This was written by Kelli Cooper of Solstice Chinese Herbal Medicine.
Our mental health is precious and many of us do not attend to it as well as we should. While it is natural to experience stress, doubt, anxiety, fear and other negative emotions, they do not have to overwhelm us. There are ways to reduce their occurrences and their intensity when they do rear their heads. We have much more control over our happiness and well-being than we realize, we just need to commit to finding and using strategies that work for us. Meditation is one such strategy and it is one of the most effective.
If you even have a passing interest in personal growth, you have probably come across the recommendation to meditate a million times and if you are like many people, have yet to try it. I know because I was one of those people once. You may not see how simply sitting still could enhance your mental health but do not be fooled by its simplicity. Meditation is probably the most powerful tool you could have in your arsenal.
We cannot change something until we are aware that it is a problem. For most of us, our awareness is very limited. We operate on auto-pilot, with our thoughts just racing through our minds. We realize of course, that we do not feel good, but we fail to really analyze what is going on inside. Without this deliberate thought and analysis, we will never be able to change our thought patterns, beliefs, habits and behaviors. In the stillness of meditation, we have the opportunity to really observe what is happening and this is the vital first step in making positive change.
The Ability to Respond and Not React
So much of our suffering in life stems from our reactive nature. Something happens and we just react without thinking. We get overwhelmed with emotion. Often times, we regret how we handled the situation, sometimes as soon as a few minutes after the occurrence. Meditation helps strengthen the space between your thoughts and feelings and the true you, which is just pure energy, consciousness or whatever you want to call it. In this space, you can observe what is happening and respond in a more effective manner that will bring you greater peace of mind and keep you calmer.
Strengthening this space helps you realize that we truly have total control over our actions and how we choose to see things. We always have that choice on how to proceed and meditation helps us make the better choice. We may not make it every time, but we are only human after all, so do not beat yourself up about it.
Stress is a natural part of life and we probably cannot totally eliminate it from our lives. So, the goal then becomes finding ways to deal with it effectively so we can minimize the negative impact it has on our lives—it wreaks all sorts of havoc from encouraging self-sabotaging behavior to increased negativity and pessimism. A big part of our stress involves what is going on upstairs in our mind. Thoughts race and we start imagining all sorts of scenarios that we do not want to happen. We feel overwhelmed with our responsibilities. Meditation helps clear your mind and even if those thoughts still crop up, you can rein them in better. You will get better at observing them and realizing their fleeting nature. When we grasp the impermanence of our bad moods and the like, it is easier to sit with them in the moment they are occuring.
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