Most of us have heard of the benefits of meditation (For those who haven't: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/19/meditation-benefits_n_5842870.html) in fact mindfulness has proved so effective it's even being prescribed on the NHS to help patients cope with anxiety and stress. Westerners are literally taking back control of their lives, one breath at a time.
My meditation journey began around 4 years ago when I started taking yoga classes. I've never been one to sit still for very long and my mind isn't exactly quiet, so to say meditation didn't come naturally to me would be a bit of an understatement. Sitting uncomfortably, I'd close my eyes and focus on my breath. The teacher would guide us through the stages and gradually I'd become less focused on the noise of the person next to me and even the noise inside my own head. I'd relax, my shoulders would drop, I'd actually feel myself smiling, it was amazing.
I'm not quite sure why I stopped meditating, it's not that I didn't want to, there'd just always be something else I'd convince myself was more important than 10 minutes of conscious breathing. It's not something you necessarily notice but, bit by bit my shoulders drew closer to my ears, my patience faded and my mood flattened. It's not until I reached another episode of burn out that I looked at my self care routine and what exactly had been missing from my life.
I decided to book myself into a meditation workshop to get my practice back on track. With a commitment in my diary, I was ready. Not only was I going to take the time each morning to focus on my breath, I was going to document the changes I felt and see if meditation really is all it's cracked up to be.
Here's what happened in my 7 day challenge:
1. I slept better than I have in months.
I'm a particularly bad sleeper, I wake at the slightest noise and never feel fully alert, even after a good 8 hours, but after my workshop on Monday evening I had the best night's sleep I've had in months. I could get used to this!
2. I felt energised
Apart from Monday (I did an evening workshop) I chose to do my daily meditation in the morning, right after waking. I'm sluggish at the best of times but for these 7 days I made a promise to myself to get out of bed a few minutes earlier and that's what I did. Did I feel tired each morning, yes, but after my 10 minutes that had completely vanished, I had a noticeable spring in my step.
3. I felt more positive
I'm extremely fortunate to live in London, it's amazing, I love it, but it's overcrowded, busy and just too much sometimes. I often lose my shit over the tiniest of things and want to retreat to my duvet, never to see a bastard tube map again (did I mention I'm melodramatic?) In my 7 days of meditation I didn't suddenly become a 'glass half full' person but I did notice a general lightness in my overall mood; things didn't bother me as much and I found myself looking at the sky instead of my phone or thinking about something nice I could do for someone else rather than worrying about my next thing.
I like to think of myself as a realist, maybe even a skeptic at times, but I can't get my head around these changes, subtle as they may seem. Perhaps it was the placebo effect, I wanted results, so I synthesised them into my reality? My life hasn't drasically changed in 7 days but who's to say it won't in a month, maybe even a year? If stress reduction, improved mood, concentration and immunity aren't on your priority list, go for those extra 10 minutes in bed, for everyone else, what's your excuse?