Is Meditation Really That Great?

Yes, it is.

When someone says they meditate you feel like they are just telling you they are a got-their-shiz-together kind of person. 

Or at least that was my interpretation before I started trying to make it a daily practice of my own. Now, I understand that it is actually for people who feel messy but want to get their lives together.

The practice of meditation is prehistoric. It’s been around forever. It is often associated with religion and spirituality because the first anyone heard of it was from Hindu traditions. Now the whole world uses its practice - world leaders, successful business owners, doctors, creatives, religions, and it’s used in rehabs and therapy.

Meditation came into my life not by choice. I started going to hot yoga everyday. As you know, meditation is a massive part of yoga practice. You train yourself to focus on your breath and the instructor usually takes you through a guided meditation before, during, or after the class.  I was HOOKED. I started going to a yoga class everyday for the good workout it was, but also for that 90 minutes of cleaning out my mind. After I finished class, I felt light. I felt energized. I felt alive! Once I experienced it, I fell in love with the challenge and the benefits of it.

Studies have proven that Meditation can: 

  • reduce stress

  • lengthen your attention span

  • generate compassion

  • calm anxiety

  • improve memory

  • enhance awareness (make you more present)It takes practice to get into a meditative mindset.

  • boost mood (when you meditate you can start to physically feel the effects of gratitude, it releases feel-good chemicals in your brain therefore making you feel happier!)

It’s not easy, ESPECIALLY nowadays. Our generation supposedly has a shorter attention span than a goldfish. Once you start to sit still and try to focus… you instinctly want to start thinking of to-do lists or what’s “next”. That’s the best part of the mediation process - training yourself to allow those thoughts to float in one ear and right out the other. 

I heard this technique in a yoga class once and it’s stuck with me ever since. When I’m trying to focus on releasing the chatter in my mind and focus on the present moment, I think of a my mind as a merry-go-round of sorts, all my thoughts fall into it and start to twirl around together. Then suddenly they twirl faster and faster until they are flushed down and out of my mind like flushing a toilet. Sounds strange but it is what works best to get rid of all the random thoughts blocking any that i’ve collected throughout my day. Then whenever a new thought enters my head, I literally picture it floating in one ear, I acknowledge the thought, then I let it go, and it floats out the other.  

I believe mediation is different for everyone. For me, I like to think of mediation as training my focus and expanding my compassion. It helped get me though my disordered eating habits. Some define it as simply thinking very deeply. There is really no correct definition, which gives everyone the freedom of interpretation and experimentation. 

I try to meditate for at LEAST 10 minutes every morning, I can try for longer but it doesn’t always happen. In school, I learned that it’s better to meditate everyday for 1-2 minutes than it is to meditate once a week for 30 minutes. So, for me, I just try and get in as much time as I can at least once a day. When I wake up I am in a calm and almost subconscious state, so meditating is easier than when I try to do it around 6pm because by then my mind is buzzing with ideas and tasks. (but honestly that is probably when it would benefit me the most)

It can be a really blissful experience if you can get to that state of mind when you feel like you are dreaming while you are awake. The most challenging, therefore important part of meditation is the moment right after you get distracted, right when you get back to focusing on your breath, right when you allow yourself to let go of any obstacles or wondering thoughts. It’s vital to exercise your brain in this way, it heightens your awareness and you learn tools for self-regulation and focus.

I also like to do mental scans of my body while meditating. I start with my toes and work my way up, I try to notice any tense areas or areas that need a little extra care. It enhances your body to mind connection which is also extremely vital for your physical health! If you have a better mind-body connection you will be more aware of what it needs to flourish and thrive. Your intuition will turn on in wonderful ways! 

Whatever your religion may be - it is important to put time and effort into it. Studies have shown that you are more likely to live longer and live an overall healthier lifestyle if you practice a religion. It gives you a sense of greater purpose, it helps you connect and meet others, it gives you a chance to get outside of yourself and serve others. Even if nature is your religion, I firmly believe it’s important to search for that deeper meaning in your life. You will find a comfort in trials that you wouldn’t otherwise feel, and you feel motivated.

Meditation can enhance that sense of reverence and purpose. If you pray morning and night - or at all- try to ask for things you are yearning to understand or things you want to welcome into your life and then just be still and listen. Find a quiet place to clear your mind and let your intuition and the “universe” answer you. When you ask God a question, give him a chance to answer. Give Him your undivided attention. If you don’t believe in God, let whatever you believe in speak to you in reverence, so you can really take it in in it’s fullness. I like to start my prayers out by listing at least 10 things I am grateful that He gave me. It can be anything from my family, a bed to sleep on, access to the internet, my curiosity… Starting your day like this is life-changing. Gratitude inspires me. After I pray about what I’m grateful for, it makes my meditation that much more meaningful. I can physically and mentally FEEL a shift. I feel light entering my body, I can seriously feel energy and love entering my body.

It changes your mindset for the rest of the day.

If you are new to meditating, try listening to a youtube video like this one to get you into it. It’s only five minutes long!

A lot of meditation has to do with your breath, bringing awareness to your breathing. For example, if you do this breathing technique 3 times… well, ok how about you just try it real fast then you’ll know. I want you to try it right now and notice how your mood instantly shifts.

Breathe in with your whole belly, through your nose for 1, 2, 3, 4… HOLD IT AT THE TOP for 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… now SLOWLY let it all out through your mouth for 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

Repeat that two more times. 

I use this quick fix when I am upset at someone or frustrated ( *cough* Nick…*cough*) and need to remember my patience, or when I get overwhelmed by a busy day.

Meditation can also help you sleep! It can improve the quality and quantity of it. If you have trouble sleeping, guided mediation is a great place to start. This one on Spotify is my go-to. I fall asleep within the first couple minutes of it now.

Fun Fact: It’s good to listen to the same meditation/voice every night or every time you meditate because your mind starts to develop muscle memory for it. It will start taking a shorter amount of time to get you to that truly meditative state! It’s like you hear the voice and your mind goes, “well thats my cue, time for sleep!"

No joke, when Nick and I first got married he had a hard time falling asleep so I would basically hypnotize him. I would take him through a mediation that put his body and mind at rest then he would be out like a light. 

If you are a stress case, you get over emotional, maybe you have a short fuse, or maybe you’re just feeling uninspired… I highly suggest trying to incorporate meditation into your daily routine. You will NEVER regret it. Even if this means getting to a yoga class or listening to one before bed… give it an honest chance and try to see where your mind can take you.

chelsey gustafsonComment