To put effort into any activity in life we need an incentive, some payoff for us. Loads of us have thought about meditation but either just dabbled in it or not really bothered. However, a regular (daily) meditation practice, even just a few minutes, is a goal worth putting the effort in for.
Apart from being very relaxing, meditation can also give us huge payoffs in our mental health, by giving us techniques we can actually apply in our day-to-day lives. We can become a happier, calmer, and more positive person because we are making our mind work for us, rather than feeling it’s working against us half the time!
We tend to think that we have very little control over how we respond to things – if it is bad, we will be unhappy; if it’s good, we will be happy. On reflection, it’s no wonder we feel anxious much of the time because we feel very much under the influence of things outside our control.
The benefits of meditation are actually really simple, it’s a way of training our mind to respond the way we want it to, a way of changing our habitual responses. It gives us freedom because it puts us in control.
Put simply, it allows us to choose how we react to stuff.
It’s not a quick training, and only a very experienced meditator will be able to keep calm and positive in very difficult circumstances. But even beginners can see a difference, perhaps not getting frustrated in situations that usually get us going, being stuck in traffic perhaps, or having to share a space with someone we normally find annoying.
So, let’s look at how meditation can help answer some common questions:
Can meditation make me less anxious?
A good question because most of us have experienced much higher levels of anxiety than usual over the past couple of years. The answer is yes – but it takes time and practice. Meditation techniques help us realise when we are focussing on something in an unhelpful way and detach from that. This means we can function better and stay more calm. Meditation also helps us live more in the ‘present’ so we can better deal with the here and now rather than worrying about the future. In truth, lots of things we worry about never actually happen, and if they did, we would have to deal with them anyway, so why waste emotional energy worrying about things? Better instead to put that energy into keeping a calm mind so we are better equipped to deal with whatever life throws at us.
Can meditation stop me from being frustrated/cross/angry?
Oh yes, it’s very easy to get frustrated! And frustration is like a spark in our mind which can easily light the fire of full-blown anger. When we get angry we are basically out of control and we often do or say things we regret. Meditation is a way to watch our mind really carefully and get to know it and the habits we have (and the things that normally annoy us!). Once we become really familiar with the way we feel and react we can actually start to catch ourselves at an early point and we can put that spark out by taking our focus elsewhere. Putting out a spark is easier than putting out a fire, and it’s a skill we can learn. When we practice this meditation we change our habitual reaction to things that normally frustrate us, and as we get better at it we can react faster and with ‘bigger’ things. Then rather than getting annoyed, we can just deal with stuff!
Can meditation help me win the lottery?
No, well not in the literal sense. But what meditation can do is help us feel contentment, a feeling of being happy with what we have. We might want a newer car, a bigger house, etc, but if we cannot get these things easily our life can feel like one big struggle, and we can’t enjoy what we have already.
If we practise contentment then we can still work towards our goal. We need goals because we don’t live in a cave and we do have to function in society, but we can have them without feeling the grasping, uncomfortable feeling which comes with a lack of contentment. We all know that even the richest people in the world are often discontent with what they have and are looking for something else.
If we are contented with life, it feels like we have won the lottery.
Can meditation help me to be more organised?
For sure! This is because a big part of meditation is mindfulness. Mindfulness is simply having an awareness of the here and now, living in the moment rather than in the past or the future.
Many of the mistakes we make on a daily basis are because we are distracted, we might be rehashing something in our mind that we did yesterday or worrying about tomorrow. Apparently, we can only properly concentrate on one thing at a time, but how often do we really do this? We stretch ourselves too thin by trying to multitask. Training in mindfulness meditation gives us the ability to stay in the present moment, and feel fully engaged with it. Concentration naturally improves with meditation, and this helps us stay focused in daily life.
Can meditation make me happy?
The Big Question…
Happiness can only come from inside ourselves, no one can give us happiness as a gift, however hard they try. One thing that becomes apparent when we start to meditate is that we are responsible for our own happiness. It’s quite normal to have mixed feelings about this because we often like to blame other people for how we feel! However, it is actually empowering because we know that we have control. We just need the tools to learn to control our mind, and meditation gives us these tools. As beginners, we will start to see the difference on a more subtle level, but experienced meditators can deal with really big things with a calm mind, definitely something to aspire to.
Fancy giving meditation a try? If so, just remember not to expect too much too soon. To use a Buddhist analogy, it’s better to be like a wide, deep flowing river than a waterfall, slow and steady is the right way for lasting results and a more peaceful mind. You’ll need to practice regularly and be prepared for a long journey where sometimes you feel you’re doing brilliantly, and other times feel like it’s not working, but stick at it and the payoff is definitely worth it.
A short intro to why meditation makes us happy can be found here: