Does Meditation Work? What Happened When I Tried It For The First Time
All dem zen vibes.
When someone recommended Mindfulness: Finding Peace In A Frantic World to me I had no idea what to expect. With a CD at the back, the book guides you through an 8-week meditation course. It teaches you to be mindful of your surroundings and your thoughts through exercises designed to "settle and ground you in the present moment". Mindfulness is supposed to help you to feel calmer despite the hustle and bustle of our crazy busy lives.
Here's what creator Anna Akana has to stay about mental health online...
Without sounding dramatic (it’s totally dramatic y’all), what I learnt over those next eight weeks really changed my outlook on life. Although meditation is not for everyone, I’d 100% recommend giving it a good try. Here’s why…
(It’s about to get spiritual all up in here.)
I started noticing my thoughts
I always assumed I was totally aware and in control of my thoughts but, because meditation teaches you to actively notice every thought arriving and leaving your mind, you suddenly realise just how many thoughts go through your head without you even realising.
At the beginning it sometimes took me a while to recognise that I was actually being consumed by a thought too. Weird.
Things became less complicated
When your thoughts are constantly steering you, simple tasks can seem harder - there’s a load of background noise in your head distracting you.
Once I understood what my brain was doing I sat in the driving seat for the first time in what seemed like forever, and everything became a lot clearer and simpler. I was concentrating on each task as I was doing it, not worrying about other things I needed to do.
I felt more positive
Once I started meditating I realised that my thoughts had been on a negative loop. It wasn’t because I was a pessimist or even really because I was having negative experiences – having a few negative thoughts had spiralled into a cycle of thought-negativity. Not the one.
Now that I was aware of my thoughts coming and going, not trapped inside them, I felt more positive about everything.
It felt good
When you think of meditation you think mind-only, right? I thought the same thing, so I wasn’t expecting meditation to actually feel good physically. Your whole body feels GREAT after a good meditation sesh.
It can supposedly help people deal with pain, too.
I wasted less time
The more I thought “I just don’t have time to meditate” and put it off, the more I realised how much time I wasted doing things like being sucked into an Instagram-stalking hole or flicking aimlessly through TV channels.
The meditation exercises took around 10 mins each time, which was only a fraction of the hours I spent doing pointless stuff per day. And it made me feel way better than all of that pointless stuff.
I felt more connected to other people
I found myself listening more intently to other people and really focusing in on them and their experiences.
Maybe not having to deal with the weight of your own thoughts any more means that you become less inward and more outward-facing? It was pretty refreshing, anyways.
I was on time more
I began moving around more measuredly, but also mysteriously being more punctual. Now I’m usually someone who rocks up at least five minutes late to social occasions, out of breath from legging it there, so I was pretty surprised to suddenly find myself leisurely arriving bang on time, if not a little EARLY.
I guess cutting all the BS out of my head meant I was clear about what I was doing and what needed to happen next in the getting ready process… it was pretty unnerving.
I felt like I had woken up
I felt like I had woken up from a deep sleep. Everything was brighter and clearer, and I was totally on the ball while everyone (especially on public transport) looked distant, clearly worrying or thinking about other things, or engrossed in their phones. I was totally present, and not many other people were.
My senses exploded
All of a sudden I would notice the sound the rain was making, the smell of flowers as I passed them, the changing colours in the sky. I realised I used to walk around in a cloud of my own thoughts, and each day blurred uncharacteristically into one. Now, every day really was a new day.
Oh, hey Haz.
Thoughts stopped having so much power over me
Having an imagination can be a great thing but our brains also make up plenty of un-useful sh*t. Like, “Everybody is looking at my new top and not saying anything because they hate it”, or “Everyone’s thinking how bad I am at public speaking right now”, and many of these thoughts aren’t even processed - you’re so in them that you’re convinced they must be true.
The most powerful thing I learnt from meditation was that thoughts aren’t facts. Yes, your thoughts may be telling you that everyone hates your top or that you’re doing an awful job at something, but they’re just thoughts and they actually don’t mean anything. And if you actually pay full attention to them and notice as they pass, you’ll remember that the only thing that’s real is you, standing there, probably in a really nice top and doing a stellar job.
While meditation isn’t necessarily for everyone, I’d recommend giving it a go. Meditating once (or better twice) per day is recommended and you have to be quite committed if you want to see results. I found that the more I did it, the better I got and the better I felt. So for me, it was worth it.
Click here to learn more about mindfulness from young person's mental health charity The Mix.
18 Inspiring Celebs Who've Spoken Out About Their Mental Health