4 Life-Changing “Side Effects” of Meditation
Suppose you reach your goal of losing weight (forget the whipped cream and icing-on-your-cake analogy above). Not only do you lose weight, but you also become healthier and have more confidence, which may land you a better job or a boy/girlfriend. You wear the clothes you love. You treat your body with a new-found respect. You are more aware of your health. You get more attention. Boom! Bigger payoffs than you imagined, and totally awesome side effects!
What are some typical goals with meditation?
Become less stressed.
Learn to relax.
Learn to focus.
Reduce negative thoughts.
Be less emotional or angry.
Join the “good vibe” tribe.
Specific goals found in guided meditations…sleep better, study better, speak better, snore better (OK, you’re paying attention 😉 etc.
Are there bigger and better payoffs? Yes!
All those goals above are a great reason to meditate, but WAIT! There’s more! (Was that too infomercial-ly?)
Here’s a list of the payoffs and “side effects” that I know you’ll enjoy, but may not expect:
#1. Personal Growth that you can actually apply to YOUR life: I’m not referring to self-improvement books, gurus, tips, and guides that people seem to enjoy, but rarely apply to their lives. I’m talking about growth you never planned on just because you are meditating.
(My book collection was growing, but I was NOT!)
(There’s more where those came from…)
If you think about it, actual growth and significant change comes from something tough and/or uncertain that we must face in order to hopefully grow. Sitting and reading a book isn’t tough. Meditation can be both tough and uncertain at times, especially for beginners.
It flat out sucks to sit down and face your ugly truths, your judgmental thoughts, and an unstable internal world you haven’t touched base with for years- it can feel like digging through someone else’s attic.
Truth is, we spend a lot of time working on our exterior and curb appeal, but the internal world of meditation works on our foundation- something we don’t see, but contributes to big results.
After consistent meditation, the unpleasant feeling of facing yourself shrinks and guess what? You grow! You learn how to face what you need in order to grow, and with a lack of suffering from nagging negative thoughts, your comfortability with the uncomfortable propels you forward.
#2. Self-Therapy: I went to school to be a counselor. I’ve also been on the receiving end of counseling, and I’ve been left to wonder, what next? What do you do if someone isn’t telling you what to do? Certainly there are a plethora of therapies, but ultimately how do we better handle things ourselves when they arise?
There’s a time and place for receiving help, and it borders leaning too much on someone else so that we expand our helplessness and shrink our power, even trusting ourselves less.
The only sustainable therapy is one we can do ourselves.
Coaching and counseling are fine, but I’d always rather find a way to help myself. Counselors, psychologists, and coaches help get people through a rough spot or help with very specific areas, perhaps a problem or two, but they rarely contribute to long term solutions the way meditation does. They can give you a “system”, but when you are in an irrational or turbulent frame of mind, systems don’t work.
Meditation helps with:
~Facing your problems.
~Separation from the “drama” of your issues.
~Developing an internal relationship with yourself- knowing what’s best for you.
Meditation relaxes automatic, and harmful/reactive, thoughts and emotions so that we are able to see past a problem. Essentially, nobody knows us better than ourselves. What better person to do therapy with than a professional YOU!
#3. Preventative Health and Chronic Health Conditions/Pain: As a chronic illness patient and health-conscious individual, meditation has become a way that I can participate in my own health and healing. If you improve the internal communication between your mind and body, you automatically improve your health ranging from preventative measures to dealing with a diagnosis.
Where was meditation when I was diagnosed? I really wished one person had introduced it to me all those years ago. Instead, I was given pills, including pain pills. I was quickly off of them as I saw they would not help me in the long-term unless I planned on being addicted.
Now I use meditation for easing chronic pain, especially at night. As a patient, I am finally in a position of power, and that is almost as good as the pain relief itself.
When I first practiced meditation, I noticed my general anxiety dissipated after a few months- I felt in control, because I could talk myself down from anxious thoughts and feelings. Then I tried a pain relief meditation by Sharon Salzberg:
“We’re not trying to conquer the pain, or annihilate it, sitting with our teeth grit to endure it…we’re working to change our relationship to it.”
Whether you are a patient or interested in preventative health, you can improve your health just by being be in tune with your body, and the relationship you have with it- aside from the lower blood pressure and stress relief (meditation is known for many health benefits).
Experiencing pain is like the “Second Arrow” story:
A man is walking through the woods when he is suddenly shot by an arrow. He immediately engages in a round of self-pitying thoughts: “Who shot me?” “Why am I always the one to be shot?” “This is totally going to ruin my plans tonight?” Those painful thoughts are unnecessary suffering. Literally, adding insult to injury.
#4. Lifestyle (Un)awareness: Meditation is all about “awareness”…yeah, yeah, we’ve heard it all before. While cultivating your awareness of breath in meditation, over time you can actually become unaware of the positive changes occurring in your overall lifestyle. Yes, you can still be an avid meditator and still be unaware.This is why people will often say they haven’t noticed anything different about their life since meditating. They are simply unaware of the changes.
I encourage one day of meditating followed by a one day of reflection- maybe you’re less pissed the next day or you have better focus and get more done. No need to meditate every day!
Engaging in mindfulness meditation, people find they might lose weight because they have unknowingly been engaging in mindful eating- slower eating and subconsciously eating healthier foods, changing eating habits, or eating less
Randomly, I decided to be a vegetarian after a year of meditating. It felt like a natural transition. It’s changes like these that were easy and natural, but seemed to go unnoticed until later reflection on how I changed since practicing meditation.
The other change was freedom from busy-ness. In our culture, “busy” is associated with value. Although, “busy” never adds value to our lives- we are too busy for friends. Too busy for relationships. Too busy for our family. Ironically, too busy for anything of value.
As a beginner to meditation, I was initially irritated and annoyed with slowing down for just 5 minutes. After practice and time, slowing down became a new luxury. “Busy” doesn’t mean important, wealthy, or hard-working. It means you don’t manage your time or priorities well.
We all get stuck on autopilot. When you practice the fine art of meditation, giving yourself a break from your daily stupor, you slow down enough to see your life with clarity as if stepping outside of yourself for a moment and then stepping back in. This “super” view of yourself gives you great insight you wouldn’t normally have.
Nothing has ever contributed to my life and lifestyle the way meditation has- not exercise, not counseling, not any diet, not a pill, not money, not even one person or one type of therapy.
Those who don’t meditate often believe this skill is difficult to learn, requiring years of disciplined practice. Meditation is actually much simpler than we think—we’re just too busy thinking about it to experience, or notice, the benefits…
Try not too look too hard for the big pay-offs. They are there, I promise you!