There’s a new series on Netflix you want to catch but you remember that you have that important presentation meeting tomorrow and have to meet up with your boyfriend’s parents for dinner in the evening. You’ve been working super-duper hard this week and just need a little R&R for once so maybe one episode wouldn’t hurt. You flip on the tube and fired up some popcorn and plop yourself on that comfy couch with your legs cradled by that plushy ottoman leg rest. The first episode finished and turned out amazing but now, you simply lost all momentum to get up, so you fly through another episode. Before you know it, it was time for bed. Then the next morning, you awaken in a somber mood wondering where did all the time go? Too late for that, you got to get ready for work or you’ll be late, White Rabbit.
Our minds are prone to this type of future anxiety so we seek to relieve it often times through alcohol, procrastination, or worse of all, complete avoidance. Okay, maybe that last one is not the worse but we both know the problem doesn’t go away by itself. Our mind goes through ups and downs swings of anxiety, pain, or depression but we wonder why it can’t just be a constant stream of happy all the time, or at least most of the time. There’s many things that affect our moods like diet, relationships, and events but we all long for that steady vibe. The bad news is you got a monkey in your brain who loves to be distracted, play around, and get into all types of mischief. However, the good news is that you can turn this primal Donkey Kong into a sweet little Curious George. It’s going to take some work and little George will still get into trouble because of his playful curiosity. At the end of the day, but most people would choose to work with the latter primate.
Enter the iron mind, where you are in active observation of your emotions and can make a conscious decision about how you feel. There’s no guarantee if you have serious road rage or a serious mental illness though. For everyone else, learning to become a regular meditator can do wonders for your life. Hold on here though, let’s not get into this hocus-pocus voodoo perception. We’re talking about taking time out of your day to observe your thoughts in peace and just focusing on your breathing. Yes, that kind of normal attentive flow you feel perhaps when you are having a nice yoga session and you let your mind become fully in-tune with your pose or soaking in all the good feels of a pristine nature walk out on the country trail.
Let’s face it, meditation is not nothing new under the sun as it has been around for thousands of years. It’s been rehashed, replayed, redone so many times but people always needs a good reminder. When science steps in, clear benefits become even more apparent. In one research, John Hopkins results suggests that 30 minutes of meditation daily may improve symptoms of anxiety and depression and provide as much relief as antidepressants given the patient doesn’t have full-blown anxiety and depression. Wait…what? You mean I can just sit there for free and feel better? Yup, the most incredible thing is that meditation does not bring harm or side effects. It’s as natural as you can get and lets your body naturally organize itself. It’s like upgrading your brain’s operating system into version 2.0. Yup, your mind and body are pretty amazing if you just let it do the work. Forget the drugs, expensive vacations, and booze. That’s why most people love yoga retreats or meditation retreats. It revitalizes the mind and body to deal with the stresses of everyday life back at home. Stretching out those knots and syncing your breath helps you let go of all that pain and tension you’ve been hanging on to with all those years working on wall street.
The meditation form in the research was mindfulness meditation which is a Buddhist form, where the user focuses on non-judgmental attention to the current present and relaxation of the body and mind. By studying 47 other clinical trials with 3,515 participants, there was moderate evidence after participants passed the typical 8 week mindfulness meditation training program. These participants had various ailments including depression, anxiety, stress, insomnia, substance use, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and chronic pain. Wow, look at all those problems that are helped by meditation.
The problem with people who don’t meditate is that they associate their thoughts with their physical body and mental body. However, your thoughts are NOT you. Even with a control group in a Harvard article who were taught general stress management techniques with similar amounts of time, attention, and group interaction still did not have as big of an outcome compared with the mindfulness-based meditation group on anxiety symptoms of generalized anxiety disorders. By raising self-awareness, a meditation user can recognize that thoughts are just that, a thought. Thoughts are not the same as someone pinching you or forcibly putting you on stage to speak in front of a crowd. Your thoughts are separate from how you perceive them to be. The same situation about doing a presentation can be terrifying for some and invigorating for others simply through a matter of perception. One develops anxiety because one created that from the thought of having to do the presentation.
So let’s give meditation a try? Sit on a chair and breathe if you want, pull out a yoga mat or pull up to a yoga retreat, part the wild horse’s mane a couple times, repeat a couple of the hug a tree form, or just go for a plain good-ol walk. Just be mindful of the present moment and prepare for a day of relative easiness coming your way. You’ve been warned! We’ll leave you with a nice mantra to follow which came from a very famous monk. It goes like this: “Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is a wonderful moment.” Right now is a wonderful moment indeed.