Why I Meditate
Dr. Michael Sweetnam, PhD
… And Why You Should, Too.
I believe that meditation is an important element of health, along with good sleep and regular exercise. These are all things that you can do to improve your sense of wellbeing. There is a large body of research that shows the health benefits of meditation. There is now a growing body of research showing the value of meditation for mental health.
Practice Makes Present
If you practice meditation, even for 10-15 minutes a day, you will develop a set of skills that benefit you throughout every day. When you meditate you focus inward on your body. That practice helps you to become more aware of your emotional state and to more quickly recognize rising emotion and increasing stress. Because you have practiced calming breathing techniques you are more able to calm yourself when stressed, anxious, or irritated.
When you meditate you take the attitude of an observer of your thoughts, watching them go by like passing traffic. You learn not to chase your thoughts. That skill helps you to not get caught up in worrying and ruminating on things that you can’t presently address. As a result, meditation helps you to be more skillful in living calmly in the present moment, focused on what is in front of you.
For more on living calmly in the present, see Dr. Donal MacCoon’s 2018 post on mindfulness.
Meditation & Mindfulness Courses
There are many ways to begin a meditation practice. UW Health offers the 10 week long Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn. There are a number of other mindfulness offerings by UW Health including mindfulness for children, for teens, for older adults, and mindful eating. There are a number of other mindfulness courses offered in the community as well.
Tech for Meditation
I encourage people to listen to an app called Headspace. You’ll get a 10-day introduction to meditation for free and then you can decide whether you want to subscribe to the app or not.
There is also a large selection of mindfulness meditation You Tube videos. You can enter just about any search term (meditation for forgiveness, compassion, gratitude, sleep, eating, anger, etc.) and find YouTube videos. If you enter “body scan mediation” you will find dozens of YouTube videos that are about 10 minutes long. Listening to a body scan meditation at bedtime can help you to quiet your brain so that you sleep better.
What You Stand to Gain
If you are willing to start a meditation practice, even 10-15 minutes a day, I think that you will notice benefits in about a month. You will be more aware of your stress level and your emotions. You will be better at calming your brain and relaxing your body. You will notice when you are starting to worry or ruminate. You will be better at letting negative thoughts pass and returning to the present moment. You will be able to use these skills as you go through your day.
About Dr. Sweetnam
Michael Sweetnam, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist. His practice focuses on the treatment of children and families. The goal of treatment is to help family members to find solutions to problems and to create a family environment that enables family members to flourish emotionally, cognitively, and socially. He treats children and adults. For more information, view full bio.