On top of that your boss gave you 10 more things to do, your car finally gave out, you forgot to pick your kids up at school, and your crotchety neighbor from across the street gave you a few choice words for leaving your Christmas lights up too long.
Life is stressful, especially at the start of the new year – and it’s not getting any easier.
In fact, January 22 — which was last Friday — is the most depressing day of the year, due to several reasons, including weather, debt, the post-holiday blues, people’s failure to meet their New Year’s resolutions, low motivation, and the difficulty of taking action.
The Centers for Disease Control says suicide rates increase dramatically in January after dropping to the lowest point of the year in December. These reasons, and many others, explain why so many Americans are incorporating 20 minutes of meditation into their daily schedules to help them handle it all.
“Meditation doesn’t get rid of stress or grief, but it helps individuals change their relationship to it,” said Marc Potter, a licensed clinical social worker for Intermountain Healthcare. “It gives you the ability and the strength to cope with the stress you deal with everyday, whether it’s in the workplace or at home.”
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According to Potter, many people get into meditation involuntarily. Something drastic happens to them; they feel like they’re hit with the final straw that breaks the camel’s back.
“For those who come to me for help, they’re stressed out of their minds and meditation brings a deep sense of calm and self-compassion.”
What is meditation?
According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, a molecular biologist and meditation pioneer, mediation — which is also referred to as mindfulness — is the process of quieting the mind’s constant chattering, including its thoughts, anxieties, and regrets.
How do I meditate?
The best way is to learn from a teacher, but you can also just sit in a comfortable chair while focusing on your breathing. Pay careful attention to when your mind wanders. When you divert to another thought, don’t judge yourself. Simply escort your attention back to your breath over and over again.
Don't I have to be Buddhist to meditate?
The answer is no. Though meditation is tied to Buddhism, the origins of meditation date back to 5,000 B.C. and can be found in most cultures throughout the world. You can be a wonderful Catholic, Mormon, Buddhist, or atheist and still meditate.
Everyone can benefit.
Speaking of benefits of meditation, what are they? Here’s a list of benefits from Marc and websites such as michelleturleylac.com and lifehack.org.
It alleviates stress
In addition to giving you time to relax, meditation affects the whole nervous system by reducing the amount of cortisol — a stress hormone — the body produces.
It improves concentration
Once we learn to focus on our breath, recognize when our mind wanders, and return our focus to our breathing, we can use that skill in everything we do such as work, family time, and play.
It leads to better health
Researchers have linked meditation to decreasing your blood pressure, sleeping more peacefully, managing chronic pain, and even to extending your life.
It changes your brain
Research has proven that meditating impacts the brain as well. MRI scans show the amygdala shrinks after participating in a meditation course. As the amygdala shrinks, the pre-frontal cortex thickens.
It improves creativity
Blocks in creativity can have multiple causes, but whatever the cause, the result is, we get caught in a routine. Taking time to meditate allows us to unwind and reset, allowing us to push through the blocks.
So what’s the moral of this story? What should you do now?
Stop cruising the internet, step away from your computer, and take 20 minutes to meditate.
“One of the highlights throughout my career,” said Marc, ”is when a few people have approached me and said ‘meditation changed my life.’” If you need additional guidance, visit intermountainhealthcare.org and listen to CD #3 (at the bottom of the page), which was created to help people in the workplace.