Before I finally figured out how to quit my 9-5 job (after years of dreaming and talking about it but never actually doing it), I had a crushing hatred of routine.
The dreary repetitiveness. I never seemed to have enough time to do the fun things; the creative and exciting things that really mattered. So I forgot about them.
I told myself that I was just lazy, with the phrase "only boring people are boring" going round in my head. Everything and everyone I had ever known told me that THIS - a proper job in a busy city; young, free and single - was what people like me should aspire to.
But as well as being exceptionally skilled at throwing my own pity party, I wasn't helped by my recurring anxiety, hormone disorders, and bouts of depression. I wasn't sure who I was, where I was going, or - when I was unhappily single - if I would ever find love again. I felt stuck, humiliated, and desperate.
At its worst, I struggled to carry on from day to day.
And, to add salt to the wound, I felt like I had no reason to be depressed. Life hadn't been perfect, but in so many ways, it had been one of privilege and luck.
This meant that I felt like even more of a pathetic failure. Surely I just needed to 'pull myself together' and get on with it?
Well, not exactly. But when I found meditation, I realised that THAT could be a big way of 'getting on with it'. By doing - almost literally - 'nothing'.
And it's really not an exaggeration to say that meditation saved my life. No, really.
Some days I'd look longingly at the front of the Tube trains pulling into the overcrowded Underground station and wonder mutely if I could bear to carry on.
Meditation stopped me feeling unlovable and unloved, and like an embarrassing failure, to truly finding my self-confidence, figuring out what I wanted to do with my life, questioning my negativity, and meeting a brand new partner, helping me become happier than I ever dared imagine.
I still struggle with depression and anxiety, but meditation is a major rope tethering me to reality, and keeping me focused, tranquil, and happy.
And yet, people still get weird about it. They don't know quite what it's about. It still has a bit of PR problem, and overtones of hippies going 'om'.
But because developing a meditation habit was the best thing I ever did for myself, I'm ridiculously obsessed with sharing the five main ways it truly saved my life:
- It was a tangible task I could complete, which gave my pressurised mind a focus for those 5-10 minutes every day. Ironically - like dropping anchor in a swirling sea - finding something positive to do with my 'routine' helped the rest of it feel more manageable.
- It gave me 'permission' to just 'be' rather than stressing over everything I thought I 'should' be, or 'do'. As a chronic over-thinker, the idea that I could learn to 'put aside' my thoughts and not be controlled by them, was a total game-changer.
- It taught me how to question my negative thoughts, and observe my mind, rather than simply being dragged along by every unhelpful thought. I could halt comparisonitis in its tracks, and start questioning if my thoughts were actually useful. And if not? Work on how to fix them for good.
- It helped get me into another life-changing habit: yoga. Despite its reputation on certain parts of Instagram, I simply see yoga as a physical extension of meditation. It not only healed my back pain from an old foot injury, but also introduced me to the grounding connection between mind, body and breath. As the writer Glennon Doyle says about yoga: "My body was teaching my mind."
- It showed me how to be less impulsive, as I improved the actual practice of observing my thoughts, and consistently coming back to the breath whenever I got distracted. 'Stepping back' from my thoughts allows me to RESPOND as I want to rather than REACT impetuously, meaning that I am now far less likely to fall down depressive spirals, and I feel far more calm in every area of my life.
Turns out, it wasn't routine that was killing me, it was the routine itself.
Meditation is sure as heck not a magic bullet. But compared to the negative and depressive static that occupied my mind before I discovered it, it's the only way.
Not just to exist. But to really live.
Convinced about the benefits of meditation, but not sure if it's for you, think it's a bit too 'out-there' and 'woo woo' or reckon you might be a bit sh*t at it?
Never fear, try my free 10-minute No-BS guided meditation track, especially designed for Millennial women who think they might be sh*t at meditation. It's full of no-BS advice and tips on how to get back into meditation and really make it work for you, even if you've tried and failed before. Get it here.