In September, I started something new: meditation. In fact, here at the Happynesshub HQ, we’ve all been into our meditation recently. Sally has started a new meditation class – every Tuesday morning she reports back on the delight of her Monday evening group. Ruth has been reading up on mindful birthing practices (breathe in for four counts and out for six). And I have started my own meditation practice.
Now, my new habit is not my first time trying meditation. In the past I, like a lot of people I’m sure, downloaded Headspace and did the first 10-day free trial (of which I believe I got up to about Day 8). It was alright… I felt like I wasn’t very good at it, and then I just stopped doing it.
Then, in India I did a yoga retreat where we had both meditation and breathing classes each day. And again, they were okay…(I struggled with the breathing class because it was just before breakfast and I was usually hungry!).
After this, I more or less decided that meditation just wasn’t for me….
However, through my research here at the Happynesshub, I am constantly reading about how much of a positive impact meditation has on the mind.
Mindfulness meditations literally have the power to change your brain! It has been found that meditation increases the grey matter in your brain in the right orbito-frontal cortex and in the right hippocampus, both of which are associated with emotional regulation and response control. Therefore, meditation has the power to help your emotional stability.
Another study has shown that an 8-week mindfulness programme resulted in increases in left-side anterior activation in the brain… this is a pattern associated with positive affect. So more mindfulness means more positive emotion.
And it doesn’t stop there. There are studies associating meditation with greater physical health, a decrease in depression and anxiety, an increase in social connection and compassion, and improved memory… the list goes on and on!
Reading all this makes meditation seriously appealing. And this, combined with Sally’s insistence that meditation has an amazingly positive impact on how she feels, made me decide to really commit to getting into the practice.
So, since the beginning of September, I have been trying to meditate every day. I’ve built it into my routine (something I think is really important if you want to commit) and it is the last thing I do in the evening before I get into bed. I use the Calm app (which I like because you can select the background sounds and it has a nice range of courses and individual meditations as well as ‘sleep stories’ if you are struggling to sleep). And, for the first time, I’m starting to appreciate it.
Meditation hasn’t changed my life; nor has it drastically changed my perspective or overall mood… yet (I remain firmly hopeful)! However, there is something in the fact that, every evening, I give myself a chance to observe how my mind and body feel, whether my mind is still, whether it is busy, and how this can alter moment to moment. It is a 15 to 20 minute window in my day where I can focus purely on myself and my own sense of being.
So Hubbers, if you are at all interested, I encourage you not to give up with meditation. I think we can place a high expectation on ourselves that we should feel revived and different after meditating. But try being non-judgemental – for me, for now, it is a chance to check in – to look inward and to really understand where my mind and body are at. Change cannot happen immediately. It is like going to the gym… you aren’t going to get results after one workout. However, as you build up a routine and keep working, you get stronger. It is the same with your mind.
So keep practicing! And, in a month or two, I’ll update you on how I’m getting on as well.