In a previous post, we touched upon using meditation as a tool to motivate yourself when things get tough. A few days ago, I read this post from Pick The Brain, a popular motivational blog.
It’s pretty obvious that meditation has positive effects on our mental state and motivation. Meditation allows you to clear your mind, and get rid of negative emotions. However, for many people, it seems like meditation is some mystical thing that not everyone can do. People spend money on online courses, group meditation sessions and even on trips to India for a meditation retreat.
This post is here to bust that myth. Meditation needs no training, no investment, no groups or coaches, and can be done any time and anywhere for free. I’ll show you, step-by-step, how you can take control of your emotions and motivation by meditating.
First, let’s identify some situations where meditation can help. These are just broad categories of negative emotional states.Feeling tired/exhausted/lazy – Tiredness is tough demotivator to fight. I don’t know if demotivator is a real word, but you get my meaning. It’s tough to fight simply because you’re too tired to fight it!
Tiredness can be mental or physical. You can become mentally tired after a long session of work or study. Basically any activity that requires you to use your brain over and above your regular brain activity can cause you to become mentally tired. Solving tough math equations at school, writing an exam, analysing sales numbers for your company, and so on. Ever noticed yourself looking at the clock when it’s close to the lunch hour. That’s you getting mentally tired. It causes you to become distracted, which in turn leads to lower productivity and lower motivation.
Physical tiredness is obvious. You get tired at the gym, or when you’re out playing. Sometimes you simply get tired when you’re out walking on a hot day. When you get back to your home, job, or school, you just feel like relaxing for a while and not doing any work. That’s physical tiredness causing you to procrastinate.Feeling Angry/irritated/hate and other destructive emotions – Anger, in general, is just not a good emotion to hold on to. There are various reasons why you shouldn’t be angry, but the one most pertinent to this post is its effect on motivation. Whatever your reasons for being angry, you end up losing sight of what you really need to do. In the Pick The Brain post, the author gives the example of your boss making you redo all the hard work you’ve done. It’s natural to feel angry at this stage, and the anger just doesn’t allow you to focus on the task at hand, which is sucking it up and finishing the job.Feeling overwhelmed/pressured – I touched upon this in the post about how to motivate yourself when you feel overwhelmed. Being overwhelmed literally freezes us.
Our brains look at all the things that need to be done and we keep jumping from one task to another, leaving everything half-assed and not really achieving anything. We are just not motivated to push through and complete any one task because we keep thinking about the other tasks.Feeling sad/upset/hurt – Ok, it’s totally alright to take a day off when something bad happens in your life. Maybe you didn’t get that job you hoped for, your business failed, or you lost someone important. In the last case, it’s fine to grieve for a few days. In the other two cases, and in similar situations, you can’t let your sadness take over. The mark of a winner is getting up when life knocks you down, and trying again. Apply to another job, start a new business, whatever it takes. Wallowing in unhappiness and self-pity gets you nowhere and completely destroys your motivation.Feeling scared/anxious/worried – Fear can stop and dissuade us from doing important things. It’s also the toughest emotion to identify because we’re just not ready to accept that we’re scared. On the flip side, most of the things we are scared about are really just false assumptions that we make about the future. We assume we’ll fail if we start a new business, and so we feel fear when we try something new. Most of the time fear is just a self-defeating fabrication, and an irrational reaction to the unknown.
Right then, now that we’ve identified various situations that might cause you to feel demotivated, let’s see how you can use meditation to get yourself out of those situations and into a more positive mental state.
Step 1 – Realize that you’re in one of these situations. When you notice yourself being unproductive and not motivated, try to identify why that is. It’s usually related to one of the above situations. You could be tired, exhausted, lazy or something related. You could be angry or experiencing similar negative emotions. Whatever it is, realize that that’s how you feel and that it’s not a good state to be in for more reasons than being unproductive.
Step 2 – Stop what you’re doing. You’re probably not doing anything, but if you are, you’re definitely half-assing it. Just stop whatever it is. Sitting at the office? Take your hands off the keyboard and push your chair back. Working on your business? Close your laptop and push it away. At the gym? Put the weights away and move to an empty corner. Even if you’re walking down the street, just stop and stand on the side.
Step 3 – Set up a timer for 5 or 10 minutes. The point of the timer is to snap you out of the meditation. If you do it right, you’ll lose track of time, and you can’t just stand on a street indefinitely. Also, knowing that there’s a timer means you don’t have to keep breaking out of your meditation to check the clock.
Step 4 – Close your eyes and breathe deeply. This is the core of meditation. Just closing your eyes, cutting off visual distractions, and breathing deep. Deep breaths pumps more oxygen into your system, which in turn revitalises you.
Step 5 – Focus on your breaths and start counting. Counting is a very simple activity, but at the same time it grabs your attention so that you don’t get distracted. Once you reach ten, start over again from one. Just keep doing that till the timer goes off.
Step 6 – Don’t try too hard. The biggest misconception is that meditation means getting rid of thoughts. But that’s just not possible. If I tell you to stop thinking about the cause of your anger, you’ll just keep thinking about it! Meditation is just a method to help you disconnect from those negative emotions. By focusing your attention on counting your breaths, you’re taking it away from your negative emotions.
Step 7 – If you get distracted, restart. When you find yourself thinking about your negative emotions, catch yourself and bring yourself back to counting your breaths. Start again from one. Don’t get irritated if this happens too often. As you get better at meditating, this will happen less often.
That’s it. Meditation is as simple as that and can literally be done anywhere and at anytime. You don’t even need a quiet space for it. When the timer rings, slowly open your eyes. You’ll find that those negative emotions have diminished. They’ll probably still be there, but they won’t be hampering your productivity. That’s because, for those 5 or 10 minutes, you managed to dissociate yourself from them. You’ll find that you have some clarity and motivation to get back to the tasks at hand.
To further boost the effects of meditation, start thinking of positive things immediately after meditating. When you’re meditating, you’re pushing away negative thoughts and clearing your mind. Filling this space with positivity will vastly improve your mood. Remember past instances where you were really happy, or use visualisation techniques to picture yourself achieving your goals.
Have you tried meditation to get you out of negative emotional states? How has it helped your productivity and motivation?
(Last Updated: April 22nd, 2017)