I was stressed and anxious and I knew that going for a run with my music blasting was the best way to distract myself, to get away from being worried. But when I got to the trail, I realized that my iPod was dead and I was going to have to spend the next hour stuck inside my head. That didn’t sound very relaxing to me.
I had no choice, though—I wasn’t going to have any other time to run in the next few days, and I’d be even more stressed without some exercise, so I took a deep breath and started down the path, my reluctance following closely behind. My head was full of resistance—I didn’t want to run. I didn’t want to be there. I was tired and unhappy and it was hard, and it took what felt like an enormous amount of effort to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
But slowly, I started to focus. I concentrated on my breathing, on pushing off from the ground, on moving forward steadily. My mind cleared, and I was just running. Time kind of vanished, and then my watch beeped and I realized I was done.
I had run for an hour without even realizing it—without realizing it, I had started to meditate. My mind became still, quiet and filled with nothing but a kind of peace that lasted for hours, that made all my problems seem surmountable.
Studies show that meditation has an incredible number of benefits, both physical and psychological, and we’re learning more every day about the relationship of the mind and the body. For instance, meditation lowers stress levels, which lower the level of cortisol in your body, which significantly reduces the risk of heart disease. Meditation can also help you circumvent any other number of stress-related ailments.
When we meditate, we learn to gain control over our thoughts and our thinking. We learn to steer our way toward a positive outlook, and we learn to bring our anxiety under control. And when your mind belongs to you, when you become peaceful and sure of your feelings, you gain perspective, maintain equanimity in the face of difficulty, and become able to achieve nearly anything that takes determination and focus.
I have learned to quiet my mind when I run, but you don’t have to lace up your sneakers to reap the rewards of meditation. Studies show that meditating quietly in a silent space for just ten minutes a day can spark some of the greatest benefits of the practice. Here’s a great guide for beginners—and starting is as easy as closing your eyes and taking a deep breath.
Sara Nelson is the Social Media Guru for Independence University, overseeing the university’s profiles on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and more. She is also a student in the Master in Business Administration (MBA) program, and enjoys spending time with her family, listening to good music, and eating freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.