Updated: Feb 1
Meditation is a great way to make your mind and your life more peaceful. This is an ancient tradition that is found in many world religions and has also been validated through science as a great way to enrich your life.
According to Very Well Mind, "Research has shown that those who practice meditation regularly begin to experience changes in their response to stress that allow them to recover from stressful situations more easily and experience less stress from the challenges they face in their everyday lives."
There are many other mental and physical health benefits to meditating for even a few minutes a day. You can get started easily, using meditation videos on YouTube, or meditation music on some of your favorite music apps.
I have meditated on and off for years, in many different styles. I find that it makes me calmer, centered, and more peaceful in my daily life. One of the main things I have learned from meditation is that, "You are not your thoughts, you are the watcher of your thoughts." Remembering this idea as I go through daily life is so helpful, especially when I start to think negatively.
When I was in college, I used to go to meditation classes at a Buddhist temple. They had free weekly, beginner meditation classes, and taught us in detail how to meditate. While I did learn at a Buddhist temple, meditation is not a religious practice. Meditation is about connecting with yourself, and learning to calm your mind and body. When you meditate regularly, it can help you feel more relaxed and peaceful in daily life.
A few weeks ago, I started meditating again after several years of substituting yoga for meditation. While yoga is a great way to calm your mind, and improve your fitness, meditation has additional benefits.
Meditation and Stress.
We all experience stress in many forms throughout our daily lives. However the effects of chronic stress over time can be very damaging to both our mental and physical health. If we allow stress to overtake us for too long, it can lead to burnout, depression, anxiety, heart problems, and a host of other issues.
"The Centre for Studies on Human Stress defines chronic stress as "…stress resulting from repeated exposure to situations that lead to the release of stress hormones." They caution that "This type of stress can cause wear and tear on your mind and body. Many scientists think that our stress response system was not designed to be constantly activated. This overuse may contribute to the breakdown of many bodily systems." (BetterHelp)
Some of the effects of chronic stress on your body, according to BetterHelp can include:
High blood pressure
Elevated heart rate
Getting sick often due to suppression of the immune system
Low sex drive
Irregular menstrual periods
A decrease in muscle tone
Meditation is a great way to reduce stress in your life, because it helps you to calm your mind and lower your stress response. Meditation is one of many good health behaviors you can use to reduce chronic stress over time in your own life.
This can include stress from work, your finances, relationships, kids, or anything else that is making you constantly feel like you are under stress.
According to Very Well Mind, "Meditation affects the body in exactly the opposite ways that stress does—by triggering the body's relaxation response. It restores the body to a calm state, helping the body repair itself and preventing new damage from the physical effects of stress. It can calm your mind and body by quieting the stress-induced thoughts that keep your body's stress response triggered."
Since I have recently started to meditate again, I find myself less triggered by daily events that seem like a nuisance. Instead of becoming upset and stuck in negative emotions about problems with kids or work, I skip blaming and getting upset, instead going right to problem solving.
When you have kids, there are tons of things on a daily basis that can be stressful. My toddler resists her bedtime. My teens leave a bunch of take out containers smelling up the refrigerator. My partner gets irritated with what the kids are doing. Small things, but when you have these situations being hurled at you all day long and have the family relying on you to fix not only their problems, but their emotions about the problems, it can become very taxing and stressful for everyone.
Meditation helps me find a calmer mind, so that it takes longer for me to get stressed out about day to day things that happen. It is then easier for me to deal with life's problems without having to deal with my own upset feelings in addition.
In therapy, I have learned to look at stress as a continuum. My therapist has me rate my stress level on a scale from 1-10, where 1 is no stress, and 10 is so overwhelming it is going to cause a panic attack.
When we are carrying around a load of stressors all the time, our baseline level of stress, or the way we feel all the time, is higher. If I am under a lot of stress all the time, my baseline might be around a 7 or 8, without anything needing to "happen" to be causing that stress level. But when I meditate, it can lower that baseline level of stress, so that I can more easily handle my stress, without it leading to a panic attack.
Most people don't have panic attacks, but you may instead have an unwanted outburst and end up yelling at your kids or your partner more easily over situations that come up throughout the day. Meditation can calm your nervous system, and help you stop being that yelling mom.
Other Benefits of Meditation.
In addition to reducing stress, there are many other benefits to your physical and mental health. These in turn can benefit your relationship with your kids and your partner, and help you to be more calm and healthy in your day to day life.
According to healthline, some of the other benefits of meditation are that it:
Promotes Emotional Health
Lengthens Attention Span
May reduce age-related memory loss
Can generate kindness
May help fight addictions
Helps control pain
Can decrease blood pressure
All of these benefits can help you be a happier, more focused and calm mom. I find myself being more patient as I practice meditation, and things upset me less often with my kids. So, meditation makes me a better mom. When we are happier and healthier, our kids can be happier and healthier too.
How to Meditate.
There are many different types of meditation, which can be found through Buddhist or secular teachings. You can go to a meditation class, or you can meditate anywhere. All you have to do is close your eyes and focus inward on your breath.
It can help to create a calm and relaxing space before you meditate. You can set aside a certain space in your house and light candles, or find a quiet place outdoors. Anything that helps you to feel calm is great.
Typically, I will listen to a meditation tape right before I go to bed, so that I can feel peaceful and relaxed for sleep, but you can also start your day with meditation. Or, if you want, you can meditate any time throughout the day that you are feeling stressed. You can take a break at your desk, or go for a walking meditation outside.
Here are some tips on getting started with meditation, step by step, from Mindful.
Meditation is simpler (and harder) than most people think. Read these steps, make sure you’re somewhere where you can relax into this process, set a timer, and give it a shot:
1) Take a seat Find place to sit that feels calm and quiet to you.
2) Set a time limit If you’re just beginning, it can help to choose a short time, such as five or 10 minutes.
3) Notice your body You can sit in a chair with your feet on the floor, you can sit loosely cross-legged, you can kneel—all are fine. Just make sure you are stable and in a position you can stay in for a while.
4) Feel your breath Follow the sensation of your breath as it goes in and as it goes out.
5) Notice when your mind has wandered Inevitably, your attention will leave the breath and wander to other places. When you get around to noticing that your mind has wandered—in a few seconds, a minute, five minutes—simply return your attention to the breath.
6) Be kind to your wandering mind Don’t judge yourself or obsess over the content of the thoughts you find yourself lost in. Just come back.
7) Close with kindness When you’re ready, gently lift your gaze (if your eyes are closed, open them). Take a moment and notice any sounds in the environment. Notice how your body feels right now. Notice your thoughts and emotions.
That’s it! That’s the practice. You focus your attention, your mind wanders, you bring it back, and you try to do it as kindly as possible (as many times as you need to)."
You can play meditation music in the background, chant "Om" to yourself, or choose to sit quietly. If you would like an example of how to meditate, there are some great guided meditations on YouTube.
The purpose of meditation is to find calm and peace, and it can greatly enrich your life if you add it to your daily routine. Remember, be gentle with yourself as you are starting. It is easy to get distracted when you are first starting out, and that is why I recommend a guided mediation if you are a beginner. Then, once you get used to it, you can easily meditate anytime you feel like you need it.
Have you meditated before? What do you think? Let me know in the comments what it feels like to meditate, and how it helps your mindset.
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