Today’s big idea is that it’s easy to think of meditation as something boring you’re supposed to do to take care of yourself, kind of like flossing. When actually meditation is a pleasurable, decadent, and just ridiculously loving thing to do for yourself, and there are many benefits of meditation. It’s like a warm shower for your mind and a hug for your psyche.
Today, I want to do nothing less than re-brand meditation as an indulgence that bathes you in goodness. With benefits of meditation so profound that they ripple out to the people in your life whom you love the most. Because if you think about meditation as something dull you have to do, you’re not going to be very excited about giving it a try. But if you think, holy crap this is the most amazing thing, you’re going to get psyched to give it a go. Knowing why you’re doing something always helps you actually do it.
Listen to the Podcast Here
In this episode I’m going to walk you through benefits of meditation for three parts of your life:
And your relationships
Let’s look at your body, first
Meditation has reams of research to support that it improves the way your body functions. From reducing levels of stress hormones, lowering blood pressure and lowering resting heart rate. Meditation also reduces levels of inflammatory molecules in the body. And inflammation is at the root of so many conditions and diseases. It has been shown to improve symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and to lessen the experience of chronic pain.
And newer research shows that even a single practice can create lasting changes to the epigenome–the layer of information that sits on top of your strands of DNA and dictates which genes are turned on, and which are turned off. By meditating, you are literally re-programming your entire being to be healthier, all the way down to your DNA.
When you meditate, you actually change the size of different parts of your brain
Long-term meditators have been shown to have more gray matter in the region of the brain that handles emotional regulation. It has also been shown to be helpful in alleviating anxiety, depression, and even PTSD. I mean, how ‘bout that?! There is a 2020 review of hundreds of studies published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology that assessed the benefits of contemplative practices. And the researchers who conducted the review wrote that these practices,
“can be considered emotional and attentional regulatory activities, which, by inducing a state of greater inner silence, allow the development of increased self-awareness.”
This is science talking, people, not just mystics on a mountain top.
When you cultivate the ability to sit and just be with yourself, you help build some space around the never-ending stream of thoughts that so often are stressful
And that creates room for the inner sense of wellbeing that we all have. But that often gets drowned out by the daily noise of life, to come to the surface. When you meditate, it’s like you’re steeping in the sense of things being OK, and safe, and manageable. And you train your mind to be able to tap into that feeling even when you’re not meditating. Plus, turning down the volume on the inner and outer noise makes it easier for you to focus, and experience insights, and think creatively. It’s like you’re bringing the wisest, most creative, most patient part of your particular brain online.
And then all that ripples out to your relationships
Because you are less likely to over-react to, or fall into old patterns with, or take your crap out on the people you love. That space you create in your mind that I was just talking about, spills over into how you see other people and you can see them more as they are. And not how you THINK they are. Then you can meet them where you each are with clearer thinking and better emotional regulation, which changes your interactions with them, and how you make them feel.
And finally, when you are meditating, you are saying, I matter to me. Meditating is how I’ve been giving myself the alone time I’ve been craving like crazy during this pandemic–there’s nothing to do, nowhere to go, no one to respond to. It’s like a wormhole to solitude–not loneliness, or isolation, but a nourishing quiet that is like stepping in to a bath tub filled with sweet smelling water that is the perfect temperature.
Best of all, meditation is free. It’s you helping yourself. It’s always available to you; you don’t need a gatekeeper. It’s like a glorious drug that enhances performance, takes the edge off, and helps you enjoy life more except there are no negative side effects, it doesn’t cost anything, and you can never ever run out of it.
We’ll talk about how to meditate tomorrow
Literally, where to sit and what to do once you close your eyes. But because you don’t want to think about the how without first fully connecting to WHY you want to do something, your tiny assignment is to think about all the benefits of meditation that you’ve just heard, and pick one or two that are something that you want the most. Is it better relationships? The knowledge that you’re doing something good for your brain and your overall health? Or just a chance to sit still, be quiet? Or something else?
Whatever it is–and there is no right answer here–jot it down somewhere. In your journal, in the notes on your phone, on a sticky note. Because the act of writing something in your own handwriting helps make a lasting impression on your brain. Staying connected to your meditation motivation will help you actually do it. And not listen to the voice that tries to talk you out of it. Because you WILL try to talk yourself out of it, which is something we’re going to talk more about in Friday’s episode. Tomorrow, it’s all about what to do. So come on back.