“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”
― Marcus Aurelius
“He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still.”
― Lao Tzu
“The intelligent desire self-control; children want candy.”
Why You Should Meditate
Meditate, they say!
Everyone’s doing it.
It’s good for you.
Meditation and mindfulness have become very popular in recent years, but it’s not just a passing fad. It’s now touted in social media, magazines, self-help books, and even a new Netflix series.
But what I don’t hear much is WHY!
What’s the purpose of meditating? Why should you take time out of your already-busy schedule to do . . . nothing?
I asked a friend why he meditates, and he told me he does it to check in and see what his body is trying to tell him.
I said, “That’s pretty abstract. How do you explain it to a co-worker or your neighbor when you chat over the hedge?”
He just shrugged.
I said, “So you don’t care if your friends meditate?”
“No. I just do it. I don’t proselytize.”
I said, “Oh, but I am evangelical about it because it yields so many benefits. I want my clients to do it because, regardless of why they’re seeing me, a regular meditation practice is going to help them.”
And that’s why I decided to outline some benefits of meditation here instead of saying, “just do it” (sorry, Nike).
The only description I’ll include of what meditation is will be this sentence: mindful meditation starts for most people as a set period of time of directed focus while continually pushing thoughts out of the mind (oh, and people like to do it with eyes closed, but it’s not necessary).
Here are three core reasons you should meditate. And why you should do it consistently.
Reason 1: To get a break
It’s to relax the mind
Our minds are always churning.
You cannot not think. But I just said meditation is emptying your mind of thoughts, right? Not exactly. Thoughts will keep occurring. I said only to push each thought away as it occurs. If you try not to think at all, you’ll feel like a failure at meditation before you get a minute in.
Our brains are busy—even while we sleep. Some sleep states have our brains working harder than when we’re awake.
We meditate to give our minds much-needed rest. Our minds need rejuvenation just like our bodies do.
Without a break, our brains can get fuzzy. Our thinking develops glitches. Your mind may even decide to take a break and leave you hanging if you don’t actively choose when and how to reset it.
And it’s to relax the body
Whenever I do a brief introduction to “a breathing exercise” (some clients get uncomfortable when I call it meditation), the first observation I most commonly hear is, “I feel relaxed.” Even when I don’t mention relaxation, my clients experience a calming of their muscles.
Just by focusing on their breath, most who follow my five-minute guided experiment are left with a refreshing sense of calm.
When the body is managed and cared for, the emotions become more compliant.
Reason 2: To manage emotion
Anxiety is why most people turn to meditation.
When you’re on edge
Some call it stress. Others say worry, uneasiness, or fear.
Whatever you call it, it’s the natural fight or flight response that stiffens the muscles and produces adrenaline, an uneasy stomach, and sometimes jumpiness.
Those are some physical traits of anxiety.
Emotional responses may include a sustained sense of dread, worry, jumping to negative conclusions, and sometimes mild levels of paranoia.
The relaxing effects of meditation address all of these fear-based reactions.
What if you’re in a funk?
Meditation directly addresses sadness, grief, melancholy, and full-on depression, too.
You won’t magically feel happy (that would be weird, anyway!). But with my observational approach to mindfulness, you’ll learn how to look at your moods in context and draw something helpful from them.
This will make more sense when you’ve developed some meditation skills, but everything is experience. And everything good comes from some form of experience.
When you see red
Frustration and anger (even rage) can interfere with primary relationships, general social interactions, family ties, and even work relationships.
And yes, even anger can be effectively handled by meditation when practiced on a consistent basis.
How you feel about yourself
Have you been told your self-esteem could use a boost?
Meditation can also be applied to how you see yourself. Call it self-denial, low sense of self-worth, passivity, or even self-loathing, but regular meditation has a good track record for improving how we regard ourselves.
Reason 3: To practice
If meditation skills are important to manage your emotions (reason to meditate #2), then reason number 3 is even more important. Reason 3 ensures we can implement Reason 2.
The more you practice mindful meditation, the better you get at it.
The more developed your meditation skills are, the more readily you can relax and address your emotions and how they affect you. You won’t have to medicate your feelings or escape from them.
With strong meditation skills, you’ll discover ways to manage your feelings and make them work for you (and not against you).
When you can manage your emotions better, you’ll feel more in control of your life.
Does a meditation practice seem more like a good idea now?
I’ve given you three solid reasons to meditate: to catch a break both physically and emotionally, to get your emotions to serve you instead of control you, and to hone your meditation skills for when you most need them.
If you’d like to try an introductory taste of guided meditation, go to my Insight Timer page. There you can try my brief Exploratory Meditations. Most people who spend the 5 to 7 minutes with these introductory guided meditations find something that motivates them to try more.
Give it a try and discover how you can realize these three benefits of meditation. You’ll likely stay on board to discover more reasons that so many people meditate.