Aah, the siren song of the city -- trains groaning, semis rumbling on the bridge overhead, the squeaks and drone of heavy machinery, and all the while, dodging deadlines and emails and phone calls, your stress levels slowly creep up…and up…and up.
What if I told you there was a way to find quiet, even in a noisy space?
There is. It’s mindfulness meditation.
I know, I know. It’s been said before. The internet is full of holier-than-thou health gurus gushing over the benefits of this or that new agey thing. Yes, I was lazy and skeptical too. Actually, I’m still lazy and skeptical about most things…but not meditation.
It’s easier than you think: no need to sit in lotus position, no need to visualize yourself as transcendentally peaceful or even anything more than the awesome, lovably flawed human you are. All you need to do is relax, concentrate on your breathing, and let your thoughts float by, focusing on the present moment.
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The benefits of mindfulness meditation include:
Ever have a thought that you just worry and worry over, until everything just… collapses? A recent study showed that meditation is even more effective than stress-management techniques at reducing generalized anxiety.
Meditation helps because by only thinking about the present moment, you let go of whatever needless thoughts are making you fret. And after a while, you’ll realize that those little things aren’t even worries at all.
Focusing on your breathing for ten minutes a day sounds easy, right? The mind naturally wanders during meditation, and the only task is to gently bring it back to the present moment. This gentle act of re-focusing helps you focus in other parts of your life, too. Studies show that after meditation, multitasking is less stressful. Participants who meditated were less distracted during their tasks.
Alleviating stress and depression
What freelancer isn’t stressed or depressed? Luckily, meditation helps with that too. It eases both psychological and physical symptoms of stress-- just as how smiling makes you actually feel better, taking a moment to quiet your body actually makes you less stressed, too. In fact, here’s some news for you: meditating, when done routinely over an extended period of time, is more effective than a placebo and just as effective as maintenance antidepressant therapy.
If that all sounds great, give meditation a try! Even just ten minutes a day is enough to kickstart some of the benefits of mindfulness meditation.
Speaking from personal experience, I know that meditation can be hard if you’re expecting to get some good out of it. You might feel impatient, or wonder why sometimes it’s so great and other times you fall asleep. That’s okay! It’s all part of the process -- nobody’s perfect.
I used the app Headspace to get started -- guided meditation is a great way to begin the practice, if you’re uncertain or have never meditated before.
Got any tips about meditation or other mindfulness practices? Share your thoughts in the Health and Wellness Hive!
Larissa Pham is an artist and writer based in Brooklyn, New York. She meditates every day in the stairwell next to Freelancers Union HQ but sometimes forgets on weekends when she's at home.