Can Meditation Actually Change Your Life?

For the last 25 days, every day, I have sat for at least 20 minutes either practicing mindfulness or mediating in some other way in an attempt to cure me of a number of ailments. I focused on my stress and anxiety levels, my deteriorating attention span, and my horrific sleep pattern as those are the four things, I am most keen to change about my daily life. This article documents the highs and lows, by looking at my four issues and trying to construct a way in which mediation either helped or hindered my personal development.

To begin, I will start with looking at the effects of my month on my stress levels as I think that is the most pressing issue, that if I eradicated, would solve many of my other problems.

#1 Reduces Stress

I am an incredibly stressed out person, I am constantly busy, and thoughts rarely settle in my mind – and although I much prefer being busy than being bored, I can very quickly become overwhelmed with even the simplest of tasks. My acne flares up, my mood swings can be catastrophic, and the 5am meltdowns are a sight to be seen. However, according to Healthline, stress reduction is one of the most common reasons people try meditation and so I wanted to give it a go. I was unsure of how much meditation could help these symptoms of stress, especially as I am often under this type of pressure for extended periods, and I can only sit crossed legged on the floor for so long.

My experience:

For me, my stress levels didn’t change that much throughout this process – however, I don’t necessarily think it is as simple as saying the meditation didn’t work. I genuinely don’t think that I could have picked a worse (or best) time to start a new project like this. During the 25 days, I became ill, had a particularly bad period, and the imminent pressure of my deadlines was piling atop me. So, therefore, I don’t the issue was that mediation didn’t affect me, but that I was abnormally stressed and emotionally drained than usual. One of the few things that I did find particularly helpful, especially during my period was meditation centred around positivity and mindfulness. I found this video particularly good at calming me, momentarily, when I was essay writing, coughing my guts up and pouring blood simultaneously. I also found this study music very helpful in focusing my mind, thus reducing stress, throughout my essay writing sessions.

#2 Controls Anxiety

This is definitely linked to my levels of stress, and while I am extremely grateful not to have any diagnosed mental health issue linked to anxiety, I definitely feel anxious when my stress is at its worse, and it can be really troublesome. I feel as though, for what I experience (Short bursts of anxious feelings that can take a while to taper off) mediation as a form of management makes sense. With this being said, I was unsure of whether I would experience any long-term effects, and whether they would be beneficial or not.

My experience:

While I was left unsure of the effects on meditation on my overall stress levels, I did see a change in how I handled feeling anxious. For me, I am at my most anxious at night, when I am trying to sleep, as when I am stressed, I can really struggle to settle my mind and drift to sleep. However, most nights during this challenge I chose to fall asleep to either guided sleep meditation or sleepy music specifically meant for drifting off.

For me, this video, and This video really helped me centre my mind and focus on sleep, rather than tomorrows to-do list.

#3 Lengthens Attention Span

If you know anything about me, you will know for every time I am organised, coherent and together, there are 5 times where I am clueless and confused. Common sense throws itself out of a window when I’m around. This being said, research at the University of California at Santa Barbara noticed that students performed better academically after undertaking meditative courses, so I wanted to try it out and see what changes, if any, occurred in my own life.

My experience:

For me, meditation throughout studying didn’t really help me. I found that once I had my to-do list in my head, stopping for a 10-minute meditation break, only worsened my stress about the tasks I still had to do. For me, I felt like I couldn’t settle, and I became fidgety when I was supposed to be at my most calm. Therefore, I don’t think this type of meditation helped my attention span. Yet, overall I think the other ways I practise mindfulness I much preferred either meditating in the morning, following this video, or late at night once all my tasks were completed for the day For me I used meditation as a way to separate my work mode and chill mode each day – which in turn helped me stay focused when needed, and able to relax when I had the time.

#4 Improves Sleep

Again, while people may see me sauntering around the Taylor Building at 9am on a Monday morning with my coffee in a reusable cup, hair up, and bamboo tote bag thrown over my shoulder I must let you know that this truly is all an illusion. I truly am a sleep-deprived monster 90% of the time (as I’d reckon most university students are) who stays up way too late watching weird food ASMR videos and cat vines – we all do it okay. Nonetheless, at this point, I would do anything to make me and my tote bag an actual reality rather than a cover-up for my horrible life choices and was therefore excited to see if regular meditation could help my sleep.

My experience:

For me, despite thinking stress would be the easiest thing to correct, my sleep has improved the most throughout this project. For me, I do struggle to sleep sometimes, and I found that guided sleep meditation worked wonders, and helped all of the other aspects I have discussed above. For me, I also used to have to sleep listening to something – something about the dark and silence really freaked me out for some reason, but since using the mediation before sleep, I haven’t felt the need to listen to anything other than the 20-minute meditation; which to me is a massive improvement.

Overall, I think if you are seriously struggling with stress or other mental health, I would seek medical or professional help as I do not believe that self-prescribing meditation as a ‘cure’ for mental health problems is in fact healthy. However, if you think you could use more time to yourself, need to slow the pace of life, or maybe just want to try and learn a little bit more about yourself, I would definitely try something like this. I know that I will be implementing some of what I learned throughout this whole process!

Sources:

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/12-benefits-of-meditation#section9

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/05/study-meditation-impr...

All Images from Google.