I’m about to ask you to do something that might seem silly if you’ve never tried it before. Take a minute and put down your to-do list. Turn your phone over (or better yet put it on airplane mode). Now focus on one thing: your breath. That’s all. Breathe in and out and marvel at the wonder that is life flowing through your lungs. Try it for at least 1 minute. Come back to this article when you’re ready…
Welcome back! Your first thought may not have been, “Hey, I’m breathing, I’m alive, and this is pretty damn amazing!”
If it was, go back to your regularly scheduled programing. You’ve got life figured out (probably).
If you didn’t, no judgement. Seriously. That's not what meditation is about. It has taken me a long time to get there - and that’s only on good days. I’m totally kidding about having life figured out. But starting your day with the idea that your very breath is a miracle definitely can change the way you approach life.
How do you get there, you ask? How do you go from begrudgingly trying to “conquer” each day to joyfully embracing it? That’s a great question and something I’m still practicing. But I can suggest a first step…
Meditation. I know for some of you it just seems weird or too good to be true. Or maybe you don’t think it’s worth your time to sit around and “do nothing.” I know time is one of our most valuable commodities these days. So please hear me when I say, it is absolutely worth your time. And there are studies to back up this up.
This study by Harvard neuroscientists suggests that beyond just reducing stress, meditation can actually change your brain. After 8 weeks of meditation, the areas of participants’ brains associated with learning, memory, emotion regulation, compassion, and empathy, actually got bigger. At the same time, the amygdala, “the fight or flight part of the brain…important for anxiety, fear and stress,” decreased in size. Changing my brain for the better sounds worthy of 30 minutes out of my daily schedule!
In my own experience, after meditating even just for a few minutes, I feel refreshed. My mood is improved and I feel more capable of moving through my day with purpose. My ability to concentrate, focus, and get work done is greatly improved. While I don’t necessarily recommend holding increased productivity as your main goal for a meditation practice, it’s the natural result when you lower stress levels and grow the creative parts of your brain.
So meditating is certainly not “doing nothing.” The inward work is incredibly powerful and can be very effective for easing your symptoms of stress, anxiety, or depression. Not to mention, it can add a level of self-awareness and gratitude that leads to feeling more fulfilled by what you already have.
All these benefits may make starting this practice seem daunting. But I try to keep my meditation goals simple and attainable. For more on this, I’ll be releasing a new blog with my simple steps for beginning a meditation practice later... Stay tuned!
Until then, check out Calm.com, a great app for getting started with your practical meditation practice.