Everyone is always talking about how great meditation is, but have you ever wondered if it lives up to the hype? Me too! Before I was an everyday meditator, I used to think meditation was time-consuming and difficult, and that I would only see results years down the road, if I was lucky. Now I meditate twice a day, and I would never go back to my life before meditation. Why? I love how meditation makes me more able to deal with life’s everyday stressors. Here’s an example. As I was getting ready to write this post, I do what I usually do to get into “work mode”: I got up early, made my chocolate smoothie, and walked into my office. My husband likes to stand when he works, so we have one of those desks that can be raised or lowered with a motor. I press the button to lower the desk, and as desk is lowering, it catches on the top of the office chair, compressing the chair. I move the chair, and as I do, it springs back, upsetting everything on the desk and causing my chocolate smoothie to go flying. Everywhere. And I do mean everywhere. ¡Quel disastro! After my initial round of “Sh#t! Sh#t! Sh#t!” I just started to laugh. It was kind-of hilarious. And then I got to the work of cleaning it up.
What does meditation have to do with flying chocolate smoothies? Everything. In the past, a situation like losing an hour of work to clean up a smoothie explosion would have taken me a lot longer to get over, resulting in even more lost productivity and more stress. I definitely would not have laughed so quickly! Meditation has made me less reactive and more resilient, able to bounce back from stresses more quickly and with more grace. Want even more reasons to meditate? Read on.
Meditation Develops Detachment from Life’s Stressors
When we meditate regularly, we learn to become more objective. We are better able to step out of the drama of our lives and watch the mind instead of getting caught up in the situation at hand. When my smoothie spilled, I could have let my mind go down lots of dark rabbit holes: “Why is this happening to me?” “Not now!” “This makes me so angry!” All legitimate responses, but not helpful ones. What I needed was to clean up the smoothie quickly so I could get to work. Because I didn’t get overly upset, I was able to do what was needed and get on with it.
Meditation allows us to develop detachment, which is so helpful when faced with life’s everyday stressors. How does meditation do this? When we meditate, we watch the thoughts in our minds without reacting. The act of observing the mind teaches us that just because we have a thought, it doesn’t mean (1) we need to take an action on the thought; or (2) that the thought is even true. Our minds think all kinds of thoughts. That’s what minds do. In meditation, we practice not reacting to thoughts, so later, when situations have the potential to create stress, we can choose how we want to react to them. This moment of choice helps us take power over our lives. We stop reacting to life, letting it push our buttons. Instead, we become aware of our buttons and choose how we want to react, and ultimately, whether we want to have buttons at all (#longtermgoals).
Meditating Reverses the Effects of Stress
What if you’ve experienced a super-stressful day, and you’re still working on that detachment? No problem. Meditation helps with that too. When we meditate, the body quiets down and experiences a state of alert deep rest. This state is also called the relaxation response, and it’s incredibly healing for both the mind and body. When we’re in this powerful state, our heart rate lowers, our blood pressure normalizes, our breath slows. Our immune system gets stronger, and inflammation in the body decreases. Our stress hormones–cortisol and adrenaline–lower, which we definitely want! Elevated levels of cortisol and adrenaline are responsible for all kinds of problems: weight gain, lowered immune response, and insomnia, to name just a few. Getting our bodies into relaxation response mode on a regular basis promotes better sleep, healthy weight management, and overall health in body and mind, and this is exactly what meditation does. Imagine if we allowed ourselves to experience this kind of healing on a regular basis?
Meditation Makes Us Feel Amazing
Since meditation cultivates this state of deep rest, it not only helps heal the body, it also helps us feel amazing. How? When we’re in that deep rest state, the brain releases our “feel good” chemicals: dopamine, serotonin, GABA, and endorphins. Dopamine stimulates feelings of pleasure, helps us feel rewarded and maintain our focus, and improves both sleep and mood. Serotonin promotes calm and relaxation, stay focused on the task at hand, and eases tension. GABA inhibits fear and anxiety, feelings most of us would like a little less of in our lives. And endorphins give us the overall feeling of well-being and reduce our experience of stress. Yes, please!
In short, although meditation does require a small time investment, it’s an investment that pays BIG dividends. Meditation helps us deal with life’s stressors more effectively and reduces their negative effects on our mental and physical health. And because meditation tells the brain to release the feel-good chemicals, it makes us feel amazing right now. It’s a win-win!
Now that you know what meditation can do for you, I hope you’re excited to give it a try and put the power of meditation to work for you. At Sanity&Self, we’ve got you covered! There are so many great guided meditations to choose from, including my “Meditation for Stress” and my “Turn Down the Volume” series, there’s even a Calm the F#ck Down Meditation. I hope you’ll check them out and experience all the benefits meditation has to offer. Tried it? I’ve love to hear from you! Let me know how it goes in the comments.