills like attention, memory, and emotional intelligence amongst many other benefits. Just like with any habit, key is to make the practice a regular one and observe the changes over time.
Meditation builds resilience.
Multiple studies have shown that meditation has the potential to decrease anxiety thereby helping build resilience and weather times of stress and change better.
Meditation improves relationships.
When we are more resilient and stress less, we also have the capacity to feel more empathy, exercise compassion and improve our connections with others. If meditation reduces stress, which of course makes us often reactive and irritable, then the quality of our relationships should improve exponentially the more we meditate.
Meditation helps you focus.
Research has shown that our minds have a tendency to wander about 50% of the time. It’s been shown that meditation can assist with focus and help us curb the tendency to respond to distractions. Improvements to memory were also sighted in this study.
Meditation boosts emotional intelligence.
Brain-imaging research suggests that meditation can help strengthen your ability to regulate your emotions. It’s one of the hardest things to do in life yet so fundamentally important for moving through life joyfully and without upsetting others. Regulating emotions has been shown to help build stronger, more trusting relationships with others and prevent feelings of helplessness and depression.
Meditation isn’t a magic pill. It’s an intentional activity of doing nothing and being still that requires the investment of patience and time. It shouldn’t become just another thing you do in your day. When you realise just how much your days have improved because of meditating, you’ll learn to anticipate these beautiful moments of mindful bliss and to enjoy the benefits that go with it.