I have known about the incredible benefits of meditation for a very long time (see below for some of the benefits of meditation). My mom has been a regular meditator since I was in my 20s and she has always sworn it makes you more calm and happy.
When I was ready to start really paying attention to my health I was already in my late 30s. Meditation was not really on my radar because I was more focused on figuring out to nourish my body food-wise.
However, over the past 8 years or so, I have become more and more clear on the deep value of meditation.
Meditation is a very, very powerful way to improve your health.
One of the most profound benefits I’ve seen from meditation is its ability to “take the edge off”. If you are stressed, tired, irritable, anxious, worried, or overwhelmed, meditation can seriously make things better.
So I’ve been recommending practicing meditation to my patients and clients for about as long.
However, for myself, I have always struggled.
It’s not for a lack of interest or appreciation for how effective meditation is for optimizing your health.
Rather I believe it has been because I think I’m really bad at meditation.
I sit, close my eyes, and I try and try to clear my mind. But my mind still races like crazy. I have tried all kinds of cool techniques and sometimes they actually do work but more often I feel unsuccessful.
I love the imagery stuff. One particular activity that has helped me focus is to imagine love and energy pouring out of the major chakra areas in my body (don’t ask how I even know what or where a chakra is).
Chakras are concentrated areas throughout the body that have spiritual power. Or something like that. I’m sorry, I don’t claim to be an expert in Chakras but I’m sure they exist because I can feel them.
Every time I concentrate on imagining energy flowing in and out of the Chakras I feel something really powerful. I’ll leave it at that because I don’t really understand it.
Anyway, even though I have this Chakra thing going on, I otherwise, have been pretty “bad” at meditating.
My mind always wanders.
So, I decided to give up meditating by myself and find outside help.
This led me to a great little book called “10% Happier” by Dan Harris.
This book is not only a fun and entertaining read, it also completely changed my view on meditation.
So, I started using the app and leaving it to an expert to guide me through my meditations. It’s awesome by the way!
Yes, to some it may seem like a cop-out but I have found that most of my clients are happy and probably are secretly relieved when I tell them they can use an app.
I have found the apps to be so helpful I find myself meditating WAY more frequently than I used to. And for me this is progress.
What I have learned is that really there is no such thing as “bad” meditating. Just like what I teach my clients in their health journeys, it’s not about the end-goal, it’s about the process.
Same goes for meditation.
It’s the act of noticing your mind is wandering and then making some kind of effort to be present and focus on one thing like the breath that makes it meditation.
No one gets a gold star for being better at meditation than someone else.
And there is some evidence that it is the act of bringing your mind back and the ongoing practice of this act that will increase willpower(1). For those of us that are striving to be our best selves and need willpower sometimes, this is a huge bonus!
And we get a few precious seconds (if we’re lucky) of being fully present in the moment. And that, my friends, as far as I’m concerned, is the true meaning of happiness.
So, I’m not going to try to be a good meditator or a bad one. I’m just going to turn on the app and not feel guilty or somehow insufficient because I need the app.
Maybe someday I’ll be able to meditate on my own but for now I’m going to take whatever moments of being in the moment that I can!!
Science-backed benefits of a regular meditation practice
Overall improved health (3,4)
Improved cardiovascular health (5,6)
Reduced stress, anxiety, and depression (7, 8)
Reduced binge eating (9)
Weight loss benefits (10)
Improved sleep quality (11)
Friese, Malte, Messner, Claude, Schaffner, Yves. Mindfulness meditation counteracts self-control depletion. Consciousness and Cognition, Volume 21, Issue 2. June 2012, Pages 1016-1022. www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1053810012000104
Monk-Turner, Elizabeth. The benefits of meditation: experimental findings. The Social Science Journal, Volume 40, Issue 3, 2003, Pages 465-470. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0362331903000430
Galante, J., Galante, I., Bekkers, M.-J., & Gallacher, J. (2014). Effect of kindness-based meditation on health and well-being: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 82(6), 1101-1114. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2014-26574-001
Cardoso, Roberto, de Souza, Eduardo, Camano, Liu. Meditation in health: an operational definition. Brain Res Proto, 2004 Nov;14(1):58-60. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15519952
Robert H. Schneider, Clarence E. Grim, Maxwell V. Rainforth, Theodore Kotchen, Sanford I. Nidich, Carolyn Gaylord-King, Jown W. Salerno, Jane Morley Kotchen, Charles N. Alexander. Stress Reduction in the Secondary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease
Randomized, Controlled Trial of Transcendental Meditation and Health Education in Blacks. Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes. 2012;5:750–758. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/CIRCOUTCOMES.112.967406
Maura Paul-Labrador, Donna Polk, James H. Dwyer, Ilvan Velasquez, Sanford Nidich, Maxwell Rainforth, Robert Schneider, Noel Bairey Merz. Effects of a Randomized Controlled Trial of Transcendental Meditation on Components of the Metabolic Syndrome in Subjects With Coronary Heart Disease. Arch Intern Med. 2006;166(11):1218-1224. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/410453
Kang YS, Choi SY, Ryu, E. The effectiveness of a stress coping program based on mindfulness meditation on the stress, anxiety, and depression experienced by nursing students in Korea. Nurse Educ Today, 2009 Jul;29(5):538-43. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19141364
Teresa M Edenfield and Sy Atezaz Saeed. An update on mindfulness meditation as a self-help treatment for anxiety and depression. Psychol Res Behav Manag. 2012; 5: 131–141. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3500142/
Katterman SN, Kleinman BM, Hood MM, Nackers LM, Corsica, JA. Mindfulness meditation as an intervention for binge eating, emotional eating, and weight loss: a systematic review. Eat Behav. 2014 Apr;15(2):197-204. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24854804
K Carriere, Khoury B, Gunak, MM, B Knauper. Mindfulness‐based interventions for weight loss: a systematic review and meta‐analysis. Obesity Treatment, 27 October 2017. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/obr.12623
Ravindra P Nagendra, Nirmala Maruthal, Bindu M Kutty. Front. Meditation and its regulatory role on sleep. Neurol., 18 April 2012. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fneur.2012.00054/full