THE BLOG

Meditation: A Let-Down or a Lifesaver?

30/10/2014 12:36 GMT | Updated 28/12/2014 10:59 GMT

So if you've read all about the benefits of mindfulness and thought you'd give it a go, maybe you got yourself an app and duly set to work.

And then after a couple of weeks, what? Did you start to wonder if you were missing the point? Maybe it felt like nothing was happening, and that either you've been doing it wrong, or it's just not for you.

The good news is - you're probably not doing it wrong. But the thing that many products out there won't spell out is that it takes time to see the impact that regular meditation has.

I've been there too. When I first started trying to meditate, I gave up fairly quickly. I couldn't notice any discernible effect, so I quickly got disillusioned and gave up. Years later I stumbled across mindfulness via an 8-week course, and I'm pleased to say that a different approach helped me to benefit enormously from it.

If you want to avoid getting disappointed by your new meditation practice, it can be helpful to bear a couple of things in mind. Here are a few things I wish someone had shared with me at the start of my journey.

I started practising mindfulness because I wanted to feel more calm. It has definitely had that effect, but it didn't happen in the way I expected. I thought it would help me get rid of anxiety. Instead, it helped me learn to befriend it - a very different outcome in some ways, but in fact much more liberating than I could have imagined.

Mindfulness is a bit like a path, and it may not follow the route you're predicting. Sometimes it can feel like you're taking two steps forward and one step back, and that's all part of the process. Meditation will probably be unlike anything you've ever learned before. Having an intention behind your practice helps you stay motivated, but you need to hold that intention lightly - and stay open to how your journey unfolds.

The other thing I wish someone had explained was how meditation works - that it actually re-wires the brain, laying down new neural pathways. The constant repetition of regular practice is needed for this to happen. Learning this meant two things for me. One, that I didn't need to see an effect during a meditation session. Instead, I could trust that over time something would happen that would literally change my mind. And also, I realised that I was replacing old pathways that had been in place for decades, so of course it would take time for the new ones to get established.

Unlike many other approaches that I'd tried to feel more calm (and I'd tried many, believe me), practising mindfulness isn't a quick fix. But for me, it's been the only thing that has had a profound and lasting impact on my emotional wellbeing. And I know many other people who feel the same way.

If you've started a mindfulness meditation practice, I'd love to hear how you're getting on - tweet me @sheilabayliss