MILLENNIALS NEED MEDITATION, NOT MEDICINE, FOR STRESS RELIEF AND HAPPINESS

I was recently single, and feeling a bit depressed. The first time I remember my friend telling me about meditation, I thought to myself, “What planet does this person come from?” I was convinced he had drunk the woo-woo kool-aid. A few weeks later, he tried telling me about it again and explained it a little further, and I thought he was even more crazy than the first time! Knowing my stubbornness (and the fact that I needed a boost of excitement), a few months later he finally said to me, “You know Pete, there are a lot of cute girls that meditate. And it’s a great way to meet people!” I quickly replied, “I’ll give it a shot.”

Millennials (and the upcoming Generation Z) are always looking for a quick fix to their problems, both mental and physical. They want instant happiness (usually in the form of Facebook likes, dating app matches, or Instagram story views. And sometimes pills). However, this short-sightedness can lead to serious mental health issues concerning self-image, anxiety, and depression. In my experience, meditation can act as a natural medicine to help resolve some of these issues and clear a path to finding true happiness.

Meditation is about breathing. Not clearing your mind.

I had a lot of misperceptions about meditation. As I sat on the cushion for my first guided class, I thought to myself, “Am I supposed to be transformed to a magical place, secretly locked inside the deepest part of my brain?” (Yes I know, ridiculous.) What I quickly discovered is that the act of “meditating” is not about clearing your mind; it’s actually the practice of returning to your breath when you find your mind naturally wandering. This exercise in self-awareness enables you to observe your thoughts “like passing clouds in the sky,” without getting too emotionally sucked into them. It allows you to observe your feelings from a safe distance and teaches you how to respond in less emotionally-reactive ways. Meditation, similar to medicine, empowers you with feelings of self-control and calms your body’s natural response system. Who knew breathing could be so powerful?

Meditation allows you to connect with other humans in a much deeper, meaningful way.

I used to be so naïve and arrogant, thinking I knew everything (some might still accuse me of this, although I’ve come a long way). It’s true, Millennials tend to be know-it-alls. But the practice of meditation creates mindfulness. What is mindfulness, exactly? Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present and hyper-aware of the current moment––not planning or worrying about future events. It gives you this special ability to have a conversation with someone and be actively engaged––to listen, without concurrently thinking about your response. It’s a very powerful tool which others will appreciate because you don’t appear to have an “agenda.” You can genuinely care about what this other person is experiencing without any bias or negative judgement. This kind of interaction allows humans to develop a faster level of trust and open communication without feeling “guarded.” It’s amazing what you can learn from other humans when you simply listen.

Meditation creates happiness by seeking from within.

I know, it seems like a pretty “out there” statement. But let’s think about this and not be so quick to judge. I used to be very hard on myself and others. In fact, Millennials tend to be very judgmental. We’re constantly bombarded by visual stimuli via social media, and it’s easy to get manipulated into comparing yourself to others. Personally, I have worked a lot on self-care and self-love over the last few years. Meditation helps you feel grounded. It forces you to take ten (or more) minutes out of your day, pause, and really think about your feelings. I am often surprised by thoughts that seem to rise from out of nowhere to the top of my consciousness. By practicing meditation,  you will naturally become more secure in your beliefs and values over time; you will learn that you don’t need others’ approval to be comfortable in your own skin. You will develop a healthy, strong sense of self. This is the secret key to happiness. Not how many likes or views you have.

Believe me, I was just as skeptical as anyone else before I tried my first meditation experience. And I’m not suggesting that it’s the only way to find happiness. But as scientific research and my personal experience have shown, there are alternatives to medicine which can create sustainable, lifelong change.

Peter Darrow