It took me awhile to get into meditation.
And when I say awhile, I mean years. I can’t blame my environment, I was living in Portland, OR at the time, and it wasn’t that I didn’t have time, single no kids. I just wasn’t into it. Which was weird because, full disclosure here, I’m the type of person who gets into things just because I know they’re good for me. Even if sometimes I don’t like them. For example, eating brussel sprouts and flossing every day. So meditation seemed like it would’ve been one of those ‘good-for-me’ things to add to my list. But it wasn’t.
To be honest, I don’t know how that changed? Peer pressure? FOMO? Who knows. I think I was just worn down after repeatedly hearing about all of the benefits of meditation and just kept trying it until one day it stuck. Fast forward 20 years and it’s still stuck. Fortunately, it's graduated from the brussel sprouts category.
Here are 3 reasons why I’ve kept it up, despite my initial misgivings, and even think I’m better for it. Who knows, these reasons might help you give it another try, despite your misgivings.
- Meditation gives you a buffer between feeling irritated and ‘losing it’. Ever feel like you have too short a fuse or wish you had a tad more patience, especially when something irritates you? Me too, and actually I now do. I credit meditation but who knows actually what happened. Maturity? Nah, it’s gotta be the practice of being able to sit while tons of thoughts swirl through my head and not letting them get a rise out of me. And that is what happens after meditating for awhile. Getting in the habit of taking deep breaths, not clinging to each thought like velcro, and being able to become an ‘observer’ to our experiences allows us to better pick and choose our reactions. All of that contributes to developing the helpful thing called patience and buys us some time before losing it.
- Meditation helps you strengthen your ‘don’t freak out’ muscle.Although the systematic study of meditation is still in its infancy, research is suggesting that an active meditation/mindfulness practice strengthens our emotional self-regulation, or as I like to think of it, our ‘don’t freak out’ muscle. It has something to do with meditation increasing the gray matter volume in our orbitofrontal cortex and hippocampus regions of our brains. Okay, so technically it doesn’t strengthen a muscle at all but important regions that help us keep an even keel when we need it most. And that even keel feels pretty good!
- Meditation helps you stop your ‘broken-record’ loops in your thinking. It’s been estimated that we have tons of thoughts per day and most of them are repetitive. I actually had a hard time finding research behind the often quoted 50,000 or so thoughts a day but I think we can all agree that we have a lot. Most of them, we can probably also agree, are not unique snowflakes of thought but ones we have over and over all the time. If mediation does something really well, it’s that it highlights our active mind and helps us have greater awareness of thoughts as they happen. With practice, this increased awareness of our thoughts can help us interrupt them when they seem stuck. The more we interrupt them, the more we stop them. This was one of the first benefits I noticed.