I’ve had a daily meditation practice for 27 years. I originally came to meditation as a way to deal with stress and burnout from my hectic lifestyle as a high-risk entrepreneur & globe-trotting DJ. Back then meditation was seen as something you did in robes and sandals, often with suspicious yogis who all drove BMWs. These days, meditation is mainstream, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner does it, Lebron James, Bill Gates Jay Z, your postman probably does it.
So In light of men’s health week, I wanted to share the enormous benefits mindfulness and meditation has had on my own health and wellbeing, in the hope it will inspire more men to consider starting their own practice. Today I teach mindfulness and meditation to busy professionals, forward-thinking companies and teams. I love my job, getting to witness the life-changing benefits of this practice on others and the ripple-on effect it has on those around them: their families, work colleagues and the community. I believe it’s a life skill we should all know.
I am less reactive – I don’t lose my shit! Before meditation, I would often flip my lid, lash out at those around me and had even been known to punch the occasional wall, not cool! Meditation changed that by helping me recognise when I’m getting triggered, upset and stressed and allowing me the space to hit the pause button, step back and make a choice as to how I want to respond. As the brilliant Victor Frankl puts it: “ between stimulus and response there is a space, and in that space, we have the ability to choose our response and in that response lies our growth and freedom”. Meditation helps me find that space.
I have a better relationship with my thoughts, I’m less yanked around by the voice in my head. The light bulb moment for me early on when I started a meditation practice was realising that I didn’t have to buy into every thought I had and that some of my thoughts were not always true or helpful. Being able to step back and see thoughts as just thought was a game changer, allowing me to recognise and unhook from habitual and unhelpful thoughts patterns, such as worry, rumination, self-criticism, the tendency to catastrophise, or pass quick judgment.
I am more resilient, recover quicker and get back to baseline faster. Life does like to throw us curve balls, things happen that are out of our control, people let us down or say the wrong thing, in the past I used to take it personally: I would stew and ruminate for hours, sometimes days, fuelling my own suffering. Meditation has taught me to learn to let things go and not to sweat the small stuff. I still get triggered, upset and stressed – its all part of being human, but I am much better at recognising when I start to go down the rabbit hole, can quickly regulate my emotional response, calm myself down, regain balance and get back to baseline faster.
I have learned to appreciate the good things in my life and accept the things I can’t control. As a classic type A personality I have all ways been very driven, always going from one goal to the next without ever taking the time to stop and appreciate the wins. This often left me feeling unsatisfied and never really getting to appreciate the present moment. Learning to integrate an attitude of gratitude into my life through my meditation practice and by keeping a gratitude journal has had a massive impact on my personal happiness and wellbeing. Science shows that when we practice gratitude we can actually rewire our brain to start to notice the positive.
I am more productive, creative and focused. Through meditation, I’ve developed the ability to focus my attention and minimise distraction, which has had huge benefits for my productivity – basically, I get more done in less time, which gives me more time to do the things I love! At its core, focused attention meditation is essentially a form of attention training, and neuroscience (and my own experience!) shows that the more we practice, the more we strengthen neural pathways for focus and concentration, making it the normal and habitual reaction. So these days, when I get distracted I can notice it a lot faster and bring my attention back a lot quicker.
I have more compassion for myself and others, which I think makes me a better man and a more present partner and father. One of the most important skills I have learned to develop over the years through mindfulness meditation is the practice of compassion: learning to have a friendly attitude to my thoughts and feeling instead of the habitual tendency to constantly criticise and judge myself and others. This has had a big impact on my personal happiness and wellbeing and my relationships with others. And science backs this up: In countless studies, compassion meditations have been linked to greater life satisfaction, stronger relationships, and better mental and physical health. Brain scans show that the areas of the brain associated with positive emotions get thicker and stronger the more we practice.
Mindfulness meditation is the most important thing I do every day, which is why I am so passionate about sharing this transformative practice with others, I truly believe it can make us better partners, better fathers, and ultimately better men.
Ray Good is a mindfulness and resilience coach based in Melbourne Australia and founder of The Good Place, helping busy individuals and teams fight stress, think better and perform at their peak.