Meditating for the not so Zen
Updated: Jun 9, 2021
For several years, I was meditating on and off. More recently, though, I've committed to meditating every single day, even if only for 5 minutes.
Being "zen" is by far not who or what I am, but meditating has brought about a more calming feel in my mind. My thoughts are still there. We have roughly 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts per day, so there is no way to actually switch these off. In reality, no one talks to us as much as we talk to ourselves.
This recent quote by Dr. Kelly McGonigal quickly sums up how meditation works.
“Meditation is not about getting rid of all your thoughts; it’s learning not to get so lost in them that you forget what your goal is.”
What meditation is helping me with is to see my thoughts for what they are. They're simply thoughts. It's only once I put words to them that an emotion might unfold.
Now, I am by no means saying I never put emotions to my words, because yes, I can get totally emotional. Frustration is an emotion I know all too well, but I am getting better at taking a step back, reflecting on where I feel the emotion and separating myself from the emotion. As a kid, teen and adult, I really struggled with my emotions. They often got the better of me. Anger, sadness and fear were regular visitors. Sometimes they would pitch a tent and overstay their welcome.
Through meditation I have learned to not live in my emotion for days on end. I can let it go more easily and get out of my head much quicker. Journaling has also helped enormously with this.
There's some research that suggests those who meditate regularly have less perceived stress and negative mental health compared to those who do not meditate regularly (Chu, 2010). I truly believe this when I compare pre-meditation me to now and I hope it only gets better from here.
Other research shows how starting to meditate during the COVID-19 pandemic can even lower anxiety (Behan, 2020). Meditating not only helps to lower stress and anxiety, it also helps us sleep better and who doesn't love sleep? I know I do! It gives us better self-awareness and it increases our patience - I have young kids... I completely agree with this benefit [those who agree, insert upside down smiley emoji here].
Seriously, I'm not trying to sell you on meditating. My goal here is to let you know that in as little as 5-12 minutes a day for 8 weeks, you can positively and significantly change so many areas of your life (Matthew et al., 2020).
Yes, I know, some of you are now saying "Yeah, ok Ky, like I have 5 minutes extra per day." And I say to you, start with 1 minute of deep breathing at the same time every day. Set a timer and slowly build the habit of meditating. It is so worth it!
When your mind wonders, and it will a ton of times (remember 50,000-70,000 thoughts per day), simply acknowledge without any judgement that your mind wondered and return to focusing on your breath. Slowly in and slowly out. Be kind to yourself. It's a practice, not an I'm-already-an-expert-so-I-should-be-doing-this-perfectly break for your mind.
Try it out. You don't need to be a zen, rakusu wearing guru to meditate and reap the benefits. Start with 1 minute a day of focused breathing and I promise you, you will instantly feel calmer!