Many of us (not all unfortunately), have a roof over our heads. We can wake up in the morning in our warm comfy beds, stroll a few meters and have a toasty hot shower. We have access to endless amounts of clean drinking water. We have central heating through the winter months to keep us warm. We have fridge freezers, washing machines, dish washers, cooking facilities of all kinds; anything you can think of to make life easier, lots of us have. Its clear that as a society, at least in our country, we’ve developed so much technologically. The sad reality is that mentally, we’re struggling more than ever. It’s clear that material gain and practical comforts make up only a small portion on our pie chart of happiness and mental contentment. Something needs to change.
So, where does meditation come in to all this?
Well, first of all lets wind it back. Everything we experience throughout our life, both good and bad, creates our beliefs and perceptions. Lot’s of our thought patterns and proceeding emotional reactions are so ingrained they happen without any conscious action. For example, you have a bad experience in a relationship, maybe your partner cheated on you. In your next relationship, your unconscious belief is that relationships are a problem and your partners going to cheat on you. From those thoughts jealousy and anxiety develop. Here’s where meditation comes in.
In the short term…
Firstly, meditation helps you to manage and reduce the stress and anxiety you feel by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system or your ‘rest and digest’ mode. Essentially, lowering your heart rate, controlling your breathing and allowing the body to process the stress and return to a state of calm, alongside starting to de-excite the mind.
In the long term…
After time you will begin to develop MASSIVE self-awareness. You’ll find that you become less involved in your mental drama. A detachment begins to appear between you and your thoughts. Your ability to recognise negative thought patterns early on and decide whether you want to engage them or not develops. This ability is incredibly powerful for breaking negative, habitual cycles of thinking that tend to bring on stress and anxiety. As the months pass you start, little by little, to gain back control of your own mind. Parallel to all of this your mind will become less and less erratic.
Research shows that we spend around 45% of our waking day in a ‘mind-wandering’ state. That’s almost half of our day focusing on something other than what we are doing in that moment. Mind-wandering is also closely associated with depression. Through the practice of meditation the mind tends to wander less and less as we train it to settle on one-point. The ‘monkey mind’ as they call it in the east, causes us all manner of trouble as it jumps from one thought to the next. Meditation is a tool that we can use to reduce this and bring the mind back into alignment.
Meditation, another tool in your tool belt
Clearly meditation isn’t the one and only fix for our mental troubles. Exercise, therapy, diet, counselling, cold water immersion, socialising and seeking professional help are all incredibly useful tools that should be utilised. But on a personal level, as a meditation teacher and a practitioner for over 20 years, I can’t help but think that if everyone meditated each day, as a society our overall mental health would improve for the better. My goal is to show that meditation isn’t just for monks in the Himalayas, but a scientifically proven tool that we can all benefit from. I endeavor to continue teaching it in a way that’s accessible and easy for anyone to digest. I teach techniques that remove the reliance on apps, so you can meditate with confidence on your own, wherever you are.
Our Guest Blogger:
Huge thanks to our guest blogger Ben for his insightful piece about the benefits of including meditation in your wellness routine.
Dorset Mind offers group support that can also help with your wellbeing. The group offers peer support and helps to reduce stigma by normalizing conversations about mental health. You can also check out further support for stress and mental health here.
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Dorset Mind is a self-funded local charity that helps people in Dorset experiencing mental health problems access the vital support they need. The charity is at the very heart of our communities shaping futures, changing and in some cases literally saving lives.