I WAS TOLD TO meditate to lose weight, advance my career and to become less anxious. After meditating for about a year, I became a great meditator. However, I didn’t lose a single pound, my business declined and my life became more chaotic. As a result, I was even more stressed, resentful and bitter than before I started meditating.
Of course, meditation can be a powerful way to improve health – there’s lots of strong research to support its positive effects on everything from depression and anxiety to cognition and chronic pain. But meditation alone is only part of the bigger wellness puzzle. Here’s why meditation may not be helping you achieve your goals – and how you can adjust your practice to make better progress:
1. You aren’t putting your intentions into action.
When I was struggling to make a living as a yoga teacher, I was overwhelmed with stress. I couldn’t sleep because the pressure felt so suffocating. The effects of both stress and sleep deprivation affected my whole life. The solution? According to my mentors, to meditate for abundance. Needless to say, that strategy only left me feeling more hopeless.
It wasn’t until I completed a business course and implemented a business plan that my job got better. I created a map toward a desired outcome and, most importantly, I took logical steps to accomplish it.
Meditation is a great tool for zeroing in on what you want. It helps you understand how you’d like your life to feel, and it tempers emotional and impulsive behaviors. But if you just think about your goals, it isn’t enough. You need to put your vision into motion to get results.
2. You’re relying on blind faith.
If you’re meditating to escape your demons, keep in mind you need to confront them – not simply hope or meditate on a problem and assume it will resolve itself. Doing so is like running a red light because you believe a higher power will keep you safe.
Meditation should help you seek out your truth, and put space between thoughts and actions to support better decision-making. But it’s not going to solve your problems overnight. Instead, you need to face them incrementally. For instance, if you are nervous about going to the gym, first consider taking a walk to and from the gym. After a week, work out for 15 minutes and slowly build up to an hour. Logical, actionable steps – supported by a clear mind that’s better able to consistently take them – bear results.
3. You’re going it alone.
All of your decisions over a long period of time make up your overall health. You are never going to be perfect, but you want the sum total of positive decisions to outweigh the negative. While a solo meditation practice can support these positive decisions, your trajectory toward better health will be accelerated (and more enjoyable) if you can share your experience and challenges with like-minded people. Consider joining a group outside of your meditation community – say, a running club – that supports your specific health goals and keeps you accountable. For me, the local yoga community was that pillar of support.
4. You don’t fully believe you’re worthy.
Meditation can shed light on your shortcomings and teach you to look at them with compassion – not judgment. The next step, though, is actually treating yourself as if you’re someone worth caring about. If you do that, when you are faced with a crucial decision, you’re more likely to act as if your health is a priority.
Try to see yourself through the lens of someone you truly love. Ask yourself, “What would I want my brother, sister or good friend to do?” This is an effective way to start this thought process until eventually it’s more automatic. If you find yourself spiraling back into bad habits, pause and remember that you’re human. Meditation can help you understand and accept your flaws; but only you can decide to act like you are someone worth putting work into.