Why Doing Nothing is the Key to Happiness

by

Attention and focus are hard to come by.  Starbucks built a $13 billion business because we need help paying attention.  Psychiatrists increasingly diagnose “adult attention deficit disorder” and prescribe Ritalin for grown-ups who can’t focus or pay attention.  But is coffee and prescription “speed” the answer to our modern distraction?

Distracted by email, iPhones, the ping of a new text message, bad news on television and the stresses of work, of relationships and family, it is easy to be overwhelmed, stressed and miss the extraordinary gift of being alive.  Our bodies’ break down under the onslaught of stress – insomnia, anxiety, depression, and all chronic disease is made worse by unremitting stress.

The Buddha was walking down the road shortly after he was enlightened and a traveler saw his remarkable energy.  He asked him if he was an angel, a wizard, a magician, or some kind of god.  “No”, the Buddha said, “I am awake”.

What matters most in life is the quality of our experience, the ability to be awake to what is real and true in our lives, for the difficult and the happy times, to be awake to each person we touch, to our own experience, to the moment we are in, to the simple, sweet, and alive gifts of a smile, a touch, a kind deed, the breeze on our skin, or a firefly flickering in the early summer night.

But that is harder than it sounds. Our monkey mind gets in the way. In order to pay attention we need to be quiet, to be practiced at stillness, to know the habits of our mind and be skilled at dancing with them, not to be controlled or dominated by them.  To witness the thoughts and feelings we have without having them overwhelm, dominate, and control our lives.

My way into medicine was through Buddhism.  I majored in Buddhist studies at Cornell.  As a young man in college I was deeply interested in the mind, in the nature of our consciousness, of the ways our thoughts and perceptions control our lives and how we can work with them in a juicy, helpful way that brings more love, kindness, compassion, and insight into every moment, rather than darkness, suffering, struggle and pain.

Pain is inevitable.  Loss is inevitable. Death, illness, war, and disaster have always been and will always be part of the human condition.  Yet within it, I wondered as a young man, was there a way to understand suffering in a different light, to break the cycle of suffering.

I realized there was a way to be more awake, to see things as they are, to notice life as it is and to savor it, to love it, to wake up with gratitude, lightness, and celebration for the magic of life.  It is always there and the trick is simply to notice.

But to notice requires a stillness of the mind. This is something not quite so easy to achieve for most of us.  Being awake takes practice.  Each of us can find our path to being awake.  Ancient traditions provide many avenues.

Belief in any particular religion or philosophy is not necessary, just a desire to show up and pay attention without judgment or criticism. To notice the ebb and flow of our breath and our thoughts without holding on to them, like waves washing over you on a summer day at the beach.

This is harder than it sounds, because it requires us to be patient with ourselves, to love ourselves, even all the ugly, petty, small thoughts.  It requires us to create calm within the chaos through non-judgmental awareness. Most of us have no clue how to do this.

When I was 20 years old, I spent 10 days in a silent meditation retreat sleeping, meditating, and eating.  That was it.  As the turbulent oceans of my young mind settled each day, I began to feel more awake, more alive and happier than I ever had before. The happiness was not connected to any external event or person, but to the simple joy of being able to notice beauty and brilliance in the people and in the nature that surrounded me.

Over my life I have come in and out of practicing stillness, but whenever I return to it, it feels like homeThere are a thousand ways to meditate – traditional mindfulness meditation is the simplest and most accessible, but any form can work – yoga, nature, dance, breathing, and prayer.

The point of mediation, of doing nothing, is not an end in itself but a way to calm the mind, to see the true nature of things, and reduce the impact of suffering while increasing love, kindness, wisdom, fearlessness, and sympathy.

From that stillness life becomes richer, your actions more clear, your words more direct and powerful, and your capacity to be fully engaged in life enhanced.  It is not a retreat from life, but a way to go fully into it and cultivate your own power and happiness.

The benefits of meditation have been well proven by science. Mediation reduces chronic pain, blood pressure, headaches, anxiety and depression.

It helps you lose weight, lowers cholesterol, increases sports performance, boosts immune function, relieves insomnia, increases serotonin, improves creativity, optimizes brain waves, helps in learning, focuses attention, increases productivity, enhances memory, and more.

But none of those reasons are the reasons I meditate or practice yoga (which for me is meditation in motion).  It is to be more awake to life, to myself, to cultivate loving kindness and compassion toward myself, others, and to the sordid human condition we find ourselves in.

The good news is that all you need is a few minutes and a place to sit and be quiet (you can do this anywhere).  Here is a simple instruction for mindfulness mediation you can try yourself.

Mindfulness Meditation

Instructions:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position. Try to sit in the same place each day. Avoid positions that you might fall asleep in.
    a. The back is long and supports itself.
    b. Shoulders are relaxed downward, the neck is long, and the chin is pointing neither up nor down.
    c. The face is relaxed.
  2. Begin to breathe (preferably through the nostrils). Feel the belly rise, the ribs expand, and the slight movement in the collarbones and shoulders as the breath moves upward. Feel the exhalation.
  3. Focus on one aspect of the breath.
    a. The movement of air in and out of the nostrils.
    b. Or the lifting and falling of the belly.
  4. Watch that one aspect of the breath.
    a. When the mind wanders, gently bring it back to the breath and the aspect you have chosen to watch.
    b. Do this as many times as you need to.
    c. There is no such thing as a good or bad meditation. (Good and bad are judgments, events in the mind – just note them and go back to the breathing.)
  5. Start with 5–10 minutes and then increase the time until you can sit for 30 minutes.

To Learn More

If you want to learn more and experience guided meditations I recommend a few wonderful resources and further reading.

Now I’d like to hear from you…

What are your daily meditation practices?

Do you take time out of your busy day to relax, how?

Have you noticed an improvement in your health from practicing meditation?

Please leave your thoughts by adding a comment below.

To your good health,

Mark Hyman, MD

62 Responses to Why Doing Nothing is the Key to Happiness

  1. Sarah June 21, 2012 at 10:30 am #

    Great article!! We always need to be reminded to sit and “do nothing” One technique that I use in my day is remembering to stay focused on the vision, this helps when tackling a big project or day to day things like spending time with my husband…what do I want it to feel like? what’s the grand vision?

    Focusing on the vision rather than the action allows me to be more in my moment. It’s easy to get caught up in the action…I need to do, do, do. But after doing, I often realize that there was no feeling or worse yet, a negative feeling in the action. Allowing myself to stay focused on my vision/intention I find that the actions come naturally, I am more productive and always happier!

    Here’s to staying in the moment today finding beauty in the mundane and always feeling connected to your being!!

    • Debra Kirkham August 16, 2013 at 2:44 pm #

      Hello Dr. Hyman,

      Thank you so very much for your wonderful articles! I appreciate all of the information you provide to everyone! I enjoy sharing with others.

      This is a marvelous article on meditation and I feel I am constantly meditating! Laugh! I love to notice the fireflies and the sunset the stars just about everything in nature. I learned the 5 breaths from you and it has literally made me so much more vibrant!

      This note is to really express my thanks to you for sharing to all! ;-)

  2. Lena Zullo June 22, 2012 at 6:47 am #

    I try to take at least two days out of the week during my lunch hour from work, and go to church to do my prayers or just sit and relax and let my mind, heart, body and soul do its thing! It so hard to explain to anyone how lightened, refreshed and calm I feel to my co-workers, when they ask me why do I go to church during the week if there is no mass. I have tried to explain but it is hard to make them understand the feeling that I feel after those meditations….I wish I could do it everyday! Unfortunately life is full of other errands and chaos that we still need to deal with, because this is the way we have chosen to live!

    Thank you Dr. Hyman!!!

  3. Asritha June 22, 2012 at 9:12 am #

    Wow that is awesome. I felt relaxed by reading this article.You are absolutely true that we are driven by our thoughts and thoughts conquer our lives. If we can overcome this then we can lead a peaceful life.I usually relax by thinking of something which is very near to my heart.

  4. Susan Kangas June 23, 2012 at 6:42 am #

    To see video, The Nothing Box, go to: http://www.healthyhabitsweb.com. On page, go to Resources. When that comes up, go to “IonWand movie”. On that page there is a section, Enjoyment. The Nothing Box is there. Enjoy!

    • Richard Davidson June 23, 2012 at 9:33 am #

      Susan…. thank you so much for the reference to “The Nothing Box”. I love my Nothing Box…. I just never had a name for it before now. I have enjoyed my Nothing Box for 71 years and now I can just sit back and think how wonderful my Nothing Box truly is… again… thank you.

  5. lela June 23, 2012 at 6:58 am #

    Within the past three months a study has been published that stresses the improtance of both inhaling and exhaling through the nostrils. Mouth breathing in either direction introduces toxins into the system which have a negative effect on the meditation.It has made a positive difference for me.

  6. Jan June 23, 2012 at 7:14 am #

    I go to the pool nearly every day during the summer. I always sit on the picnic table and face the rising sun. This is my time for stilling my mind and being thankful that I can hear the birds, crickets, frogs and all the sounds of nature. On the days that I can’t do this I am a bit more antsy and disgruntled.

  7. Susan Kangas June 23, 2012 at 7:14 am #

    The Nothing Box does explain why, when I was growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, there was the common expression of women telling their husbands to “do something!”
    In the universe there is great space between the sun, moon, earth. Within each cell, there is the same great space between the cell’s parts. And in our thought processes, there is also. In his book, The Secret of Instant Healing by Kinslow, the first exercise regards our thinking. To stop a thought, and “in the space” between thoughts, to focus on looking deeply within for 10-15 seconds, and then resume thinking. That answers can come from doing this exercise.
    What do I do to do nothing? Oh, nothing. As in emotionally stopping, sighing in despair or whatever, and then considering that no matter what my condition, that God is unchangeable and ever new and fresh and living, and worthy to be praised for no other reason (in any given moment) than that He is God! So perhaps transcending with my redeemed human spirit time and space and just enjoying Him.

    • Avatar of CaFe
      CaFe June 23, 2012 at 8:30 am #

      Susan, C.S. Lewis says to praise God is to Enjoy Him. I liked what you said in your reply. Maybe this article will help me to be still for a few minutes each day to Enjoy God. I need more time with Him so I will try to start doing these techniques that Dr. Hyman suggests.

      And I want to thank Dr. Hyman (always) for getting the Blood Sugar Solution out to the world. I just bought 200 cards to pass out so that more people (people I see every day) will hear of this program.

      Visit my blog about diabesity, how I’m losing weight and getting healthy
      http://www.goodfoodbuzz.com/

  8. Becky June 23, 2012 at 7:40 am #

    First, I would like to say thank-you for this article. I don’t have any insight on practicing meditation, but I would like to briefly share my story. Unfortunately, I have taken the medication route for many years. I am 30 and have been taking prescription drugs for depression and anxiety since I was 16. Since then, while I have had some short periods of improvement, my condition has gotten progressively worse. My anxiety is particularly bad and recently my inability to focus has become highly cumbersome. The answer I get from my doctors is usually to switch medications. While more of these drugs rapidly become available, it is no great feat for them to hand me a prescription for “the new hot drug”. I need to break this cycle. My ultimate goal is to come off of the medication completely. I have considered trying meditation as a way to help me reach my goal. This article offers a very simple and concise way of how to begin. Thank you Dr. Hyman. I’m starting this morning!

  9. Cathy June 23, 2012 at 7:44 am #

    Dr. Amen has a good meditation cd I meditate to and it helps me to relax and calm my mind. It is also helpful to meditate on bible passages. You might want to be careful with some of the teaching on meditation out there that teaches you to leave your mind totally blank. That is a good way to open yourself up to the wrong thoughts or spirits.

  10. Heidi June 23, 2012 at 8:02 am #

    Interesting article. Thank you for the reminder.

    This comment is more an editing note. In the second paragraph above the “Mindful Meditation” step-by-step instructions, you mention “…the sorted human condition we find ourselves in.” I believe the word you were looking for here is ‘sordid’.

    Hope this helps. :)

  11. Jan June 23, 2012 at 8:34 am #

    Wow, nice, what a great column. I do body scans and yoga, but it’s always a challenge to keep the mind quiet. Full Catastrophe Living is a great place for anyone to start.

  12. edgar coxeter June 23, 2012 at 8:38 am #

    Mark:

    Your attitude, wisdom, common sense and graciousness are remarkable. I agree with everything (with the exception that I am also vegan.)

    I do meditate, now with Holosync.

    There is a genuine, sincere, self-effacing honesty about you which is most attractive.

    Thank you so much.

    Edgar

  13. Sam June 23, 2012 at 8:45 am #

    Thank you for your article mindfulness meditation
    I too am a physician who was Buddhist by choice raised however in an orthodox Hindu family in the US
    I found your article refreshing and open and am excited to start a meditation habit(I have been planning for years) and start the path toward being open to life in every moment

  14. Vincent Pulignano June 23, 2012 at 8:46 am #

    Perhaps I learned early in life from my cat, the wondrous way to be still. My love for riding on my bicycle, being outside in nature, brought to me the feelings that come from just being alive. Later in life, at about 27, I was visiting a friend, an attorney who chose to practice from his rural house/home, and I told him that I was able to “think of nothing”. This was fascinating to him and he said that he doubted his ability to do that. I had thought that everyone could do it. By the age of 40, I was introduced to yoga by my wife. Wherever I am, I find a place to sit and just be a part of nature. “Lose yourself”!

  15. Sarah June 23, 2012 at 8:55 am #

    Mindfulness practices have been very helpful for me in dealing with post-traumatic stress from deployments and other emotional traumas I have had in my career as a military physician. I meditate every morning, I’ve lost weight just from paying attention–eating only when I’m hungry. Because I’m more mindful when I exercise, I have fewer injuries. I’ve become less reactive to stressful events which has improved my ability to respond to them.

  16. bob aubrey June 23, 2012 at 9:08 am #

    Great topic!! The mind is our best friend, or worst enemy. I would emphasize, for beginners, don’t try to control your thoughts. The mind WILL wander. That’s what it does. Everyone has had the experience of being totally focused on something, so meditation isn’t something new or weird. Focusing on the breath, you find out what the breath is.

  17. Jeanie H June 23, 2012 at 10:08 am #

    I began meditation by merely sitting and reading daily some spiritual books. (1984) Then I graduated to staring out the window and from there closing my eyes and breathing. I also practiced yoga and have been an ardent follower of both yoga and meditation or mindfulness. I am not only awake, but fully conscious on many levels. I had a few days recently (May 27, 2012) of clumsiness and dropping things and went to ER – it was a Sunday – where I was given a battery of tests, ekgs, ultrasound of the carotid arteries, blood work including hdl, ldl and trygylcerides, cat scan and xrays along with the requisite hand/eye coordination and walking/talking tests. All were negative and normal. My D.O. told me he thought it might be a good idea to give up the Estrace 1mg per day which I’d been on since 1986. I went cold turkey and I have no more symptoms. I take no meds, I rest, eat right, have great friends and a dog I walk regularly. My life, in all its variations, is not just happy but complete. Meditation calms the spirit and opens me up wider to all the things I never saw before.

    Dr. Hyman’s article is spot on and I’m going to treat my friends to it.

  18. Steve Leimel June 23, 2012 at 11:05 am #

    I try to take advantage of one of our beautiful local parks during a time when there are not too many people and distractions. I enjoy the well kept landscaping and the day’s summer breeze gently moving across my face. This is relaxing to me, although my most profoud meditation is completely out of city and secluded in countryside usually at sunrise or sunset. These times I always give thanks for God’s great beauty for my enjoyment. The profound meditations have a lasting effect and usually stay within my memory. I can draw on that memory during times of stress and disarray and focus on what is REALLY important regarding life.

  19. Susan June 23, 2012 at 11:30 am #

    Thank you so much for writing these beautiful words reminding me that peace of mind and peace of spirit are possible. My husband died in April. We were still newlyweds. Really struggling to understand why I’m still here. What am I to do? Where am I to go? The peace offered through meditation allows me to experience God’s Spirit in my life and gives me hope.

  20. Julisa Adams June 23, 2012 at 11:48 am #

    You are so right! After following your program and eliminating the “frakenfoods” from my life, I’ve noticed what the food is that I really need. It’s presence! I think we crave “chi” and we think we’ll get it from intense processed foods. What we get from, really, is life itself. I am doing a practice of dropping the mental story and looking up a little, and just remembering what’s real, many, many times a day. It’s liberating! We are not our drama. We are consciousness, and when we remember that we feel free. Thanks for this piece, it’s so crucial to true health!

  21. Don June 23, 2012 at 11:52 am #

    Right on. I am learning to be in the here and now. I am learning from Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Enjoy…

  22. Kim June 23, 2012 at 12:07 pm #

    After 25 years of taking anti-depressants.I was lethargic ever morning and it was literally painful to have to wake up
    I had a divine intervention, after praying for some mental peace. I was introduced to transcendental meditation. On July 4th it will be 1 year since I have taken a pill. This is a marvelous thing. It certainly doesn’t mean I don’t have bad days, however I was having those while I was medicated and they were even worse.
    I continue the struggle , although I have not had a panic attack or major anxiety attack since I started meditating September 19, 2011. I had also done therapy for most of those 25 years and now go only occassionally..I am so grateful for the dear friend who shared this simple secret with me and wonder why therapists are not suggesting it to everyone of their patients.
    I am thankful for true doctors like Dr. Hyman who chooses to get to the root of the problem and not just prescribe a pill to mask it…Our country is more interesed in the money to be made than the cures that are free! Peace to us all, Kim

  23. Jude June 23, 2012 at 12:54 pm #

    I meditate 3 times a week. For some reason after a session I will cry. I must be releasing some emotions. Then I feel better.

  24. Tracy Mannikko June 23, 2012 at 12:55 pm #

    I have been learning and gathering “tools” over the years for my personal growth & wellness “tool box”. Some tools I can use when in a quiet space and alone and some I can use even in a room full of others–but they are all easy and work! Here are some of my favorites for stress reduction, meditation and a quiet retreat from the mind: …..1) my meditation techniques from Pragito Dove’s book “Lunchtime Meditations” (works great for busy people) 2) all of my CD meditations audios from various Meditation experts, 3) the Sedonna Method (book and CDs) form Lester Levinson’s great work on the process of “Letting Go” taught by Hale Dwoskin. 4) simply using deep breathing–at least 5 deep breaths (in/hold/out)–can be done anywhere! 4) Quantum Leap Program and in particular: Wizard Camp with Peak Potentials–gained an understanding how to live in Wizard mode and stay calm even during a hurricare of stuff (only drawing on Warrrior mode when necessary)…and 5) suggestions from true wellness gurus such as Dr Mark Hyman (book UltraWellness) and Dr Richard DiCenso (book Beyond Medicine) Guy Finely, Katie Byron (book LovingWhat Is), Neale Donald Walsh (books Conversations With God series), Susan Jeffreys (book Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway)! There is no substitute for just doing your homework! So my great thanks to all the wondeful teachers and truth researchers out there–who are uncovering all the great truths and beinging them back into the open!

  25. dianne June 23, 2012 at 12:56 pm #

    HOW CAN I PRINT THIS ARTICLE///// NO ICON TO CLICK

    • Avatar of HymanStaff
      HymanStaff June 25, 2012 at 8:45 pm #

      Hi Dianne,

      You would have to do a CTL P and print just the first couple of pages so that you do not print the comments as well at the end.

      Best,

      Dr. Hyman Staff

  26. Michael Monahan June 23, 2012 at 1:08 pm #

    You might be interested in this. I was watching “Need to Know” on PBS last night. The program was about treating wounded warriors. I learned that the military is beginning to use meditation as a tx for PTSD. They are teaching the wounded warriors to find their montram [they add an 'm' to montra] and how to use that to find internal calmness. Imagine that. Warriors using meditation to find peace. Now if only we could learn to do that before the war instead of after it.

    • Kim June 23, 2012 at 1:17 pm #

      That’s awesome…when we feel desperate we are willing to try anything…and meditation has no side effects and it’s free as well as freeing! Kim

  27. Mary June 23, 2012 at 1:44 pm #

    Great article, Dr. Hyman!! Thank you!

  28. Lillian Chin June 23, 2012 at 2:33 pm #

    Thank you Dr. Hyman for reminding us to embrace doing nothing. When I do nothing I experience myself and feel all the emotions and thoughts that run me. Doing nothing is so much more than doing nothing. In doing nothing and feeling my breathe I feel all that I am. It brings clarity to my being.

  29. Toni June 23, 2012 at 3:32 pm #

    I practice Spring Forest QiGong founded by Master Chuyni Lin. He has some fabulous healing meditations and active exercises which are meditative in nature. He tells you to “go into the emptiness.” Wonderful way to meditate and heal. I have tried various meditative techniques and like his the best.

  30. Surayanarayana Chennapragada June 23, 2012 at 3:38 pm #

    ‘Focusing on breathing’ as a meditation technique:

    I would like to share my journey on the path of meditation. It started 10 years back, with ‘Focusing on breathing’ (FOB). At that time, my goal was only to get rid of my unbearable stress. FOB reduced the wandering of mind and put me on the path of meditation. I found that beginners can dramatically enhance their focus on breathing, by using the fingers to track the breaths. The simplest such mode is described below.

    TRIPLE SEGMENT MODE: Every finger has 2 cross lines, dividing it into 3 parts or segments. Place the tip of the thumb at the top segment of the little finger and breathe three times. Move the thumb to the middle segment and breathe three times. Move to the bottom segment and breathe three times. Repeat the same steps at the next 3 fingers. At the thumb, place the tip of the index finger on its segments and follow the same steps. Then switch to the other hand and repeat the process all over. Continue to practice, switching the hands.

    Five other modes of ‘focusing on breathing’- Tip mode. Segment mode, Counting mode, Feeling mode, Staring mode and 911 modes, can be seen in this page
    http://countingbreaths.com/fob/relax/how-can-i-do-it/.

    I have been using the ‘focusing on breathing’ technique, in one or more of the modes, from the time I wake up in the bed and intermittently throughout the day, till I lie down in the bed to sleep. It has become second nature for me.

    For my daily meditation, I sit on a thin and soft cushion on the floor, cross legged, back erect. I begin by counting my breaths in sets of three. When my mind becomes less distracted, I switch to my mantra. After about 9 years of meditation for about an hour almost every day, followed by simple stretching, I now feel like I have a new mind and body! I did not have a physical teacher. Learned from variety of books and web pages,experimented and settled on whatever worked for me.

  31. Erika Bek June 23, 2012 at 4:26 pm #

    I work at the Los Angeles International Airport every day, as you know, there are thousands of people. I like to sit in the late afternoon infront of my house mit my parrot and just enjoy the sun going down behind my three birch trees. When the sun hits the grass it illuminates it, the breeze, the bird songs my relaxed parrot do me a wealth of good. I admire the sun brighten my salmon colored geraniums, beautiful roses and ferns. All that is free, it gives me strength to go to work the next day and help people with all their little problems.

  32. Marty Colborn June 23, 2012 at 4:34 pm #

    “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
    Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
    For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Jesus Christ, – Matthew 11:28-30

    “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” – Isaiah 26:3

    “Therefore, being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” – Romans 5:1

    • Brooke June 23, 2012 at 5:30 pm #

      Amen and Amen!

    • Grace June 24, 2012 at 9:02 pm #

      I have always struggled with meditation exercises, but my weekly Holy Hour (hour of prayer) in Adoration of Our Lord has not only been very easy, it has also been a source of peace like no other and life transforming!

  33. Marc Boucher June 23, 2012 at 4:37 pm #

    Actually, Holosync was how I discovered the many benefits of meditation – I’d been depressed (dysthymic disorder) for the most part of my life – I’ve also been diagnosed with OCPD – well, being diagnosed with OCPD, GAD and dysthymic Disorder. Prior to Holosync, my life was a real nightmare. I could sum it all up bringing up the domino effect – this is just how involved things can get and this is how my life was derailed some 13 years ago, after suffering psychological trauma, which is known to be a trigger for OCPD. From there things went downhill in a big way. Though, I discovered the benefits of meditation through Holosync, I’m also looking into the various other ways of meditating, like the one method you wrote about above (mindfullness) – meditation now never ceases to amaze me. I’ll need the stillness of the mind and overall composure that meditation offers big time, as I’m about to graduate as a registered nurse – would’ve liked to go to med school, but made that decision too late in life, so ending up taking up nursing – Keep up the good work Dr. Hyman.

  34. Tiggy Sagar June 23, 2012 at 5:49 pm #

    When I was younger, I found it really hard to be alone at all – I suppose it was a state of anxiety mixed with loneliness. The problem was so bad that my university tutor let me work in his office. But when i started to meditate every day, after having joined a meditation class, I started to enjoy time alone. Now I’m happy to either be in company OR alone, even though I do spend a lot of time on my own due to the nature of my work. I’ve always been very physically still, but my mind can be very overactive, especially at night. It can help in settling into meditation to have a visualisation process to follow, otherwise the mind tends to race away onto the next thought. Music, candles and incense can also help as they take us out of our thoughts.

  35. meeyin June 24, 2012 at 3:48 am #

    Mark Hyman,

    you are so right on this article you write. Apart from meditations, I find listening to this famous monk in Perth Western Australia, Ajahn Brahm always enlighten me. He touches every subject we encounter in our daily life. For those who seek wisdoms this is the guy who will help you to look at life at a better perspective. He is funny and lot of humours. Thank you again for being so wise and pass on to us.

    meeyin

  36. Paul Jay June 24, 2012 at 5:40 am #

    Been doing Transcendental Meditation since 1973. The volumes/years of (ongoing) medical research therein and its positive results are well documented.

  37. Diane June 24, 2012 at 6:13 am #

    I practice Spring Forest Qigong, it centers me in the now and I feel myself part of my body and the universe. I attune myself to nature and find peace and energy there. I have a very stressful life -practicing this form of meditation has literally saved my sanity. I would recommend it highly.

  38. James A. Taylor June 24, 2012 at 7:49 am #

    For meditation, check out – Aspire.org.

  39. James A. Taylor June 24, 2012 at 7:51 am #

    For meditation, check out – Aspire.org. I’ve been following this man, Gregory Penn, for eight years or so.

  40. Larry Howkins June 24, 2012 at 8:43 am #

    I have practiced Meditation on and off since college back in the late 60’s. Life has always been better and more joyful when I consistently made the time to Meditate.

    Recently, back in February, at your suggestion, I tried the Centerpointe Holosync program of Meditating and it has been wonderful. I have found a much deeper place with more profound results than I had with my regular TM method. The Holosync program has been so enjoyable that I have found myself consistently mediating on a daily basis more consistently than any time in my life (rarely miss) and the impact has been dramatic.

    For those that have not managed to make the time to sit daily and still the mind, give it a 2 month try with whatever method of Meditation. You will undoubtedly be most happy with the results.

  41. Jill June 24, 2012 at 9:51 am #

    Thank you for another insightful and motivating article. It was perfect timing for me. Before I read it, I was in a state of overwhelm. It was a great reminder for me to get back to focusing on mindfulness. As a nutrition and wellness coach, I am aware of the serious impacts of stress on the physical body and the mind. I coach my clients to try deep breathing and meditation. For myself, I love my morning walk, some yoga in the evening (esp. shavasana) and guided meditation before bed. I also recently discovered tapping/EFT which I find helpful as well. The last few weeks, however, I’ve only consistently been doing the morning walk. So, a great reminder for me! Thanks!

  42. Sarge 0311 June 24, 2012 at 11:37 am #

    “Be still and know that I am God”

  43. Ashok Yog June 25, 2012 at 2:01 am #

    Meditation through watching the breath is first step and was taught by Buddha. However the total technique of teaching in a retreat and practice of ” VIPASSANA ” meditation is the most scientific and powerful way of achieving stability and ultimate joy-‘Nirvana’. I am a beginner on this path, but have realised that it is the true and pure way of getting rid of life’s difficulties-in all spheres of life-Physical, mental and so called spritual. But it is the practice which brings result and not the study and belief that it is the correct path. One has to earn one’s own merits through practice. May all beings be happy.

  44. Kim Kolker June 25, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

    Thank you for your article. Your article addresses the same issue which I dive into in my paintings:

    I have been preoccupied with the theme of media traffic, where our lives are pushed and pulled by an ever encroaching culture of devices which allow connection to the whole world at all times. How can one know one’s self and define who one is when engrossed by this stream of information on television, laptops, cell phones with data plans and streaming movies? Where is the self among this thought traffic?

    My paintings can be found at http://www.kimkolker.com

    Best wishes,
    Kim

  45. Beth June 27, 2012 at 9:54 am #

    Yes, I do practice breathing, following my breath each day…striving to always get 30 minutes in. It has provided for me great health. For 33 years I have been a court reporter….can be very stressful! Now I have a program as a life coach, stressing healthy lifestyle taking a small group of women to the Big Sur Half marathon this November….and
    I have incorporated my breathing practice, quiet still time and other tools with the physical training into my special
    program.

    This one practice has allowed me to focus on living my life’s dreams and knowing it. I love your articles! Keep them coming.

  46. Beth June 27, 2012 at 9:57 am #

    Yes, I do practice breathing, following my breath each day…striving to always get 30 minutes in. It has provided, for me, great health. I have incorporated this into my life coaching of healthy lifestyle living into my program.

    This one practice has allowed me to focus on living my life’s dreams and knowing it. I love your articles! Keep them coming.

  47. arlene July 18, 2012 at 3:24 pm #

    Nice article. We do need to meditate, I pray everyday, do breathing exercises. I also read the bible, which tells us why life now is so bad and stressful. It also gives us hope for the future. God promised to do away with all pain, suffering, war, sickness and death. Jesus gave us the Lords prayer that askes for God’s kingdom to come on this earth as it is in heaven. That is going to happen very soon, because bible prophseys are being fulfilled.Matthew 6:9-13. We are letting all know about this as Matthew 24:14. says.When Gods kingdome comes on this earth, we will have peace and security worldwide! No man or government can do that.

  48. maren July 24, 2012 at 8:04 am #

    So inspiring! Wonderful to have the insight and writing of such a great teacher! Thank you for staying true to your inner compass and sharing your knowledge and passion with so many!

  49. Scott July 24, 2012 at 9:52 am #

    Wow, what a fantastic article. I’m definitely bookmarking this page.

    I try and do one 10-15 min. meditation during my work day, then always end my day by reading something enlightening in bed before meditating myself to sleep.

    It has truly opened my eyes.

  50. Avatar of Colleen Knight
    Colleen Knight January 19, 2013 at 12:34 am #

    My life is basically one huge mess of problems and stresses. When I first tried meditating, I tried to just clear my mind. I found too often that even my breath irritated me, or I’d keep wandering back to all my issues. Or I’d fall asleep, no matter what position I was in (chronic fatigue…you know..). Anyhow, I figured one day that instead of trying to force myself to feel calm the way I was, I would focus on placing myself mentally in a place where I would be calm naturally. For instance, it’s hard for me to relax in my bedroom while my husband is playing a video game and I need to get dinner going. But if I were all alone in the forest, with a stream and the smell of pine, I can just soak it in and feel at peace. So, now when I meditate, I close my eyes, breathe evenly, and picture myself in the woods. I find I’m instantly relaxed and have an immense amount of peace, and feel very refreshed afterward.

    Also, thought I’d share this, it’s my favorite quote-

    “Be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. In the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.” -Max Ehrmann

  51. Meditation for true happiness April 8, 2013 at 9:32 am #

    Meditation for true happiness confirms that true happiness is found inside us. The feelings of satisfaction and completeness that we often seek outside ourselves are actually part of our basic personality. Sorry to say, we have become so used to looking outside of ourselves for happiness that we often do not know how to find out this inner wealth.

  52. Mariaelena August 15, 2013 at 10:27 pm #

    I have found my peace through daily prayer both am and pm. I don.t think of anything else during this time with myself. This is my peace…

  53. Daniela August 16, 2013 at 7:56 am #

    You know, I have 2 young children. Not much time u may think. But I actually use breastfeeding time, bed /settle time, when the boys just want me to be there, to meditate. It’s soooooo highly relaxing and makes me enjoy my children more in a very relaxed way. Sometimes I even fall asleep, I mean especially in the evening, but it doesn’t hurt going to bed at 8.30. Soooooo many mums are overtired and stressed. I’m not. And I’m definitely not a super momma. We all need stillness to rest, stop the hectic, live, love and enjoy. Great article Mark!

  54. Brad Kunkel August 16, 2013 at 9:25 am #

    Absolutely! A meditative practice is essential to overall health and wellness. Since I come from a theistic/biblical background, I enjoy centering prayer: a discipline which is basically exactly what Dr. Hyman describes, except with the use of a divine word that you choose to re-center your thoughts. This is a spiritual practice for me, as opposed to a religious practice: something you do to appease your deity which adds stress to life, not decreases it, because it assumes that deity requires appeasement which assumes we are in some way inadequate. Meditation helps us love ourselves unconditionally which helps us do the same for others: a key to good health. If everyone had a meditative practice like this, regardless of the spiritual context, the human race would be evolve to a better place.

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