5 myths of meditation that stop you from meditating – Debunk them now!

meditation

I know, I know… meditation can feel like a snooze fest for some of you and an absolute miracle to others. There’s a lot of misconception surrounding meditation, because most of us imagine meditation as sitting in one place for hours at a time while chanting “om”. While that is certainly one form of meditation, the truth is you can do meditation anytime, any style, and anywhere. Today we are debunking all the myths that blocks your practice!

MYTH #1 – You have to sit in an uncomfortable cross-legged position or chant mantras

The image above might be what ­­you associate meditation with when the thought pops in your head. It was certainly my first impression at least. I thought meditation was reserved only for monks up on the Himalayan mountains before I began my practice. Fortunately, that is absolutely not the case! In fact, you can meditate while sitting in traffic, walking, eating, standing, sitting, and laying down – the possibilities are endless! While you can certainly do it cross-legged, that is not a requirement! Neither are mantras. I’ve been practicing for 3 years, and don’t remember a time I’ve chanted a mantra while meditating.

MYTH #2 – I can’t sit still for that long! It’s too boring/I don’t have time/It’s weird.

I still catch myself thinking that I don’t have time for meditation, even when I inherently know it’s not true. Funny how time likes to play tricks on our brain! Truth is; you do have time! A simple everyday meditation practice can take anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes. If Oprah, Kobe Bryant, Arianna Huffington, Katy Perry, and a plethora of other remarkably busy people can do it, so can you!

MYTH #3 – You have to quite your mind & stop thinking while you’re meditating

This is one we definitely hear about a lot. Many people believe their mind must be blank while meditating or else it’s not working. Unfortunately, this myth often causes beginners to forfeit their practice out of frustration. Meditation isn’t about stopping or quieting our thoughts- it’s about cultivating a sense of stillness and peace. Often times, we can cultivate stillness by setting an object of attention to focus on (for example our breath, an image, or paying attention to surrounding sounds). Thoughts will inevitably arise, and our goal is to notice our thoughts and watch them as if we were watching a movie. We pay attention to the thought without judgement or desire to push them away. We acknowledge the events happening in our mind, and we can choose to either continue observing the thought or return our attention to the object of attention (breath, image, or sound).

MYTH #4 – It takes a long time to achieve the benefits of meditation

It might seem like we have to go up to the mountains and find a secluded place to isolate ourselves for a year to achieve the ultimate benefits of meditation, but luckily that is false. Meditation benefits can be immediate. For instance, there was a period in my life when I was super stressed out and had difficulty falling asleep because of all the constant thoughts and worries in my head. Luckily, it was about the same time that I discovered meditation and began using the practice to induce me to sleep. For me personally, I’ve found that body scan meditations are the most helpful form of meditation in putting me to sleep. The results are immediate, and I fall asleep within 10 minutes, every time! Other immediate benefits include lowering your blood pressure, promoting relaxation, reducing stress, and boosting energy if you’re not in a sleep deprived state. Additionally, you can start achieving more long-term benefits in as little as 8 weeks! A landmark study conducted by Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital found that participants engaging in consistent meditation practice for 8 weeks experienced decreased anxiety, greater feelings of calm, and produced growth in areas of the brain linked to memory, empathy, sense of self, and stress regulation. All that goodness in less than 2 months! What a steal. Your mind, body, and soul will thank you deeply.

MYTH #5 – Meditation is a spiritual or religious practice.

Meditation does not require a spiritual or religious belief, and its practiced by people of all different religions and beliefs. Many meditators are atheist or agnostic, and practice daily for the evident mental/physical/health benefits.

The real benefits of meditation are actually experienced outside of our practice. It’s in the moments of everyday life when we begin to notice that situations once pulling for our attention no longer bother us quite as much. Personally, It’s when I’m stuck in the gruesome LA traffic after a long day of work, and feel perfectly at peace in my car. It’s when a rude customer service agent makes me feel compassion rather than anger. I find that the times I’m more easily annoyed is directly linked to my consistency in practice. When we meditate consistently, we subconsciously carry some of the stillness and peace from our practice into our daily lives. That is where the magic happens.

 

The Key Ingredient to Happiness: Gratitude

From philosophers to rulers since the early BC’s, human species have ruminated over this timeless question: what is the secret to happiness? Thanks to emerging research in neuroscience and psychology, we no longer have to speculate on the factors contributing to our happiness. So, what are the ingredients to happiness? It isn’t something very sexy like money, fame, or that beautiful Ferrari. It’s good ol’ gratitude! Currently, there are over 26 studies and counting supporting the link between gratitude and happiness. According to multiple research studies – gratitude not only improves our happiness, but also our career, health, and relationships!

Gratitude and Happiness

Gratitude acts much like a natural antidepressant, because our every thought and action results in a release of chemicals in the brain. By recalling just 5 things we are grateful for everyday, we can activate certain regions of our brain and promote dopamine and serotonin production. Dopamine and serotonin are often considered as our “bliss” neurochemicals, and fires when we do things that bring us pleasure. Procrastination, self-doubt and lack of enthusiasms are linked with low levels of dopamine, while depression and loneliness are associated with deficiencies in serotonin. It’s no wonder why most medications prescribed to treat depression focuses on increasing levels of serotonin and dopamine production in our brain.

serotonin

­­Gratitude and Career

How does being thankful help us in our career? Think back to all the horrible bosses you’ve encountered, and compare them to the bosses/organizations you’ve happily worked for. You may find that the common thread between the two is that one expresses gratitude and appreciation toward your efforts, while the other is overly critical and micro-managerial. In which environment did you feel more productive and creative in? Chances are, the grateful boss empowered you to want to work harder and provided you the room to be more innovative. If you are the one showing appreciation and gratitude- kudos to you! I imagine your work life to be that much more fulfilling and the clock to tick that much faster. Interacting with your coworkers and clients using gratitude not only boosts your networking skills, but also makes you a more effective employee/boss.

gratitude-career

Gratitude and Health

You may have heard that stress is detrimental to your health, and places you at higher risk for heart disease, asthma, obesity, diabetes, and the list goes on. According to the American Psychological Association, chronic stress is linked to the six leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide. We’ve accumulated a few studies showing how gratitude is associated with reduction in physical pain, increased sleep quality, lowered blood pressure and risk of heart disease! Here’s an at-a-glance chart of findings from multiple studies:

RESULTS STUDY
Keeping a daily gratitude journal caused participants to report:16% fewer physical symptoms, 19% more time spent exercising, 10% less physical pain, 8% more sleep, 25% increase sleep quality Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E.
The emotions of appreciation and gratitude was shown to induce the relaxation response The Grateful Heart: The Psychophysiology of Appreciation.McCraty, Rollin; Childre, Doc Emmons, Robert A. (Ed); McCullough, Michael E. (Ed).
A gratitude visit reduced depressive symptoms by 35% for several weeks; and a gratitude journal lowered depressive symptoms by 30%+ for as long as the journal was kept Positive Psychology Progress: Empirical Validation of Interventions. American Psychologist, Seligman, M.E.P., Steen, T.A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005).
In patients with hypertension, there was a significant decrease in their systolic blood pressure when they counted their blessings once a week Gratitude: Effect on Perspectives and Blood Pressure of Inner-city African-American Hypertensive Patients. Randolph Wolf Shipon, Temple University.
Gratitude correlated with improved sleep quality, less time required to fall asleep, and increased sleep duration Gratitude influences sleep through the mechanism of pre-sleep cognitions. Journal of psychosomatic research. Wood, Alex M., et al.
Levels of gratitude significantly correlated with vitality and energy Multiple Studies!

Gratitude and Relationships

As a practicing therapist, I’ve observed a common thread among people expressing dissatisfaction in their relationships. The thread is universal across dating, marriage, family, and even parenting. Relationships become strained when either party feels undervalued and unappreciated for a sustained amount of time. Below is a list of common quotes that are code for “I feel unappreciated, and just need some lovin’”.

Parent to child:
“All you care about is your games/friends/*insert unapproved activity*”
“Oh, Tom’s mom lets him do that? Then go live with Tom’s mom.”

Child to parent:
“I HATE YOU!”
“You just don’t understand!”

In dating and relationships:
“Whatever, do what you want.”
“You always want to hang out with your friends!”

In Marriage:
“Why can’t you just be more [romantic, thoughtful, helpful, considerate].”
“I remember when you used to [talk to me, be romantic, clean].”

Friend to friend:
“All you do is hangout with your boyfriend/girlfriend now.”
“We never do the things that I want to do.”

gratitude-relationships

Conclusion? Practice gratitude to improve every aspect of your life and increase happiness!

*Hint: Our first TheraBox‘s theme is related to this article 😉