A few years ago after an anxious stress filled day running around Sydney like a chicken with her head cut off, I decided I’d had enough. Surely there was more to life than worrying about deadlines and living in a tiny Bondi box at an exorbitant price.
On the outside I had it all. I lived on one of the most beautiful beaches. I had two amazing careers taking place. A great social circle and wonderful family. So why was I having this constant internal battle with myself daily? I was so anxious and worried all the time, and the truth was, I wasn’t happy, but I had no idea why. This is the hardest thing about that sneaky black dog, sometimes it is unexplainable. But the first step is realisation. I knew something had to change, and I knew It needed to happen yesterday.
So, a week later I quit my job. I sold my house, my car and every other materialistic thing I owned and bought a one way ticket to South America armed with only the necessities, my backpack and my sister. The next 2 and a half years were spent traversing the globe and exploring around 50 countries, and it honestly changed me from the inside out.
Yep, thats right, I am that travel cliche of ‘the girl that went on a journey of self discovery and changed her life forever’ that you probably love to hate.
But it is the truth.
I am basically Eat, Pray, Love personified.
Well, admittedly the pray part came in the form of meditation, and the love part was put on pause. Ok. You got me. I am just eat. ( And eat I did)
I have so many things I’d love to impart on all of you impending ‘take a risk and go find yourself’ travellers about my wellness journey, but for today lets touch on my biggest life changer and its many benefits, Meditation.
I was first introduced to meditation as a young girl 20 odd years ago. My father had a heart attack. The Drs suggestion to help aid his recovery? You guessed it. Meditation. It has been scientifically proven to lower your stress and anxiety levels tremendously.
Studies suggest that meditation practice induces functional and structural brain modifications, especially in areas involved in self-referential processes, including self-awareness and self-regulation, as well as in areas involved in attention, executive functions, and memory formations, and is now being used to help treat certain diseases, especially in the elderly.
Check out “The Meditative Mind: A Comprehensive Meta-Analysis of MRI Studies” if you don’t want to take just my word for it.
Having a degree in Medical Radiation Science myself this was of great interest to me. So off I went to do a bit of light reading.
Let’s get technical for just a second. The brain has a “fight or flight” centre, called the Amygdala. The control centre for fear. Meditation has been show to shrink this fear centre. As the amygdala shrinks, the pre-frontal cortex – associated with higher order brain functions such as awareness, concentration and decision-making – becomes thicker.
What does this mean? The connection between the amygdala and the rest of the brain gets weaker, while the connections between areas associated with attention and concentration gets thicker aka stronger. Grey matter thickens. Less fear, more calm awareness.
I meditate almost everyday. It is a common misconception that you must lock yourself away in a dark room with your legs crossed, surrounded by candles and sit in silence for two weeks thinking about what sacrifice you can make to the greater gods when you finally see the light of day again.
Mindful meditation can be as easy as sitting in silence for 10 minutes. Channeling your thoughts to the present moment, concentrating on your breathing, and simply being present. The benefits are proven and I can personally vouch for these.
After going through quite a big life event at the age of 25 I stopped sleeping. I was stressed, restless and was known to burst in to tears at the drop of a hat. Emotions were high. Insomnia took over and everyday I looked like the walking dead.
Enter meditation stage left.
After practicing meditation continuously for a few weeks I noticed my sleeping patters started improving, stress levels were reducing and I was generally a happier person. And after 8 weeks I was sleeping all the way through the night and was even known to take an afternoon nap. I was basically your dream toddler.
I can now fall asleep anywhere, whether it is in a hammock on the beach or the floor of the Amazon jungle. I was sold.
Now, quitting your job and running to the other side of the globe is not for everyone and it may not be for you (although I do recommend it) so instead, for now, I urge you all to shut off for just 10 minutes. Close your eyes, sit up straight, just breathe, empty your mind, relax and be present.
Now do that everyday. Make it routine like brushing your teeth or going to the gym, and watch your soul flourish.
And remember, Meditation is not what you think.