I Tried Meditation for 7 Days. Here’s What Happened.
And why now, I’ll never stop.
Recently, I entered into a transitional period in my life. Rapid changes in my day to day, undoubtedly became a source of anxiety and stress. Although I was aware of the practice of meditation, I remained skeptical and never gave it any serious thought. But, if it reconciled any of the overwhelming feelings of anxiety and stress, I was certainly interested.
Clearly, meditation has gained substantial traction in recent years as upwards of 500 billion people are believed to meditate worldwide; whereas, here in the United States, adults attempting meditation tripled from 2012 (4.1%) to 2017 (14.2%). Therefore, given the large amount of followers of meditative practice, I thought to myself that there must be something to this. So I gave it a try.
I gave myself a week. Now I know that to form habits of any kind, you typically need to implement them for longer. But, in a type of experiment, I wanted to see if I could detect any benefit in a shorter period. So I downloaded an app (of which there are numerous!) and made a promise to myself to meditate every morning. However, I was in no way ready for the benefits that were in store.
Reduced Anxiety and Calmness
At first I must admit, it felt strange just sitting in a comfortable position at my desk, eyes closed, and focusing on my breathing. I only meditated for just about 10 minutes. My thoughts during that time were sporadic and wandering. However, towards the end and immediately after, a wave of calm passed through my entire body which is challenging to articulate. It felt as if I was floating on clouds with a reduced need to worry about what I needed to do. More importantly, throughout the day, I seemed to be much more relaxed and although I had a variety of things needed to get accomplished, the anxiety and constant worry were dramatically reduced.
Thus, during my time practicing meditation throughout the week, maintained an overall sense of calm with my anxiety, although still present, at a much lower level. If this was from not only starting but also maintaining meditation as a daily practice, I see nothing but a benefit.
Now a reduction in anxiety is often highlighted as a major benefit of meditation, which I thought was just an attention grab. However, it appears that anxiety and stress are indeed, substantially impacted. A study evaluating 50 participants after a 10-week intervention of mindfulness meditation showed decreases in anxiety, stress, and depression symptoms, with the most severely affected individuals showing the most improvements.
As evidence grows on the benefits of meditation on anxiety coupled with my own personal experience, meditation is without a doubt a useful tool.
An Increase in Focus
By day 3, another benefit seemed to arise as I was continuing to work. I felt as if I was generating a better workflow in the specific tasks I was working on. More so, I maintained that focus for longer periods. While working on a specific presentation, in which I had but a few slides completed, soon noticed that I had generated double the amount of material I wanted to achieve for the day. Upon reviewing the work I had just completed, to my surprise it was clear and well articulated.
Now you may be thinking this was a fluke. Maybe I was just more aware of what I was working on and fooled myself.
As someone whose mind often wanders, I disagree. The increase in focus on the tasks at hand from day to day was too drastically improved upon to be by chance. Perhaps this was due to a reduction in random or disjointed thoughts during my production hours. Studies evaluating brain activity of individuals who meditate demonstrate better cognitive connections, self-awareness, and concentration. I don’t know if this was the case for me, but the outcomes of my increased productivity and focus were obvious.
Furthermore, I had a overall reduction in my wandering thoughts which may have contributed to my improved calmness and relaxed state. Others have indicated that a mind occupied by wandering thoughts, is associated with unhappiness. Regardless, I achieved a better focus and energy in my work that contributed to my well-being throughout my meditative week.
Mindful and Present
Throughout the week, the most detectable change as a result of meditation was my improvement in being mindful of where I was and being present in the moment. This likely stems from focusing on my breathing during the 10-minute morning routine. But just from a short time frame, I gained a better perspective of myself.
As I previously mentioned that my mind often wanders, either to past experiences and arguments or future anticipated problems, limited my ability to live in the moment and enjoy life as it is. Personally speaking, this alone is what will drive me to continue the practice of meditation. Being cognizant of where we I am and purely living life in the moment. It appears that meditation and happiness itself are closely associated. So if I could achieve such a revelation in just 7 days, I can only imagine what perspective I may have longer term.
I think that mindfulness also laid the groundwork for my improvements in focus, calmness, and my reduction in anxiety.