Never, in a million years, would I have expected to be the type of person who meditates. It seemed like an action better left to the hippies and/or fitness buffs of the world. (I'm neither.)
I'm a classic over-thinker and over-analyzer, for one. The idea of taking time out of my day to NOT think gives me just as much anxiety as my actual thoughts. I get anxious just thinking about not thinking, ya know?
I also talk. A lot. Silence is not a natural state for me. In fact, if a room goes silent, I get instantly uncomfortable. I start sweating. My mind races. My world stops turning. (Okay, I'm being a little dramatic, but you get the picture.)
Yet during a recent bout of stress in my life, a friend suggested meditation as a way to keep my mind at ease. Considering I could literally feel my tension knot itself into my back muscles, I decided I was willing to try anything.
I went to my first guided meditation. Then another. Then I started meditating on my own. And suddenly I was hooked.
1. I started to sleep better (sometimes even during class) and have way more energy.
Meditating before bed is the best decision I've ever made. When I take the time to center myself before sleep, I float into a peaceful, easy slumber that's so satisfying I feel as though I'm lying on a fluffy cloud. It's magical.
But more than that, after a wonderful night's sleep, if I wake up and meditate one more time before starting my day, I have twice as much energy as I normally would. It's like a latte for the chakras, only with far fewer calories and a cheaper price tag.
2. I'm a better problem solver now.
I've found that, when I allow myself precious moments from the day to disconnect from everything, it actually helps me focus more intently on my life when I'm tuned back into the world.
It's an odd dichotomy, but a true one.
3. It's okay that sometimes I can't control where my thoughts wander.
Before I started meditating, part of what held me back from trying was fear. What if I weren't the type of person who could clear my mind completely?
But I don't worry about that anymore. Of course I can't control my mind completely — I'm a human being, not a robot.
One of my meditation instructors did offer a helpful tip for this, though. She taught me to imagine my thoughts as leaves in a river. As soon as a thought bubbles up, I just visualize it floating downstream and out of my head.
4. If I can only find a few minutes in a day to meditate, it's still helpful.
For me, finding time to meditate is not an issue.
In my personal experience, meditating for as little as 10 or 15 minutes a day has had a big impact on my life. And I'm not the only one who notices that a little meditating can make a big difference.
Aditi Nerurkar, a primary care physician at Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, told the Wall Street Journal that she prescribes meditation to her patients much like she would any other treatment plan. "I recommend five minutes, twice a day, and then gradually increase," she said.
The power of Om.
5. People are really quick to make fun of the fact that you meditate.
Turns out I wasn't the only person who had preconceived notions about meditation. When I told my friends and co-workers about my newfound interest, I got a ton of weird looks.
But, hey, I get the same weird looks when I tell certain people about the shows and musicians I like, and that's never stopped me from blasting Britney Spears or watching reality TV. Bye, haters.
6. It has made me a nicer person.
Because I have a way to melt my stress away by myself, I don't take my frustrations out on others. I quietly process them until I have time to let them go.
This has strengthened my relationships with my family, friends and even my SO because I am a genuinely happier, calmer person.
7. It doesn't have to be religious if you don't want it to be.
You don't need a faith-based reason to meditate, which I think is a pretty common misunderstanding. It's an option, but spirituality doesn't have to be a part of meditation if you don't want it to be.
8. It makes me feel physically healthier — not just mentally healthier.
If I'm in some sort of physical discomfort, a good 20-minute meditation helps dull the pain. Obviously it isn't a cure, but for those physical ailments that are connected to stress, it's a huge help. Plus, as the Washington Post reported, a recent study found that mindful meditation was an effective treatment in relieving chronic back pain.
Just try it the next time you're feeling ill at work. Chances are your impending deadlines are causing your head to pound.
9. I really like doing it.
I think the most unexpected part of this whole process is how necessary meditation has become to my daily life. It's no longer something I feel like I have to do — it's something that I want to do.
Meditation is just as good for my mind and body as working out or brushing my teeth. It's part of my routine now, and I don't plan on looking back.