Experiments in Happiness: Meditation, One Month

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Recap: My New Year's resolution is to stop externalizing my happiness. This year, I'm focusing on my own behaviors and thought processes and experimenting with altering them--one per month--in order to become a more self-aware, self-assured person. You can access my Huffington Post archive here for past installments. You can also read the whole series on my blog, This Millennial Life.

February: Meditation, one month

Spoiler alert: I have not become a Zen master in one month. And yes, I know that enlightenment takes at least four months and you have to pay for the Monk Level on those meditation apps first.

But seriously, I am very, very much at the beginning of my meditation/mindfulness journey. The meditation I practiced was very basic, and always guided. Each session was about ten minutes long, with someone directing me to concentrate on different parts of my body or on my breath. No matter what free meditation app I used--and there were several--they all involved following the breath in and out and being aware of how different parts of my body felt (or didn't feel).

Headspace, which I used first, delved into the most abstract exercises of the bunch, asking me to imagine being in the sky or a vast empty space and just watching my thoughts go by. That was definitely the most empowering for me. Usually I follow a thought about getting groceries down a rabbit hole and end up and hour later staring at the ceiling frantically trying to calculate hypothetical mortgage payments on hypothetical apartments, based solely on what I know from HGTV shows and my (poor) grasp of our banking system and math. Giving myself permission step back and observe the thought without chasing it down kept my head uncluttered.

I really only scratched the surface of meditation this month, but I know for sure that I will be continuing on with it, because it really did affect me in some very concrete ways. Here are the most tangible effects I noticed:

1. Counting my breath makes me sleepy.
2. Picturing my breath makes me sleepy.
3. Listening to my breath makes me sleepy.
4. Being aware of the feeling of my breath makes me sleepy.
5. Breathing deeply for extended periods of time makes me sleepy.

So, yeah. It's honestly been a great sleep aid for me, which is not something to discount.

On a slightly more morbid note, noticing my breath also makes me hyper aware that I'm just a meatbag of bones and water, fragile, frail, and temporary. The little lizard part of my brain starts bubbling up and I get this kind of excited panic like, "I could die tomorrow. I could die right now! I gotta get out there! I gotta go! Gotta do! Gotta live!"

I'm not sure if it's healthy or not, but it sure does put me in the here and now.

So to recap, my 29-day experiment in meditation...


Energy: Seriously, sleep is amazing. Did you know that? Why didn't anybody tell me that before? I really do feel like I 've gotten better sleep this month than I have in a while, but that could also be a side effect of being able to drink wine again...


Stress: Much less stressed than last month, but as you know, last month needs to be thrown out of the data set.

Contentment: Again, see above. Better than last month, but that's not hard to do.

Presence: I can honestly say I've noticed myself being able to squelch the urge to over-plan, overthink, and over-worry. Not saying that I don't want to do these things, but I've been making a concerted effort to nip those Doom Spirals in the bud before I work myself into a dark place.


Production: I'm happy to say that my writing partner are still consistently releasing episodes of our podcast, Song Salad, and applying for more residencies and grants. I'm also inordinately proud of myself for posting these blogs (more or less) on time.

So now it's March, and I'm (terrifyingly) saying goodbye to refined sugar for this month. And of course, I just got the Girl Scout Cookies I ordered from my coworkers daughter, so I'll be freezing those for midnight on March 31st.

I'll check in again soon after some time without sugar, but I'll also be writing a little addendum about another experiment I've adopted for the long term: Bullet Journaling!

See you in two weeks!

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