Why Taking Time for Yourself and Meditation Is Not a Selfish Act?

“You can’t pour from an empty kettle” is a common saying, but one that nobody seems to live by. Increasingly, it seems that taking time out for yourself is a selfish act. Meditation is often seen as an even more selfish act because modern people don’t often understand the benefits of meditation. The ability to sustain silence, quiet, and look inward is a self-survival tool. In fact, meditation is an effective stress management tool, and stress is linked to a number of diseases. A stressed out person is not operating at full capacity which means every part of their life is suffering from health to all types of relationships.

Stress is not success

Stress has been linked to depression, anxiety, heart diseases, and the exacerbation of countless injuries, diseases, and disorders. Still, we live in an era where “stress” is equated with hard work, and hard work is revered. Another common saying is to work better, not harder, and that “mantra” is often ignored, too. Somehow, we’ve developed into a society where the mark of a “good person” is that they’re constantly on the go and busy. That’s not necessarily the mark of a good or even successful person. It might just be the sign of a person who doesn’t take time for themselves, doesn’t know how to say no, and isn’t giving 100 percent to any of their endeavours.

Taking time for yourself isn’t selfish. Meditation isn’t selfish. Rather, taking time for yourself and giving yourself permission to meditate means that you are making sure your machine is working at top capacity before giving away any of your resources. Consider if you had a collaborative project meeting at six in the morning. However, you were so busy the day before with other tasks that you didn’t go to sleep until midnight. You were so worried about an unrelated event earlier in the day that your sleep was compromised. When you do get to the early morning meeting, you’re tired and might be on your third cup of coffee (the caffeine further stressing you out).

Do you think you’d be a very good or effective team member? Probably not. Simply showing up doesn’t mean that you’re successfully joining the meeting.

Types of Meditation

However, if you take time for yourself, you allow the body to recuperate. Meditation is the practice of sitting in comfortable, sustained relative silence. You’ll have outside thoughts creep in. Acknowledge them and send them on their way. Pranayama, or breath control, can be part of a meditation practice (either before or during). Relaxing pranayamas such as three-part breath allow you to concentrate on counting breaths and the inhalation, hold, and exhalation which helps keep outside thoughts at bay.

Others prefer to meditate with japa beads, which are 108 beads similar to a rosary. You recite a mantra, internally or externally, as you roll the bead between your fingers. The mantra should be positive, short and sweet. Some people prefer to chant the names of Hindu deities, while others prefer a secular but heartfelt saying.

Making Time for Yourself

Making time for yourself and meditation don’t have to eat up a lot of time. You don’t need to travel far or black out a large chunk of time for these mini-retreats. A lot of people prefer to meditate first thing in the morning and right before bed. For newcomers to meditation, five minutes is a great starting point. Moreover, taking time for yourself doesn’t always have to include meditation, though it can. It does need to be a relaxing, enjoyable experience though where you feel the stress in your body reducing. It can be virtually anything from a manicure session to a walk around the neighborhood. The only rule? No multitasking with tasks that can cause stress.

 

You want to give the best of yourself to the people in your life, particularly your loved ones. However, if you don’t take time for yourself, how present will you be at date night? How about at your child’s recital or during that important meeting? Selfish is putting yourself before others regularly with no care to how that affects your relationships with them — taking time for yourself couldn’t be farther from this definition. When you take care of yourself, you’re ensuring a higher quality relationship with yourself and with others. When you meditate, you re-learn how to appreciate and recover by way of quiet and reflecting inwards. Both are important tools in a society where we’re expected to be “on” all the time. Consider them a means of survival and bettering every other part of your life.

This is a collaborative post supporting our Peace In Peace Out initiative.

How Meditation Can Change Your Brain

You know meditation is good for you, but did you know that it actually changes the brain in positive ways? Meditation is increasingly being used to overcome addiction because addiction itself is a negative changing of the brain, a chemical addiction. If meditation can alter the brain for the positive, addiction therapy can include more holistic, long-lasting measures. But how exactly does meditation shift the brain?

Neurological Benefits

Meditation comes with a host of neurological benefits, with studies showing that it changes the volume of gray matter as well as minimizing the activity within the “me” hubs of the brain. One study out of UCLA showcased how those who meditated for several years had brains better preserved than those who didn’t. Participants had to have meditated for at least 20 years and were found to have more grey matter in all parts of the brain. Lead researcher Florian Kurth says, “We expected rather small and distinct effects located in some regions that had previously been associated with meditating—instead, what we actually observed was a widespread effect of meditation that encompassed regions throughout the entire brain.”

Yale University released a study that highlighted how meditation retards the brain’s “me” center, otherwise known as the default mode network (DMN). If you find yourself regularly having your mind wander and experiencing selfish thoughts, DMN is at fault. It’s active when we’re not focusing on anything and when we allow our minds to wander. “Mind-wanderers” are considered less happy than others, prone to brooding and worrying. Meditation has a quieting effect on the brain, slowing down this area and offering better concentration.

Anxiety and Depression

Another study out of Johns Hopkins considered mindfulness and meditation to treat anxiety and depression. Researchers found that meditation had the ability to minimize depression, pain, and anxiety symptoms. According to lead researcher Madhav Goyal, those who take low doses of antidepressants experienced just as much help when prescribed meditation. “A lot of people have this idea that meditation means sitting down and doing nothing. That’s not true,” says Goyal. “Meditation is an active training of the mind to increase awareness, and different meditation programs approach this in different ways.”

Harvard researcher Sara Lazar discovered that medication can increase volume in a number of areas in the brain. After eight weeks of a mindfulness-based stress reduction study, it was found that participants had an increase in the cortical thickness throughout the hippocampus, the part of the brain in charge of memory. Emotional regulation parts of the brain and self-referential processing units also enjoyed a boost in volume. Lazar also found that parts of the brain volume decreased, particularly in the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for stress, pain, and anxiety. Through meditation, Lazar’s team discovered that the changes in the brain also led to changes in how the participants actually felt.

Concentration

Another study considered the link between meditation and attention spans/concentration. A lot of people struggle with concentration, with Google researchers saying that westerners have worse attention spans than goldfish. However, a study found that in just two weeks of meditation training, participants had better memory and focus. The verbal reasoning part of the GRE was used to gauge changes. Their average scores were so much better; it equated to 16 percentile points (something college and high school students would be thrilled to achieve). Focusing attention is at the heart of any meditation program, so the natural increase in cognitive skills is an added bonus.

Social Anxiety

Research studies linking meditation and social anxiety are also well-founded. The mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) movement, headed by the University of Massachusetts’ Center for Mindfulness and director Jon Kabat-Zinn, claims that meditation is a key factor in reducing overall stress levels both mentally and physically. The studies have also reported that in an eight-week course, the benefits are evident even years later (when participants didn’t continue beyond those eight weeks).

Meditation is a true game changer and one of the simplest ways you can alter your brain for the better. We have so much stimulation directed at us around the clock, it can easily overwhelm the body. Meditation is a way to get back to your center, quiet the mind, and let the brain do a little recovery work. It needs rest and proper workouts, too, both of which meditation can provide. A healthy brain is a part of a healthy body.

This is a collaborative post supporting our Peace In Peace Out initiative.

5 Powerful Ways Meditation Can Change Your Life

Show of hands – don’t you think our difficult experiences always cause us to deeply ponder how we got there? Those experiences may not have been the most favourable circumstances to begin a meditation in the first place – but it is true that the moment we sit down and genuinely think about what has happened is crucial in helping us move forward, overcome pain, and ultimately find inner peace.

By definition, meditation is “bringing your mind to a calm and peaceful state”. However, meditation is what you make of it and sometimes you need to let yourself rage in emotions before going straight into peacefulness. This goes to show that meditation isn’t strictly limited to calming the mind, but it is a mental outlet that aids in handling uncomfortable emotions, thinking through difficult situations without pressure from outside sources, and overall finding the answers to questions that make life so hard.

In retrospect, the idea of simple thoughts profoundly affecting our lives and actions may seem a bit far-fetched. But truthfully, our actions are a direct result of our thoughts. We are dictated by what we feel and believe in, and we should care to make sure they all come from a good place. Additionally, the complete self-awareness in ourselves and the world around us contributes to our lives in only the most positive ways. Here are five of the many ways meditation can change your life.

 1. You develop a transparent and honest relationship with yourself

Developing self-awareness is one of the most difficult things we can do as human beings. That’s because facing inadequacies head-on and focusing on the present moment may not exactly elicit the fondest of feelings. We are all prone to insecurities and doubts and that is completely okay (and expected). With meditation, you are able to be honest with yourself in a way that you aren’t with others. You have no one’s opinion to rely on but your own. Don’t be frightened by that fact, you’re a lot smarter than you give yourself credit for.

A transparent and honest relationship with yourself enables you to learn and recognize what you deserve and should not tolerate in life. Honesty is powerful because you learn to see yourself and things for what they actually are, causing you to think twice before making a decision, make you choose the right people as friends, and acknowledge everything for what it truly is – just to name a few circumstances. Consequently, you come to understand that the world is a lot more painful, but also more rewarding at the same time.

2. Episodes of anxiety and stress become less severe and intimidating

How often do we go into a panic mode during difficult moments, allowing our bodies to completely surrender to negative emotions? More so than we all like to admit, that’s for sure. With meditation, you can analyze your mind and realize that any trigger of stress or anxiety is temporary and you will get through it. Additionally, you can equip yourself with mental tools to combat these sources of anxiety! You learn that allowing your emotions get the best of you is going to happen sometimes, but being hard on yourself isn’t necessary anymore. Stress is a part of life, just like happiness.

3. Thinking rationally will come naturally over time

You find yourself making more concise, logical, and reasonable decisions. You can roll with the punches of your emotions, knowing that they shouldn’t completely dictate a choice. Not to say that emotions are a concerning element when making a decision – in fact, they might be the last deciding factor in making one. They are only toxic if you let them be, meaning you allow the wild nature of emotions to lead you into expressing an outburst that may actually hurt you and possibly others.

For example, you can scream everything you find wrong about your relationship with your significant other or friend in a violent moment of anger. You may mean everything you say, but does that make things better or damage the relationship? Making a sound choice requires both the equal balance of logic and emotion – therefore, making you understand the best possible choice can be both logical and not regretted.

4. You liberate yourself with emotional freedom

 How many of us are actually afraid of our emotions? It is common to prevent ourselves from feeling everything we actually feel, because we sometimes deem those emotions as useless, embarrassing, or a waste of time. Emotions should never be perceived in an inferior way. We’re human beings and will be prone to emotions no matter how much we try to avoid them. Neglecting emotions would only be detrimental and bottling up what you actually need to express will only make a person feel worse. By meditating on emotions, you can come to acknowledge and appreciate where they come from without judgement and strategize how to handle them.

5. The practices and philosophies of meditation translate into your everyday actions and thoughts

The connection between meditation and your everyday life is a prominent one. The ability to wake up and be grateful for the day, drive to work without raging at a person for not using their turn-signal, and shrugging off an embarrassing moment is self-empowering. In a deeper and personal perspective, meditation can also help one ease the symptoms of a chronic condition, such as mental illness or cardiovascular disease, and overcome addiction. We all co-exist with different lives that include situations and events specific to only our uniqueness of existence.

In conclusion, meditation helps us see life, our emotions, and difficult experiences as allies and opportunities to develop maturity and compassion, rather than enemies and infuriating things we naturally have assumed them all to be in the past.