Positive Attitude

Dr Happy | Can’t seem to meditate? 7 joyful activities for you to try instead

Can’t seem to meditate? 7 joyful activities for you to try instead

I’m a huge fan of and advocate for mindfulness and meditation.

I meditate EVERY day, and typically encourage others to do so too.

But, I’m also well aware that we’re all different; and different things work for different people.

For some, meditation just isn’t right. If you’re one of these people, maybe you could try one of these other suggestions via Ingrid Fetell Lee and TED Ideas …

I don’t meditate.

It’s a simple fact that often feels like a confession. After all, meditation is hailed as an almost magical cure in self-help circles, and the list of benefits it offers is undeniably impressive. Meditation promotes calm and compassion, decreases stress, and improves attention and concentration. Avid meditators won’t hesitate to point out, breathlessly, that it can actually change your brain. It is one of the most studied non-pharmacologic mental health interventions in the world, and most of the data is overwhelmingly positive.

So why don’t I do it?

At its best, meditation felt like I was floating in the ocean. But I noticed this only seemed to happen when I was already calm. When I was anxious, meditation actually increased my agitation.

It’s not that I’ve never tried. I used the apps and the timers. I tried body scan meditations and mindfulness meditations. I tried sitting, which made me uncomfortable, and then lying down, which made me fall asleep. I focused on my breath (until I began to hyperventilate), and I also imagined my thoughts floating away in little clouds (there were a lot of clouds).

And to be fair, I went through a period of a couple of months when I had some success with it. At its best, it felt like I was floating in the ocean, bobbing on waves of pure consciousness. But I noticed this only seemed to happen when I was already calm.

When I was anxious, meditation actually increased my agitation. I felt a profound sense of dissonance, my mind bubbling like it was coming to a boil, trapped inside a body that was desperately trying to hold still. At the end of each effort, I felt drained from the failure and worn out by the attempt. Despite the assurances of meditation evangelists that I just needed to stick with it and that feeling like I was failing was part of the process, I suspected that maybe meditation wasn’t for me.

I gained a new perspective when one day I shared with my therapist that meditation has been such a struggle for me.

“Oh, I definitely wouldn’t recommend meditation for someone with your profile,” she said matter-of-factly.

In fact, a 2017 study found that a significant proportion of meditators have experienced fear, pain, dizziness, paranoia, dysphoria and other “challenging” effects.

I was surprised, and strangely relieved. I’d become so used to people extolling the virtues of meditation that I had assumed it was universally beneficial. It never occurred to me that a therapist might not recommend it, or even advise against it. When I asked why, she explained that for some people with histories of unprocessed trauma and physical dissociation, meditation can do exactly what I’d experienced — increase anxiety, prompt flashbacks or trigger other physical symptoms.

In fact, a 2017 study of meditation experiences found that a significant proportion of meditators have experienced fear, pain, dizziness, paranoia, dysphoria and other “challenging” effects. Researchers believe these effects are often under-reported, because studies aiming to understand the benefits of meditation don’t ask about adverse effects. As a non-pharmacologic intervention, meditation is assumed to be harmless.

The moral of this story isn’t “don’t meditate” but rather, that meditation is like many things — great for some people, but not necessarily for everyone.

If it works for you, wonderful! No need to read any further.

But if like me you’ve struggled with traditional forms of meditation, yet still crave a way to settle your mind and ease your anxiety, happily, there are other approaches that can create a similar kind of mental expansiveness to that offered by meditation. These techniques don’t have nearly the same fervor or body of research backing them, but they are valuable alternatives, especially for those of us who find meditation unbearable rather than unburdening.

Rather than feeling like I need to sit with uncomfortable feelings or ideas, visualization allows me to transform them creatively and work with them in a generative, dynamic way.

Here they are…

… keep reading the full & original article HERE


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