I thought meditation was BS, but it’s actually helped my anxiety

I’ve always been a nervous person. When I was younger, I thought constantly about everything. My mind has always been racing as long as I can remember and I’m definitely not alone. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 18% of the population, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. My freshman year of college is when my anxiety got out of control. I started having panic attacks and I didn’t know how to just calm the fuck down. I started seeing a therapist who suggested I take medication. The meds made me feel like a numb zombie, so I stopped taking them. I decided I wanted to find a way to manage my anxiety without a prescription.

I did a lot of research and saw that meditation was a suggested method used to cope with anxiety. I didn’t know anything about mediating and mostly associated it with monks or Buddha. I sat down and tried to meditate, but I ended up just sitting in silence while I thought about everything that caused me to be anxious. It was counterproductive and frankly, I thought the idea that one could shut off their brain by sitting with their eyes closed was bullshit. I gave up on it until a few months ago when I started seeing a new therapist. When I told her that medication wasn’t an option, she told me that mediation was my answer. She recommended an app called Stop, Breathe & Think. This free little app has changed my life. I’ve learned how to meditate and the many benefits of taking a few minutes to be still.

Focus on the present

In a 2013 study, researchers found that meditation reduced anxiety ratings by as much as 39%, proving that just a few minutes of mindfulness meditation can help reduce normal everyday anxiety. Meditating doesn’t melt your anxiety away, it simply makes your brain focus on something else. One of the reasons I love the Stop, Breathe & Think app so much is because it tells you what to think about. If you’re doing it right, you should be imagining yourself on mountains rather than thinking about how stressful work is. The first time I truly meditated, I cried in the end because I felt so at peace. It was incredible to experience what I thought was a myth.

Sleep like a baby

I’ve began to get in the habit of meditating before I go to sleep. If you have problems shutting off your brain to get a good night’s sleep, then you need meditate. I haven’t slept so well since I was a literal baby. Studies have shown that meditation is an effective treatment for insomnia.

Be an overall happier you

We all have a baseline happiness. Until recently, it was thought that this baseline was set. However, recent studies have shown that our baseline happiness can be elevated through different practices. One of this is -- you guessed it -- meditation! In a TED Talk, happiness researcher, Shawn Achor said, “In just a two-minute span of time done for 21 days in a row, we can actually rewire your brain, allowing your brain to actually work more optimistically and more successfully.” Since I’ve began meditating regularly, I can tell I am a lot more optimistic about my life. I’m less anxious and probably a happier and more pleasant person to be around.

If you’re skeptical about sitting mindfully with yourself, just give it a try. Take it from a skeptic, meditation is the complete opposite of bullshit. It is the shit.