Looking for a path to peace and happiness, more calm and a way of taming your mind? Everyone will recommend meditation but there are some weird side effects of meditation that they won’t tell you about. These 5 certainly surprised me as they reshaped my daily life and world – for the better.
#1 – I started making my bed
My reasons for meditation were like many: I was unhappy, stressed, mostly depressed and needing some peace and answers to fix my broken life. When I meditated, I didn’t get much peace at first. Mostly I got my legs falling asleep and me upset at myself for being unable to even watch my breath for ten seconds without my mind wandering off. I’d end a 10 or 30 minute session a bit more relaxed than when I started it but that seemed about it. Big whoop.
Then I started making my bed.
If you’re stressed out and depressed, making your bed or generally cleaning up after yourself can seem like a herculean task. When you feel overwhelmed, little tasks take enormous effort. Dishes will mildew, clutter will accumulate, laundry will ferment and in general, everything will feel like too much so none of it gets done.
But when I began meditating, a crack appeared in my soul deep exhaustion and I had an interest in making my bed. Every morning. I really haven’t stopped well over a decade later. I’d also actually do the dishes sooner or clean up the apartment more frequently. These are small things but important. They show the level of our numbness or ability to deal with present tasks. Basically, they’re a good indicator of how well we’re mentally or emotionally functioning overall.
For me, making my bed was huge. I’d gone pretty much 30 years unable to manage this small task but now I had the interest in making my personal sleeping place presentable. I felt productive and like I’d finally become an adult. After my bed came small tasks that had seemed impossible, annoying or too bothersome. In time, this productivity spread to many aspects of my life and continues to grow to this day.
If you meditate, beware. You might start getting the energy to do the small things that seem too hard to manage at the moment. After that, you’ll grow energy to do much more.
#2 – I wanted to run a 5k
Meditation opens a space inside us by giving us a break – both physically and mentally. As the busy, materialistic world disappears for a few moments and we go inward, something inside us begins to change. Often we start wanting to take care of ourselves after years of neglect or abuse. As my psyche began to heal, an interest in my health developed into an urge to exercise. Specifically I wanted to run a 5k. This was weird.
I hadn’t been one for much more than walking around the city and never had a gym membership. My last dalliance with exercise was playing basketball in middle school. Why run a 5k? Who knows. But meditation brought me into alignment with my physical self and taking better care of it. That meant exercise and finding fun ways of enjoying it. So I took up running, signed up and completed several 5k races, as well as 10k races and 2 half marathons over the next few years.
If you meditate, you too might find yourself picking up new exercise habits and getting fit – and actually have the energy to stick with it.
#3 – I craved fruit and vegetables
Meditation, because it turns us inwards and helps us start healing ourselves, often means we will also start looking after our physical health too in terms of what we eat. One common meditation is mindful eating, where we just focus on our food and eating it, not watching TV or checking our phones. Eating became more real to me, not just a means for calories or to indulge my taste buds.
Because of that inward focus and my growing interest in healing various aspects of myself, healing became holistic. Taking care of myself meant taking care of not just my mental health but my physical health. Running and exercise were fun and invigorating but my body ran on fuel and that fuel, I began to realize, mattered. For a while I really got into eating healthy. That faded once I stopped meditating and started working insane hours at the law firm. But when I went back to meditating, that interest in healthy eating resurfaced and remains with me today. Better, the concentration and impulse control that meditation fosters helped enable better eating habits.
If you meditate, you too might start reaching for fruit and vegetables over burgers and shakes.
#4 – I enjoyed waiting for the bus during morning rush hour
When we pick up a meditation practice, we’re often craving peace. We think this means a zenned out serenity. Sometimes it is. Mostly though peace is enjoying small moments or even the ones that used to annoy the sh*t out of us. Very shortly into my meditation habit I found myself smiling at the bus stop while waiting during morning rush hour.
I used to hate waiting for the bus. I hated my commute. I even hated the people on my commute. But now I was smiling and enjoying the morning air. And I was talking and laughing with people, making friends at the bus stop, and easing everyone’s frustration when the bus was late.
Meditation gets all the credit for this. It taught me to relax and not dwell so much on the negative. Instead it helped me focus on the good. That and my anxiety levels were lower as my sessions let the anxiety and stress drain away, keeping them checked longer throughout the day. That meant instead of spinning over worries or annoyances, I could just enjoy my morning – including waiting for the bus in a beautiful part of the city.
If you meditate, annoyances might become joys and opportunities to make connections with others.
#5 – Reading 30 tab excel sheets was a breeze
One thing meditation does is sharpen your concentration and focus. This sounds great in theory but what does it mean in every day real life? For me, I could do my job with more ease and concentration, not burning out or feeling like driving my head through my computer screen after hours of staring at excel sheets, PowerPoint presentations, corporate emails and other tedious business documents.
My colleagues could only take so many minutes with excel sheets that spanned 30 or more tabs before going crazy. While being able to sit for hours while clicking through tab after tab of endless excel sheets is hardly a super power meditation instructors will tout, the truth is that meditation trains your concentration and focus. At work, I was a powerhouse while others wilted and disappeared into the break room. My productivity skyrocketed and my bosses took notice of that and the impressive quality of my work. I’d get kept longer on projects or invited back for new cases while my colleagues got the boot.
This new ability translated into my personal life too. I could focus on budgeting or reading about finance with more clarity and understanding. Because of enhanced concentration and focus, I could hone in on the important aspects I needed to learn and power through book after book to learn the principles of financial independence. Later, that increased concentration allowed me to teach myself Japanese in 20 months.
And it all started with being able to sit with a 30 tab excel sheet without losing my mind.
If you meditate, people won’t warn you that you’ll develop superhuman concentration skills that will allow you to focus energetically on whatever you turn your attention to. Beware: that ability may lead to gaining skills which make you outshine your peers or lead to successfully tackling your dreams.
Effecting the Everyday
Meditation is a great practice for its calming, stress-reducing benefits but a meditation practice produces far-reaching changes in our psyches. As our minds calm and anxiety and stress eases, our energy and vitality recharge and our focus, concentration and productivity increases. Our inner willpower strengthens and we start to develop a renewed interest in our surroundings and the greater world. That interest, as well as a desire to heal ourselves and make ourselves stronger, will naturally lead to improving other aspects of our lives such as our fitness levels but also our nutritional routines.
Meditation begins with sitting down but the benefits of practice send tendrils into all aspects of our lives. As those roots grow and flourish, we do as well, often in unexpectedly beautiful and energetic ways. Sit, meditate. Find out what unexpected changes will come into your life.
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