(Read time: 3.5 minutes)
Why meditate? Many people practice meditation because they realize that it makes them feel better… calmer, more centered, refreshed, better able to focus, and more connected to self and others.
But, like many other ancient practices that have been passed down through the ages, science is only now catching up to what we’ve known intuitively for generations!
Recent studies have found that those who meditate regularly experience the same positive effects as people who take the anxiety medication Lexapro.
And addressing the problem of anxiety is critical today.
The American Psychological Association has taken a yearly poll about anxiety since 2007, and their most recent results showed a disturbing trend…
More Americans than ever before are anxious.
In fact, over 80% of the people polled reported significant anxiety over issues like the economy and world stability.
In addition, 87% said that it feels like there’s been a constant stream of crises without a break over the last 2 years.
In response to these results, Arthur Evans Jr., the American Psychological Association’s CEO, said:
“Americans have been doing their best to persevere over these past two tumultuous years, but these data suggest that we’re now reaching unprecedented levels of stress that will challenge our ability to cope.”
In 2020 alone, prescriptions for anti-anxiety medication were up by 34%.
Treating anxiety with meditation vs. medication
When people take anti-anxiety medication, they are looking to relieve themselves of the painful symptoms that are disrupting their lives.
But what if I told you that meditation can help you discover and conquer the source of your anxieties?
Treating a symptom without addressing the problem has never worked. You have to fix the problem at its root in order to get lasting relief!
So, what’s driving the anxiety we’re experiencing today?
“All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone” -Blaise Pascal
This quote has never been more true than it is today. Any time things get quiet, we’re able to immediately distract ourselves with our phones. Whether it’s scrolling through social media or playing Angry Birds, there are no more “quiet rooms.”
We are constantly bombarded with the things in our environment… and what we don’t realize is that the things we surround ourselves with are actually powerfully influencing how we think.
Whatever you get into, gets into you
I’ll say it again: Whatever you get into, gets into you.
From the time that we are born, we are programmed by the environment we live in. That is the way we are designed to be.
In ancient Greece, the boys were removed from their mothers at the age of 7 to live with the Spartans while the girls would stay with their mothers to be taught the skills they would need as a woman. The influences around them would teach them how they were to behave in their culture.
In this day and age, we are surrounded by thousands of “influencers” who are actively using psychology to hook us and keep us watching. The end result is that our mind is no longer our own.
And because those influencers’ lives look happier, more successful, and overall better than our own, we end up with an overwhelming feeling that we are not good enough.
And that creates all sorts of problems. We feel anxious, depressed, and unsatisfied. We’re driven to fill the void we feel with addictions… to food, our phones, or other unhealthy things that can never replace the feeling of wholeness and connection that we crave.
Meditation is the “empty room” we desperately need.
When you meditate, it forces you to put down distractions, silence the voices of others in your head, and sit in Pascal’s “empty room” with your true self.
Through meditation, you come face to face with yourself and all of your problems… a place that is uncomfortable, which is why so many of us turn to distractions rather than to what we really need.
Unlike what the world presses on us, meditation doesn’t just relieve the symptoms of stress to help you get through another day. Instead, meditation will force you to confront your problems head-on.
Our problems might be ugly and messy. But learning to understand them, confront them, and grow from them will not just relieve the symptoms of stress but instead conquer the source of your stress.
Take a moment to think about the outside influences in your life. Are you letting in “influencers” that are helping create anxiety and dissatisfaction in your life?
How might these influences be making you feel less-than, worried about your safety, or angry?
List some of these sources and make a plan to cut back or avoid them altogether.
When was the last time you were “alone with yourself in a quiet room?”
Take an inventory of your typical day and find places where you can be alone with your thoughts.
In addition to practicing meditation, you can maximize time spent on your commute, while you exercise, wash the dishes, or take a shower… all moments of quiet that are perfect for reflection and connection with your own thoughts.
Meditation is crucial to our growth and our own understanding of ourselves. In part 2 of The Power of Meditation, we will be going over the spiritual side of meditation and how it can help you to heal and grow as an individual.
Want more? Listen to the Disrupting the Drift podcast on this topic!