04 Jan Do You Want To Be 10% Happier?
READ TIME: 10 MINUTES WHY: HEALTH= PHYSICAL, CHEMICAL, EMOTIONAL. CANT FORGET ABOUT THE LAST ONE INSPIRATION: TIM FERRISS, DAN HARRIS
What if I promised you that I could make you 10% happier?
Would you be interested? I would expect a resounding “YES!”. No one in their mind would turn down the offer of a little bit more happiness in their day in exchange for 0.7% or 10 minutes of their day?
The math and offer makes sense and sounds good up until I tell you that my answer is for you to meditate.
Visions of hippies, The Buddha, Burning Man, you crouching awkwardly in your office or hiding in the bedroom before dinner time. It all seems too “woo woo”, too spiritual and too far out of your comfort zone because you have no idea how to do it or no idea why you should.
I think this is completely fair! You are right and it could sound a little out there. But what else can you do for 10 minutes that is truly going to make you feel a little more fulfilled, whole and maybe 10% happier? 0.7% of your day for 10% more smiles?
Making meditation a part of my daily practice was by far one of my biggest “fails” for most of 2016. Despite being really excellent and sticking to resolutions, whether made during New Year’s or otherwise, this is one habit that I couldn’t get to stick.
Now that I am much more regular about taking some time to sit and be mindful I can honestly say that it makes a huge difference to my performance, enjoyment and always makes my day about 10% happier.
Interestingly enough, I am also starting to notice that when I am consistent with meditation I find myself less prone to spine related aches and pain, performing better on the bike, sleeping better and generally less stiff.
For all the time that we spend worrying and planning the smallest details of our physical and chemical (nutrition) health, wouldn’t it make more sense and be a better use of time to put at least some effort towards our mental health?
It is like studying for two tests back-to-back: You do not spend all your time to get perfect on the first test knowing that you should have devoted time equally to the one you are risking of now failing the next day.
So rather than squeeze out that last 1-2 percentage point improvement in your happiness from perfecting your diet or workout, it is far more economical to spend your energy and time on a big happiness bump that will come from meditating.
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If I have convinced you to try for that extra 10% of happiness, learn from my struggles and the three major problems that I faced that I think will block you too from “Bliss In 10 Minutes”.
Firstly and inconceivably, I found it really hard to take ten minutes to do nothing – WHY IT IS SO HARD! Meanwhile I found lots of time to bike, watch YouTube, read and spend time elsewhere that in hindsight were maybe done without the full mindfulness and gratefulness that could have made those experiences a little bit better if I had meditated and been able to enjoy those activities to the fullest.
I overcame this in two ways
A) I set my alarm ten minutes earlier. If I was planning to wake up at 6am I set it to 5:50am. I made the painful and conscious effort to give myself the few extra minutes I need in the morning
B) I literally wrote in my agenda the specific time that I would sit down and meditate and put a big check-box beside it. I promised myself that I could not go to sleep until this box was checked. Yes, I think that it is likely better to start the day with meditation and then reap the benefits throughout the day but when picking up a new habit, I believe you just have to do it everyday to establish that routine.
1 > 0, Doing It > Not, 1 Mindful Breath > None
Secondly, realize that you are going to suck at it. Period. Full Stop. You Suck At Meditating When You Start.
It was not fair to myself to expect perfection on the first attempt and the same goes for you. Like anything else, meditation, which is basically the ability to recalibrate to the present moment is a learned skill and will grow like a muscle when it is used and challenged.
Like any other new skill you try to learn, where you have no idea what you are doing or why, it is best to find a teacher. Mine was Andy.
The easiest solution in my mind is to do one of the following
A) Use an App like Calm or Headspace, which both give simple instructions that will make your early experience more effective. Both have free versions but I would HIGHLY recommend completing the 10 Days Of Calm on Headspace (Andy is the voice) and then upgrading to the complete version for the $150-ish / year. Would you pay $150 dollars to make your year 10% happier…?
B) Enroll in a course. I am not speaking from experience but we have had many patients who have completed programs like TM or Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction classes and experienced “life-changing experiences”. Interestingly enough, the latter MBSR course is covered by OHIP!
Thirdly, One of the biggest early challenges is that I had not experienced any of the benefits that were promised to me.
I am a huge fan of the Tim Ferriss podcast and Tim’s new book Tool’s of Titans. In the book he asserts that 80% of the top achievers in the world that he has interviewed have a daily mindfulness practice and that it is an integral part of their daily success.
If I could be a little more like Tony Robbins, Seth Godin, or Chris Sacca by realizing the touted physiological and cognitive benefits meditation can yields, wouldn’t it make sense to do it daily?
The problem is that the first few sessions of meditation were wrought with frustration, questioning what I was going to have for dinner, or envisioning weird and awkward memory relapses of high school instead of being present with each breath.
There is no doubt that the days that I went through the frustrating process of building my mindfulness muscle were almost always better than the one’s I didn’t. They always seemed a little more meaningful, productive and were defined by much better interactions with patients, friends and family. Again 1 > 0.
But towards the end of the year when I made a really concerted effort to finish the HeadSpace App’s “Ten Days Of Calm” and was starting to become a little more consistent with my efforts, I have found that there is a compounding effect of stringing days of meditation in terms of the benefits and the ease in which I can sit down and comfortably find the time.
Those regular periods of mindfulness provide further awareness of the need for more breaks and more mindfulness. It is like getting into the rhythm of going to the gym where one workout propagates the need and desire for more, and we wonder why we ever stopped going to the gym in the first place.
For those patient’s that I have seen adopt a mindfulness practice, I have also seen their bodies recalibrate and even transform. Muscles that were also tight and tender were then supple and strong. Joints that were repeatedly in need of an adjustment were better between visits and headaches became less regular.
It is like taking done the nervous system another level so it stops firing at such a high frequency. There is a little less noise and interference stopping the body and mind from performing at its best and its seems about 10% more happiness.
- Dr Alex