Emotion Regulation sounds so grown up, doesn’t it? The truth is, and I count myself in this group, most adults don’t know how to effectively regulate our emotions. It makes sense that we don’t know how, because it certainly wasn’t a skill taught in school. And while I understand children need to understand how X + 2 = 4, I believe that emotional regulation should also be taught in school, because without it adults won’t thrive.
So, if you’re like me coming to learn how to handle difficult emotions late in the game, the question becomes how do we do that? The answer is through meditation. Meditation is the tool that cuts to the chase of giving you direct access to the emotions that run you and the space to work with them. Sounds groovy, right?
I’ve talked about different types of meditation before. This time I want to talk about the concrete benefits you’ll find when you create a meditation practice.
- It’s good for your brain: A Harvard study found that meditation increased the pre-frontal cortex in people who meditated. We lose gray matter as we age, but this study found that a 50-year old practitioner had the same prefrontal cortex as a 25 year old.
- Resilience: Getting touch with our thoughts can be scary. After struggling with depression, some of my thoughts threatened to weigh me down indefinitely, but learning to work with them gave me buoyancy. I realized that thoughts are only thoughts, fleeting, changeable and with practice something that I didn’t need to replay over and over. Once I stopped fixating on heavy thoughts, space was created for thoughts that lifted and supported me.
- Joy: It was when I really experienced the present moment that I truly understood joy. All of our outside pleasures are fleeting and temporary. They may create a happy feeling for a period of time, but true joy is a feeling that transcends the temporary and can only be experienced when you find yourself experience the complete wholeness that is the present moment.
- Maitri: Maitri is compassion for us and others. It is when we meditate that we come to know the oneness that connects us all. I know that sounds very new-age, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We are all connected by our experience of being humans on this planet and when you understand that connection you are softened to let go of us vs. them and open to the idea that we rise by lifting others.
- Emotional Regulation: I started this post by talking about emotional regulation and I left it for last because it is so important. We must learn to work with our powerful, sometimes negative emotions and by working with them I mean take care of them in a way that is productive not destructive. This works on a singular level by helping people take care of their emotions rather than binge eatshopsleep fill in the blank vice, but also has global ramifications as we are able to learn to accept differences of opinion, religion, creed without the need to aggressively, violently dominate others.
Meditation is powerful. It has the power to transform. Deceptively simple as it mostly involves sitting still on a mat, meditation leads you to understand the way to create the life we want for ourselves and others is found first in the mind, the thought, the breath.
Sara Zuboff is a yoga and meditation instructor at Hummingbird Pilates. She teaches Tuesdays at 8:30, 9:05 and 10:00 a.m. She also enjoys writing about being human in the world. You can catch another of her articles on Elephant Journal here.