This year, I really wanted to get a handle on my anxiety. So I set out to try the most popular remedies and I noticed a reoccurring theme. Meditation made the top of most lists. I had tried it here and there but never consistently. It was hard for me to focus and my mind would wander. Part of me was always skeptical of the process and would never commit to the idea.
To get started I was going to need more than just soft music in the background. I needed someone to hold my hand and develop my meditation skills.
I stumbled upon Balance by accident, I was intrigued by another app by the developer and enjoyed the art within it. Balance is a meditation app tailored to the user. I chose reducing stress as my main goal and put my faith in the guru’s that meditation would help me ease my worries.
Side note: I only used Balance until it prompted me that if I went any further I would have to pay. I then transitioned to various YouTube guided meditations to explore the different kinds and reap the benefits of several meditation styles.
My First Week
I have always been a person who retains tension. I collect stress, bottle it up and my mind runs on a constant hamster wheel. To combat this, I set a reminder on my phone to keep me on track with daily meditation.
The first week I attempted to learn how to focus on my breath and use that concentration to quiet my thoughts. During my first handful of meditations I found it difficult to stay engaged and really be present in that moment and stop myself from thinking about future tasks.
When I was able to hone my focus, I noticed a drastic decrease in the tension I would carry in my shoulders and chest. In general, I was happier and felt more optimistic and peaceful. I also noticed an increase in creativity and clarity.
My Second Week
I have always been a person with racing thoughts that seem uncontrollable and also strangely normal when I am in the moment. For example, I will have a running tally of everything I need to do for the entire month constantly cycling in my mind. I repeatedly remind myself what I need to do and somehow everyday twenty things get added to my running list of things I need to do but never do. Somewhere in the mix of my inner turmoil ideas find their way in, but they often disappear before I can organize my thoughts.
My brain is trying to be helpful by reminding me of all the things I could be doing and thinking about, but that constant pressure and clutter in my mind makes me fatigued half way through the day. I end up getting a lot less done and being more stressed than if I was able to prioritize.
My second week of meditating felt like every night when I meditated I did a brain dump. I would quiet my thoughts and let my body relax. It felt nice to release the reigns a bit and just be still and bask in the quiet. Having a designated time to be motionless and shift my attention inward really helped me structure my day.
When I returned to reality my thoughts did not seem as unmanageable. My ideas had room to develop and I was able to focus myself enough to organize my head space and identify what kind of routine benefited my mental health. I cannot attribute all the new found clarity to meditation but it may have been the catalyst for the shift in perspective.
When I became disciplined in my pursuit it bled to other areas of my life. I became more motivated to work out and continue to better myself. I wanted that sense of peace to stay with me at all times and it compelled me to do more to maintain it.
Falling off the Wagon
My third week I got sick with a virus that required me to rest for a few days. I got completely out of my routine. I was not staying on top of skin care or water in take. I was not being productive or doing things I enjoy and meditation fell by the waist side as well.
I only missed a day or two but that made a difference in my mental clarity and overall well being. I felt more tense, when I did get back into it it was harder to focus and I noticed my mind wandering.
Although it was hard to focus at first, I noticed my body relaxing at the first sentence from the meditation narrator. It was easier for me to get started and feel more committed to the process.
My significant other was having issues feeling present in the moment. She occasionally suffers from disassociation. For those who have never experienced disassociation it feels like someone else is driving the ship and you are a distant passenger. I relate it to playing a video game and controlling your player but not feeling like you are that player. Since she was aware of my experiment she joined me that night and noticed a major difference in her ability to be present and feel more like herself.
My Final Week and Parting Words
My final week war fairly uneventful. The benefits definitely compound, and as I practice, I notice more positive changes within my outlook and inner tension. Meditation is definitely something that I will integrate into my routine. I would say it decreased my daily anxiety by about 40 percent.
If you're curious about the benefits of meditation on the brain and some easy ways to get started, you can find that here.