4 Ways Meditation Can Change Your Life
I used to be that girl that thought meditation was only for 'hippie-types' or the yogi's who were seemingly more connected to nature than I ever was.
But that was before my 'life of extremes' by way of inner and outer stresses to my body, mind and soul, came crashing down around me. This 'breakdown' left me no choice but to seek restorative, healing activities and re-connect to my inner-self so that I could learn to stop hating my outer.
I knew I needed something that could help me reduce anxiety and stress as well as increase my self awareness and acceptance. I had many things in mind but needed to start somewhere.
One of the first things I implemented?
I didn't know how or where to start so I simply took my yoga mat outside during my favorite time of day (morning) and sat in the quiet stillness of the coming day. I sat for 2 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes - whatever I had for the day.
At first, it was simply just quiet time for me to just relax. It felt nice, but I wasn't really feeling that I was doing much by way of actually meditating. That's when I started using guided meditation podcasts (there are so many great ones!) These helped me really direct focus on things I needed to pour focus in to like: my negative body image, hormonal imbalances and stress.
There were 4 key areas in my life that completely changed and I believe can change for everyone:
1.) Signifigantly Reduced Stress:
This one changed the game for me in my work and personal life. Stress causes a multitude of issues - mostly to our endocrine (hormone) system which can wreak havoc on almost every aspect in life. Stress can also make us not such nice people to be around.
Meditation has been shown in medical journals and studies to ease psychological stress like anxiety and even depression. Researchers point to stress giving our minds 'too much power' and when we can take the focus off of that power and let our minds rest, we let go of the negative thoughts, emotions and stressors that plague our minds and find ourselves more 'resistant' to stress. My stress in particular was always focused on my body. When I took that power away - I felt freedom. I felt powerful. I felt like I could do so much more with my life.
At work, when you begin to feel your stress levels rise, your heart rate increase and the all-encompassing feeling of 'overwhelm', try this: remove yourself from your normal office location (if possible), close your eyes and bring your focus to your breathing. As you breathe in think 'I calm the mind and soul' and as you breathe out think 'I let go.' Try this for at least 10 deep breaths. Even just taking yourself to a quiet room, an outdoor bench, your car and focusing a few moments on your breath can truly help.
At home, go to the place you feel most connected with yourself. For me, this is outdoors surrounded by nature. I love to bring my yoga mat to my deck and do my own meditation or a guided podcast. I come back to my normal tasks of everyday life feeling refreshed, fulfilled and lighter.
Bringing awareness to your self sounds hokey - but awareness can be truly life-changing in and of itself by learning to connect with your true self. We spend everyday trying to achieve A by doing B or getting to C by executing D. We are always connected, always distracted and always on the move. But rarely are we connecting to what WE really want and who WE really are. Through self-awareness, we can truly grow in our personal and professional lives.
In fact, it was self-awareness that finally helped me on the path to let go of my negative body-image that plagued me for years. It was during a meditation session that I connected so deeply to my true self and my true desires that I knew I had to let go of the negative-body-image thoughts and saw my mission clearly. But I had to cut through all the 'chatter' and noise of our daily lives in order to do so.
If you aren't sure where to start, I highly recommend a guided meditation app (as mentioned before.) and will put my favorites at the end of this post.
3) Improved Sleep As we all know, I am a huge sleep advocate. You can read more about all of the benefits of sleep to your overall health, wellbeing, productivity, positive mindset and even career performance here in my favorite sleep post.
As I discuss in the sleep post, inability to sleep is often due to stress. This stress leads to a domino effect that targets your adrenal cortex: responsible for regulating your metabolism (cortisol) and helping your body respond to stress (adrenaline and cortisol) as well as other hormones that help control your hunger, satiation, blood pressure, immune system and even libido.
The best thing you can do for your body is ensure you are getting enough sleep (7-9 hours are recommended for adults). Meditation has been shown to greatly improve sleep and even increase melatonin - a hormone that controls your sleep and wake cycles. Some of my best tips are to meditate before bed to get your mind and body in to a relaxing state. Sit or lie on your bed and take deep breaths. Focus on letting go of any and all thoughts and even practice a mantra like [breathe in] 'I bring peace to my mind, body and soul' [breathe out] 'I sleep', or whatever works for you!
4) Hormone Balance
As mentioned before, stress causes hormonal imbalances. 90% of us live in a stressed state and are so ingrained in this way of life, we don't know how bad we feel......until we feel good.
Meditation can greatly decrease abnormally high cortisol and adrenaline levels caused from stress - as well as decrease heart rate and blood pressure. Lowering these 'fight or flight' hormones helps to re-balance your sex hormones and also releases the 'happy' hormones serotonin and oxytocin by putting your body and mind in a more peaceful state. Meditation increases dopamine and helps us to improve our focus and concentration as well as be at peak performance in our activities and work.
If you weren't convinced before - you should be now! And even if you are still a skeptic - you can give it a try with little to no investment (and be able to feel the calming benefits immediately.)
Here are some of my favorite guided meditation and sleep-inducing podcast apps to try: