Have you ever laid in bed exhausted with your mind racing with thoughts and you are unable to fall asleep? On top of it, you hear a little voice inside your head that tells you, you have to fall asleep NOW! Well, this used to happen to me all the time.
It started happening 3.5 years ago when I was 9. I had lots of thoughts on my mind that were keeping me awake. I was thinking about all of the conversations throughout my day. I had thoughts around feeling left out, the anticipation of schoolwork and upcoming tests, sports line up, friends, fighting with my sister, and more. The worst part was knowing desperately that I wanted to be sleeping and how tired I was, yet I couldn’t find a way to quiet my mind.
I was introduced to meditation by my Mom when I was 9 years old. I started listening to a guided meditation every night. It became part of my bedtime ritual and I relied on the meditation to fall asleep. It helped me to focus on my breath and become aware of my surroundings. As a result, I began to fall asleep quickly and peacefully. My thoughts didn’t necessarily disappear, but I was able to acknowledge them and let them go. After months of this, I eventually began to develop my own breathing exercises and learned how to help myself fall asleep without needing to listen to a guided meditation.
Since meditation has helped me in such a profound way, I decided to find other ways to embrace mindfulness and bring meditation into my daily ritual more. As a result, I have learned that there are so many other surprising benefits to meditation! If it’s helped me, I think it can help you too.
Five benefits of meditation for young people:
1. Meditation helps me compete and play my “A’ game with all sports.
When playing a sport do you ever think, what if……? As an athlete who plays multiple sports, thanks to meditation, I am able to have a clear mindset and stay focused while competing in multiple activities.
In soccer, I focus on a positive mindset and staying present. If I miss a goal, I have to focus my attention on the next one and let go of the disappointment. In softball, as a pitcher, I can use my breath to control the speed of the game and slow it down between each pitch or batter to allow myself time to breathe, stay focused, and concentrate.
Each batter gives me the opportunity to visualize a successful strikeout and start over. I also try to really visualize and imagine a celebration with my team at the end of a game and picture myself winning.
2. Meditation helps me overcome stage fright.
Have you ever been very nervous before going on stage? As a performer, I get butterflies before going on stage. My heart starts beating faster and faster, and sometimes my belly even hurts. What I have learned is how to overcome my nerves and fears use breathing exercises.
I start off by taking a slow deep breath in through my nose and hold it for a few seconds and then let out a long exhale until my heartbeat slows down and I feel a sense of relaxation and calmness washing over me gently.
After some deep rhythmic breathing, my mind starts to relax and I can visualize a round of applause, a standing ovation, hearing the congratulations, and more. I can let myself go and be connected to my breath and movement.
Try a deep rhythmic breathing exercise now...
- Find a comfortable position with your hands by your sides, either laying down, sitting up, or whatever feels right for this meditation. And if it’s ok with you, gently close your eyes.
- Breathe in through your nose and count to three and now exhale and count to 3.
- On this next breathe, breathe in for 3 and breathe out for 5, pushing all the air out. If 5 is too long, stick with 3 or whatever feels ok for you.
- Continue this pattern until you can start to feel more steady and calm.
- Notice that when you exhale, you can feel the tension throughout your body slowly drift away. When you are ready, come back to your surroundings and slowly open your eyes.
3. Meditation helps me to feel less anxious about taking tests.
Have you ever felt afraid to take a test? Wonder if you studied the right material? Not knowing the questions, and feeling stressed about your preparation? This is how I feel.
What has helped me is to have a positive mindset and to try to let go of the What if’s? If I don’t do well, I will do better next time. There is always a second chance, another test, or assignment to improve upon. Meditation has helped me let go of these worries that make my mind race. By focusing on my breath, I can steady my thoughts and have a clear mind for my test.
4. Meditation helps me appreciate what I have.
Do you suffer from “the grass is always greener” syndrome? Do you find that you are constantly comparing yourself to others around you? Noticing things that they might have that you may not? Are you hyper-aware of when your friends are hanging out? What social media apps they are using that you may not be? Well, instead of noticing all of the things that other people have and focusing on what you don’t have, you can see it in a whole new way.
Using gratitude is a great way to help these constant feelings of comparison. To help overcome these feelings, what I do is think about the things I do have. When I am able to shift my attention to what I am grateful for, I notice that I feel differently. I am not as focused on what I am missing and instead am thankful for the simple things each day.
Try a gratitude practice now...
- Reflect upon these past 24 hours and recognize what brought you joy.
- Hold this feeling and sit with it for a couple of deep breaths. And when you exhale, take this joyful moment and think about gratitude.
- Acknowledge either out loud or to yourself quietly what else makes you feel joyful?
When we focus on our breath and find the quiet within, we can pay attention to the small things that bring us joy and positivity each and every day.
5. Meditation has helped me to fight the blues.
Do you ever feel stuck? Just plain old stuck. A bit blah? Are you ever tired of the same things over and over? Well, that’s okay embrace it. Sometimes If I feel blah, I need to find new ways to be creative and change my energy.
When I feel sad and need a moment of peace and quiet, I turn to gratitude meditations that can help remind myself all that I am grateful for and that this is a moment that will soon pass by, and that my breath will help me get through it.
Being able to recognize that you need to take a minute and just breathe and be aware of everything going on around you is important because it allows you the space to understand why you might be having some of these sad and icky thoughts and feelings.
There are all kinds of benefits to meditation that can make a huge difference in your life. Meditation may help reduce stress in all types of physical sports, in schoolwork, in the things you love, in extra hobbies, or anything that might bring you stress every day.