I Tried Meditating For a Month. Here's What I Learned.
Meditation and pain relief
I like to think of my ADHD as 'rabbit brain.' Sometimes, my thoughts skitter here and yonder.
Other times, I find myself burrowing deep into hyperfixations. In other words, it is difficult for me to keep my body (much less my mind) still and relaxed. But as I researched meditation, the more curious I became.
Many doctors laud meditation as a coping strategy for people who experience mild-to-moderate pain. A 2016 study in the Journal of Neuroscience found that patients reported less severe pain (and needed less pain medication) when they meditated.1
Meditation cannot cure a person with chronic pain, but it seemed to me that mindfulness might help me better cope with my pain. By taking deep breaths and relaxing my body, could I prevent me from stiffening my muscles and inadvertently making my pain worse? Or could I combat my painsomnia and get some much-needed sleep?
I decided that I had nothing to lose, and I bookmarked a couple of free meditation videos to listen to before I went to bed.
3 Things I Learned After a Month of Meditating
After a month of meditating before bed, I began noticing some real changes in my attitude, my sleep cycle, and my body. Please keep in mind that every person's experience with meditation will be different, so consult with your doctor before you start any new mindfulness or wellness routines.
I was holding tension in unexpected places
When I have flare-ups, I feel horrible cramps in my thighs, lower back, and lower abdomen. But when I meditated each night, I began to recognize where else in my body I was holding this residual tension.
My jaw and shoulders were clenched tight. After meditating, I learned that I need to regularly check in on my body throughout the day to unclench my jaw and roll my shoulders.
Perfect is the enemy of good
I had tried meditation before, but I had quickly given up. Why? Because I wasn't "good at it."
When my mind began to drift, I would get frustrated with myself. I felt like a failure because my mind wasn't completely clear and focused.
But even if I am distracted throughout half of a meditation video, I am still dedicating time to myself. I am still spending more time meditating than I would have otherwise.
I've applied that same attitude of self-compassion to my life. Some days, I don't have the energy or capacity to complete everything I need to do. But responding to some emails is better than doing nothing.
Sitting down in the shower is better than taking no shower at all. Eating a prepackaged meal is better than not eating.
After a month of meditation, I recognized how my perfectionism had been preventing me from making baby steps toward progress.
Mental health and physical health are interconnected
While meditation is considered a 'mindfulness' skill, it's inherently connected to physical health. For example, I helped myself feel more emotionally relaxed by intentionally loosening my muscles and controlling my breathing.
In turn, when I felt calm, I noticed that my heartbeat began to slow. People who live with endometriosis or another chronic illness are at increased risk of experiencing anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.2
Mental health and physical health are directly linked. By caring for my mental health, I began having more positive physical outcomes. For example, I fell asleep faster and awoke feeling more rested.
Have you ever meditated? What were your experiences? Share your insights and advice in the comment section below.
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