How Meditation Can Improve Your Self-Esteem
The next time you have a spare minute, close your eyes. Give yourself a few seconds to pay attention to the rhythm of your breath. Then, try to pace your inhales and exhales: inhale for four seconds, pause for four seconds, exhale for four seconds, pause for four seconds, and repeat. Focus on the feeling of your breath entering and leaving your body, the sensation of your feet on the floor, and relaxing any tension or clenching in your muscles.
Congratulations! You just learned to meditate.
But why meditate? You may be wondering what the benefits of such a simple activity could be. Of course, being able to relax your body and mind for a few minutes a day can do wonders for your stress level. According to the National Institutes of Health, meditation can assist with combating symptoms of anxiety and depression. But meditation can also improve your self-esteem through comfort with thoughts and acceptance of self. Here are a few ways meditation may improve your self-esteem:
- Meditation takes away power from negative thoughts. Meditation does not mean controlling your thoughts, but it does decrease the control your thoughts may have over you. For example, having lots of negative thoughts about your appearance, your abilities, your value as a person, what others think of you, etc. can contribute to poor self-esteem. In other words, these thoughts can make you feel bad about yourself. However, when you try to shut out these thoughts or argue against them, you are giving them more time and energy, which allows them to grow stronger. Through meditation, you can learn that just observing these thoughts and accepting that they're there weakens them. And when these thoughts have less of an emotional hold over you, they will likely start occurring less frequently too. Check out Mindful for more information about how this works.
- Meditation helps you realize that your thoughts do not define you. Thinking something does not make it true. Thoughts are often reflexes, just mental occurrences that happen in response to stimuli. So if you have negative thoughts about yourself and your abilities, that doesn't mean that you are any less capable of worthwhile. Meditation teaches you to recognize these thoughts for what they are: just thoughts. Not realities or truths.
- Meditation allows you to feel like you are enough. One of the more subtle benefits of meditation is the ability to feel present in the moment when you are meditating. When you dwell on the past or worry about the future, feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy can creep in. But when you are fully present, you are able to feel that simply being and breathing is enough in that moment. You can assure yourself that you are exactly where you need to be. You may become more comfortable in your body and the space that you occupy. These little lessons acquired in the process of meditation may start to affect how you feel the rest of the day, too.
Maybe you feel apprehensive or reluctant about beginning to meditate. That might be because you've heard one of the common misconceptions about meditation. These misconceptions include:
- Meditation requires hours of sitting still. Many people picture meditation as sitting on a cushion perfectly still for hours at a time. However, according to a New York Times article by David Gelles, you can get benefits from meditating for only 10 to 15 minutes. Additionally, meditation can include movement. Some yoga practices are geared toward meditation, such as this guided mindful yoga for meditation from the YouTube yoga channel Practice with Kris.
- People are either naturally "good at meditation," or not. This is simply not true. Everyone needs practice to get better at meditation. While some people may have an easier time focusing than others, wandering thoughts are a normal part of meditation and not a sign that you are "bad at it."
- Meditation is about controlling your mind. Meditation is often thought of as a tool with which people control their minds and thoughts. However, the opposite is actually true. Meditation is about acknowledging that you can't fully control your thoughts, and accepting your mind the way it is. The result of this acceptance is that negative and anxious thoughts have less power. If you put less energy toward trying to suppress or fight against these thoughts, and instead just observe them or let them be, their control over how you feel diminishes. Eventually, you may learn to be able to just let go of unwanted thoughts, like a leaf floating down a stream. https://www.mindful.org/meditation/mindfulness-getting-started/
So, are you interested in trying out meditation? You can start by checking out the Chopra Center's five meditation styles for beginners. You might also be interested in this guided meditation practice for self love from Yoga International and meditation for inner peace from the popular YouTube yogi Adriene Mishler. Don't forget to breathe!