My goal for 2016 is to indulge in things that make me happy. As part of this, I’ve started meditating. Not in the way you might think, with the oms and the zen cross-legged position; it’s a little more simple than that.
A few months ago, I wrote about 5 Apps that Take Wellness to the Next Level. One of those is Stop. Breathe. Think. The more I use this app, the more I LOVE it. I’m a meditation novice, and so this app provides voice-guided meditations based on my mood, which is perfect for a beginner like me.
I meditate before I go to bed for anywhere between 3-10 minutes as a way to clear my mind of the usual nonsense that keeps me awake at night.
After seven days of meditating, I can honestly say I am wonderfully surprised by the results. Here are the five biggest things meditating has helped me with:
1. I handle stressful situations better.
The other night I was driving home, replaying a conversation over and over in my head. I was crying, and feeling overwhelmed by my thoughts. In an effort to quiet the raucous in my head, I took a physical inventory of my surroundings, “What does my body feel right now? What does the steering wheel feel like in my hands, what does my skin feel like next to the heater vent?” I was able to ground myself by focusing on my body instead of my thoughts. This is something I’ve learned through guided meditation.
2. I can manage panic attacks more easily.
I deal with general anxiety. It makes certain aspects of my life infinitely more complicated. If I let stress and frustration take hold, it will result in a panic attack. I can usually feel my panic attacks coming. It feels like a balloon is going to rupture in my chest, and slowly all the air in my lungs slips away. Panic attacks are frustrating, exhausting, and sometimes embarrassing. With the help of meditation though, I’m able to either avoid them altogether, or get through them more quickly. Once again, it involves getting out of my head and focusing on my body. One of the major parts of meditation is breathing, and connecting with your body to think more clearly. By focusing on my breath, the way it feels going through my nose, into my lungs, then back out of my nose, I am at times able to avoid the choking, breathless feeling that precedes a panic attack.
3. I sleep better.
I mentioned that I do these short voice-guided meditations before bed. Instead of spending an hour or more circling through conversations and worries from my day, I am able to relax and go to sleep with a content mind.
4. I find it easier to empathize with others.
One of my favorite meditations in the Stop. Breathe. Think. library is focused on gratitude. This meditation is especially important to me, because I am a firm believer that all personal happiness starts with gratitude toward others. This particular meditation involves thinking about the things you have, and how they make you feel, then thinking about those around you who struggle just to meet their basic needs. It challenges you to think how others feel who are struggling just to make it through their current situations. This is something I’ve been practicing outside of meditation. If something goes wrong at work, I try to think of what the person involved might be going through instead of focusing on the inconvenience the situation caused me. Not only does this prevent me from feeling angry, but it helps me connect with those around me.
5. I worry less.
I’m a world-class worrier. I am trying to do better at being present and making a conscious effort to “get out of my head.” (That’s what I call it when I am thinking too intently on situations out of my control.) By meditating, I have felt more in control of what takes up space in my brain, and I feel more readily equipped at letting go of things out of my control.
If you’ve never tried meditation, I challenge you to download Stop. Breathe. Think, and try it out for seven days. There’s nothing to lose, especially since the app is free. Who knows, maybe you’ll get hooked like me?
Do you already meditate? I’d love to hear your experience with it! Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.