Hello, beautiful humans!
First off, I apologize for my extremely long writer’s block. As much as this opens my heart and allows good energy to be spread when I communicate with you all in my favorite medium, my first semester of college was busier than anything I’d ever been used to, and I’ll never not believe in putting your mental health first if you’re feeling overwhelmed in life. Today, I want to share a practice with you that has been very helpful in my life, and the lives of many others! This is the practice of meditation. I know, I know. Meditation has gotten quite the stigma these days in the mental health realm. I’ve personally heard the phrases, “Meditating won’t solve all my problems!” “Breathing won’t cure my anxiety!” I’m not disputing this at all – these are totally fair arguments. No judgement whatsoever if you feel this way (this blog is always a judgement-free zone). However, while reading this, I ask you to keep and open mind and heart. I care about you all so much, and I promise that I’d never share any ideas or practices with you that I didn’t believe would benefit you tremendously. This is advice from the personal experience of myself, many people I personally know, and many people considered to be influential in this world. No, it won’t magically solve all the world’s problems in a snap, and it’s definitely important to be taking whatever personal steps you feel you need to make to handle a mental illness (it should not be used as a replacement for medication, consulting a health professional, etc.) However, we all have the ability to reach new levels of being present, peaceful, and focused, and we have the key. Without further ado, get started on why that’s the case!
If you haven’t heard the name Jen Sincero, you should definitely look her up and read her books, because the woman is a genius. In her self help book “You are a Badass”, she teaches us, the readers, how to connect with what she describes as the “Source Energy” – basically, the Universe’s abundant source of energy that is always available to us, basically loving us with all that it is. To sum it up, Sincero quotes Indian philosopher, social revolutionary, author, and composer Shrii Shrii Anandamurti – “You are never alone or helpless. The force that guides the stars guides you too.” A great way to connect to the Source Energy? Meditate. Our minds are constantly buzzing with unanswered questions, problems, worries, an endless supply of anxiety-producing junk pretty much. When you clear your mind, and release your problems to the ever loving universe, everything becomes a little more clear. I don’t know why this is the case – that’s a question that we, as humans, aren’t quite spiritually evolved enough to figure out. Just try it out – what’s the harm in that?
An especially interesting case was brought to my attention by my dad. Last year, he downloaded the mindfulness meditation app, ‘10% Happier’. This was an app founded by Dan Harris, an anchor for many shows including Good Morning America, Nightline, and a correspondent for ABC News. After suffering from a panic attack when recording for Nightline, Harris, a lifetime ‘nonbeliever’ in meditation, dove into a research mission on the tools that many of the world’s most successful people have been using to improve their mental health. This includes CEOs, scientists, and even marines. Meditation has been found, by Harris, to do everything from ‘lowering blood pressure to essentially rewiring brains’ (-Goodreads). That being said, the 10% Happier app is free, and I use it on the daily! I highly, personally recommend this app. I’ve suffered from anxiety my whole life, and this app has been an excellent way for me to keep track of my progress, get me to meditate, and overall level my anxiety. When my brain is buzzing, it seems nonstop and suffocating. Meditation has been an escape from this noise for myself, Harris, and countless others. This stuff works. Allow the universe to talk to you, and life won’t feel so heavy.
In case you’re not convinced yet (totally understandable, don’t worry), I’m going to be going through some proven health benefits of taking a few minutes to breathe. On the emotional side of things, meditation is a pathway to a relief from the neurotic and unhealthy emotional patterns resulting from trauma and stress. This offers great freedom and balance on a daily basis – people are free to feel experiences directly and respond appropriately when released from the shackles of emotional distress. Distress that individuals don’t even realize they’re feeling until it’s acknowledged, and released. Physically, the relaxation granted from meditation has quite a few benefits. First off, meditation has been proven to increase immunity. In reference to this, I’d like to bring up two studies conducted at the Ohio State University. One found that “progressive muscle relaxation, when practiced daily, reduced the risk of breast cancer recurrence” in recovering cancer patients. Another study by Ohio State found that a month of relaxation exercises boosted natural killer cells in the elderly, resulting in greater resistance to tumors and viruses. Meditation has also been acknowledged as an effective treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (State University of New York), a factor of increased fertility (University of Western Australia and Trakya University in Turkey), as well as lowering of blood pressure (Harvard Medical School), and an effective anti inflammatory due to the switch off of the stress response.
All in all, meditation really can help you. If you’re not fully convinced, I understand. As stated before, there is somewhat of a stigma against it. Consider trying it. Sit down however you want – if an upright position with your eyes closed, cross legged, isn’t comfortable for you, guess what? You don’t have to do it. All that matters is that you’re comfortable, breathing deeply, and making an effort to clear your mind. But Katie, how do you clear your mind? Well, one thing that helps me is to set a timer, so you’re not constantly worrying about how long you’ve been meditating, and when ten minutes will be up, etc. Set a timer, make sure the ringer goes off, and then focus on breathing. It helps to breathe and count to seven, hold it for seven seconds, and then breathe out for eight. If this is too much, adjust, adjust, adjust! Try five seconds. It’s all about what makes you comfortable. And if you’re having trouble focusing, try counting the numbers in your head. Or repeat the word, ‘breathing’. If you find your mind wandering – that’s okay, and totally normal! It doesn’t mean you’re bad at meditation. Don’t flee from the thought – acknowledge that it’s there, and release it. Continue to focus on your breathing. If it helps, a tip by Jen Sincero I found helpful is to imagine a bright ray of light shining from you – a visualization of yourself connecting to the Source Energy. It is giving you love, light, and wisdom, and you’re open to it! Again, hear me out on this. I didn’t think it’d work either, but now, it’s my tool and key to an open mind, a connection to the Source Energy, and general peace. If you’re feeling overwhelmed tonight, like you can’t get your mind to stop, consider taking a minute to breathe – it could change your whole outlook on the world. As always, thank you so, so much for reading. I hope you took something out of this reading, and I hope you’re finding time tonight to take care of yourself. Feel free to message me with any questions you may have – I’ve got a ton of resources I’d love to share (a few I will list below)! I love you all to infinity and beyond – until next time!