About 2 weeks ago, I decided that I wanted to establish a new good habit: daily meditation. There are so many studies and news reports that have lauded meditation’s benefits on our minds and bodies (a good primer is here from Huffington Post) that I’ve been interested in trying it out.
It was relatively easy to start trying. I downloaded the guided meditation app Calm and tried out the 10 minute session each night.
For the first few days, I would almost always forget to do it until my google calendar reminder popped up. While I had played with the 10 minute guided app before, doing it daily initially struck me as so tedious. Some days, I did not last 10 minutes and my eyes would fly open around the 8 minute mark. How do some people meditate for hours on end?!
1. The benefits were immediate.
Starting from the first day, my post-10-minute-meditation self felt calmer, less stressed, and more…zen? about the world.
2. It was an easy habit to establish.
This was a surprisingly easy habit to establish after all. After the end of the first week, I no longer had to remind myself to meditate and with each session, the 10 minutes became a more solid, more calming experience. Part of the reason why it was easy to establish was, I had linked it to my general “shut down” nighttime routine. Leo over at Zenhabits explains this pretty clearly here: make sure you have a “trigger” that helps you to anticipate the new habit.
Last weekend was an interesting test. I had taken a small weekend trip to visit family and my schedule was disrupted. I found myself craving the 10 minutes of meditation at night to re-center myself! So at the end of roughly 2 weeks, meditation is now a necessary part of my night.
3. I got more out of it than anticipated!
Meditation turned out to be much more than just “de-stressing.” While staying mindful of my body and mind in the moment, I began to observe and learn about my own patterns of thinking. When random thoughts flit across your mind (which happens to everyone), you are advised to observe the thoughts instead of just falling into them. Doing this, I noticed that I had a weird habit of envisioning weird, stressful encounters and imagining how I’d react to them…for no reason. I caught myself, stopped myself, and the thoughts would simply pass.
My old psych once explained that depression and anxiety are often emotional reactions to our thoughts running wild. We tend to confuse the relationship and assume that we are thinking “bad” things because we already feel so awful. Rather, our minds are flitting by at a million flashes per second. Most of the time, our brain can’t fully remember or process all of the different things that cross our minds in each moment. However, this negativity does manifest in our moods. Part of the therapy session was to stay mindful of these patterns of thought — to catch ourselves “thinking” ourselves into depression.
I think meditation is a really wonderful exercise in this regard.