Our columnist talks about how we can liberate ourselves with the power of the mind
We beat ourselves up for our so-called bad habits. We berate ourselves for not having more willpower. We hunt around for the latest book, app or tool that will miraculously make us lose weight, get fit, stop smoking or stop procrastinating. Yet what if the answer were much simpler? What if meditation could help us break unhelpful habits?
“Meditation works to break the cycle of bad habits by making us more present and aware of what we’re doing in the moment,” says meditation teacher Catherine Turner, co-founder of Kind Meditation which runs online and in-person courses teaching meditation (kindmeditation.co.uk). “When we are in a connected, calm state, we are far less reactive and impulsive. We have a moment of clarity in which to make more positive and nourishing choices for ourselves.
“Meditation brings about a deeply restorative restful state in our nervous system, and when our nervous system is in balance, we are far less likely to need something to relax at the end of the day. Often I see habits we use to ‘relax’ fall away naturally, without even having to try – things like reaching for that glass of wine that turns into a few, or eating junk food. We’re also able to function more efficiently when we’re relaxed – decision-making improves, priorities become clearer and yes, I have seen that people who are habitually late turn into people who are always on time.”
Catherine is clear that it isn’t a magic bullet and if deep trauma lies behind your harmful habits, you may need psychotherapy alongside meditation. However, meditation is a wonderful place to start. “It helps us prioritise our self-care, in a self-healing way. We become more aware of the ways our actions manifest and we can start to make changes.”
Catherine cites the case of one woman who turned to meditation to help with her severe stress and weight problem – six months later, she was like a different person. “She looked about 10 years younger. She had lost weight, was sleeping better and her digestion had improved,” says Catherine. “She felt a lot happier and able to cope with pressure at work. Meditation was the catalyst for all these changes. She didn’t have to force herself to diet; everything followed from the impact of the meditation practice.”
It sounds almost too good to be true and yet many of us still baulk at learning meditation. “You don’t have to be a yogi sitting cross-legged on a mountain top to benefit from meditation,” explains Catherine. “It can begin very simply and practically. When we follow just one breath in and one out we come into the present moment, which helps us become more conscious of our actions. In that moment ask yourself: Do I really need a drink/another slice of cake? What’s beneath that thought? Why am I feeling this way? A moment of stillness allows us to step back, take a moment, and maybe take a different route.”
To get the most out of meditation, it’s always best to learn it with a teacher, particularly if you have trauma in your past.
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