Recap: My New Year’s resolution is to stop externalizing my happiness. This year, I’m focusing on my own behaviors and thought processes and experimenting with altering them—one per month—in order to become a more self-aware, self-assured person. You can also access my Huffington Post archive here for past installments.
February: Meditation, two weeks
Pro tip about meditation: It doesn’t magically fix everything that’s wrong with your head. Not that I really thought it would—I just really hoped it would.
In my quest to a) not spend money on these experiments and b) not stress myself out with extensive research trying to do them, I used a guided meditation app called Headspace for the first 10 days of the month. I used it for 10 days because that’s how many days are in their beginner program and it’s also how many days are free. Each session, guy named Andy—who sounds like Russell Brand without the obscenities—talks to you about breathing for about 10 minutes, and variously encourages you to both focus and not focus on things. I didn’t hate it.
I also feel like I didn’t really do it “right.” The app advises meditating first thing in the morning, and I did it every night before bed. This seemed like the most consistent time of my day that I could really carve out 10 minutes to be totally still without worrying about where I needed to be next. Also, I really didn’t want to have to get up earlier than I already do.
So far, I haven’t gotten past anything other than very rudimentary mindfulness—being aware of (and repeatedly reminded to be aware of) my body and my breathing and my thoughts without judgment. Maybe I’ll have some more substantial things to say at the end of the month, but so far, on my list of metrics, I’d say meditation affects the following categories in the following ways:
Energy: Maybe this won’t surprise you, but concerted relaxation right before sleepy time helps you fall asleep! I know that meditation isn’t supposed to (necessarily) be a sleep aid, but this stuff is pretty great at knocking me out. Rather than lie in bed with my wheels turning for an hour, more often than not this 10-minute exercise made it easier to drift off, which in turn meant I was more alert and energized the next day.
Stress: This category has been (thankfully) consistently improving over the course of the month, aided mostly by the fact that there is no longer a bedbug trash-prison in the living room. I can hang my clothes up again. I have socks that match again. I can pee in the middle of the night without falling over garbage bags again. Maybe my decrease in stress has to do with meditation, but it’s currently overshadowed by my return to living like a civilized human.
Contentment: Working on it. Really, really working on it. I feel so much more at peace than I did last month, but again, that’s probably due to outside circumstances. Same with…
Presence: Yeah. Trying. Really trying. Maybe that’s antithetical to being truly present, but I’m otherwise not sure how to go about it.
Production: Not really related to meditation, but my writing partner and I have been cranking out episodes of our podcast, Song Salad, and applying for residencies and grants. It definitely makes me feel like I’m accomplishing things in my creative life, which, as an achievement-whore, centers me. (It centers me in a way that I’m trying to get away from, but for now, I’ll take it.)
So what’s next for meditation? I’ve had friends suggest some resources so I’m going to give those a whirl. I’ll be sure to report back at the end of the month!