By: Ashley Favata
I’ve been told to try meditation several times in my life, but it took a global quarantine for me to really give it some thought.
The turning point was when I realized that even when I was sitting outside, soaking up the sun, I wasn’t at peace. I’d still get a flood of thoughts that would nag me to the point of insanity, so I decided to start listening to podcasts and reading an assortment of things to fill all of my free time. Yet nothing had really quelled my obsessive thoughts till I tried meditation.
I started with breathing exercises and gravitated towards guided meditations because I found it to be the easiest way to keep my thoughts to a minimum. Today, I meditate throughout the day, especially before bed, to help myself take the necessary time for self care, relaxation, and a vacation from all my thoughts.
From my firsthand experience, I wanted to share a little information about meditation and its surprising benefits, so that whenever you feel stressed or just need to get out of your head for a while you can. Now is the best time to explore meditation because classes are just starting—every student could use some tools to reduce stress and anxiety.
For those that want to understand why meditation is so great, here’s what I found fascinating: Meditation not only makes you calmer, but it also has the effectiveness of a standard antidepressant. According to Walton (a Senior Contributor at Forbes), “Researcher Madhav Goyal and his team found that the effect size of meditation was moderate, at 0.3.” For comparison, she later explains that “the effect size for antidepressants is also 0.3,” meaning that meditation works just as well as antidepressants and without the side effects; it’s not hard to see the benefit. Meditation has also been found to decrease the volume of brain cells in the amygdala, which limits the strength of emotions behind fear, anxiety and stress. Meditation improves concentration and attention, reduces anxiety, and helps with beating addictions. And these were just a handful—there’s so much research out there over the positive effects of meditation.
If you weren’t sold on the amazing effects that this simple act can cause, maybe hearing from influential people talk about their practice could change your mind. Jeff Weiner (the CEO of LinkedIn), Madonna (singer-songwriter and actress), William Clay Ford Jr. ( the executive chairman of Ford Motor Company), and many others… you guessed it, meditate! Oprah Winfrey has also long been a follower of meditation, expressing that, “meditation is about getting still enough to know the difference between the voice and you. It's a heightened state of being that lets whatever you're doing be your best life, from moment to astonishing moment”. Jerry Seinfeld shared his thoughts about meditating during his talk on Good Morning America: “With ‘Seinfeld,’ I was doing a TV series in which I was the star of the show, the executive producer of the show, the head writer, in charge of casting and editing, for 24 episodes on network television—not cable—for nine years! And I’m just a normal guy. And that was not a normal situation to be in… So I meditated every day. And that’s how I survived the nine years.” It’s clear to see that many powerful and successful people practice meditation everyday—it can be your coping mechanism too!
So, the question soon becomes: where do you start? Personally, I began with a simple four minutes in the morning for the first two weeks. One night, I decided to try it before bed, and I had a great night's sleep! I was amazed with how rested I felt after waking up the next morning. Since then, guided meditation has been a part of my evening routine, acting as a great way to relax each night.
However, you should understand that there are other forms of meditation. Guided meditation (my personal choice) tends to focus on the senses, and guides you through a visualized process of mediation. On the other hand, mantra meditation focuses on the repetition of a few words or phrases to keep thoughts from interrupting. Mindfulness meditation helps “you broaden your conscious awareness. You focus on what you experience during meditation, such as the flow of your breath.” Surprisingly, yet another form of meditation is yoga, which combines postures and your breath in moving through various poses to create a calming and relaxing state of mind. I would recommend that you give each one a try and see which one works best for your schedule, so that you can make meditation a daily habit.
Meditation should be added to your daily routine so that it can truly make an influence in your life. To really make the practice of meditation a habit, start with a set plan so that you follow through and actually do it. If you want to access the same power over your mind like so many influential people in pop culture today, give meditation a try—you won’t regret it!
Natale, Nicol. “8 Highly Successful CEOs and Celebrities Who Practice Meditation: Everyday Health.” EverydayHealth.com, www.everydayhealth.com/meditation/highly-successful-ceos-celebrities-who-practice-meditation/.
Richey, Brooks. “Meditation, Mindfulness and the Famous People Who Swear by It.” Content Mindful, 5 Mar. 2019, contentandmindful.com/meditation-mindfulness-celebs/.
Walton, Alice G. “7 Ways Meditation Can Actually Change The Brain.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 17 Jan. 2018, www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2015/02/09/7-ways-meditation-can-actually-change-the-brain/#687e5b8d1465.
“A Beginner's Guide to Meditation.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 22 Apr. 2020, www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/meditation/in-depth/meditation/art-20045858.