Meditation creates a gap between the impulse and reaction.
Here’s how many people go through their entire life: there’s an impulse e.g. “I’m hungry”, “I’m tired”, “I’m bored”, “I like this thing”, “I’m horny” – which usually follows with a respective reaction e.g., browsing Facebook, watching yet another movie, buying something, eating some junk food, watching porn, etc.
There’s actually nothing really wrong with any of the above – it’s the immediate gratification part that’s problematic — the immediate response without really thinking.
You may not realize, but most of the time, we’re just on autopilot.
If the brain would have to think and decide every time on every little thing, we’d lose our mental energy before we even get out of the house.
Imagine thinking and deciding right after waking up, how exactly should you get out of bed and what you should do, and exactly how should you do all the activities. It’d be ridiculous.
Autopilot is, in a way, a good thing – this is the essence of habits. Our brains create habits to save energy. They act as a shortcut.
However, too much of autopilot is not good either. Sometimes what we think is good for us and what our brain thinks is different. Too often, we simply react to the impulse immediately without stepping back and considering whether it’s what we really want to do.
Watching movies is awesome, but sometimes people watch the movie simply because they’re bored. It’s not that they really want to watch a movie – they watch it because their brain simply “feeds” this action to them. Because it’s simple, it gives a dopamine spike and takes no energy.
So we end up doing a lot of stuff we don’t really want to do. It’s not to our benefit.
The solution is to become aware of our actions. Are we doing the things we do because we really enjoy them, and we want to do them, or are we simply derping through life on autopilot?
This is where meditation comes in. When you’re meditating, you don’t fidget around, you don’t scratch if you feel the itch, you don’t change the position even if the label of your new shirt is scratching your neck.
Hundreds of thoughts come, but you focus on the present moment, on breathing, on the sounds or smells without judging them in any way. You don’t try to suppress them, but just acknowledge them and let them go.
This creates a scenario in your life where at least for 20 minutes every day, there are impulses but no immediate reaction to follow.
It trains you to step back and be aware of yourself and your surroundings.
Many studies have shown that people who meditate have enhanced self-awareness, less anxiety, longer attention span, increased focus, are more compassionate, and so on.
I personally try to meditate 20-30 minutes every day, and I can assure you that it’s one of the best gifts you can give to yourself.
Don’t expect immediate results, however. It can take months before you start to reap the benefits, but it’s definitely worth it.
I recommend starting small – 10 minutes eyes closed. Later, once it becomes a habit, you probably reach a point where you want to increase the duration.
I also recommend switching to meditating, having your eyes open. It’s a bit harder, but most of our life takes place when our eyes are open, so it makes sense to train yourself to remain calm and grounded even if your eyes are not closed.