Weekly Challenge: Try to Meditate

Years ago, we started a series of challenges on Cup of Jo. I would suggest things — memorize a poem, interview your parents — and whoever was up for it would join in. But after doing five challenges, Anton was born, and he was challenging enough, haha. The series went on hiatus. Last week, a few readers asked us to bring them back. Let’s do it! Are you in? Here’s the first one…

Do you ever meditate?

My friend Louise grew up in an Iowa town known for transcendental meditation. At just five years old, she was taught to meditate by repeating a mantra while she played with toys. At her high school, all the students would meditate for three hours a day. Amazing, right?

I’ve never been able to meditate. Funnily enough, I think it’s because I’m too anxious. Alex and I once went to an evening meditation workshop for a story he was working on, and the whole time I sat there trying to figure out where we should go to dinner afterward. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the point.

But meditation can actually make you happier. According to a fascinating New York Times article, researchers have shown that daily meditation-like thought can shift brain activity toward “positive emotional states…that make us more likely to engage the world rather than to withdraw from it.” In the study, participants were told to “relax with their eyes closed, focus on their breathing, and acknowledge and release any random thoughts that might arise,” and voila! With as little as five minutes of meditating a day, “a happier outlook is yours for the taking.”

So! Who wants to give it a go? This week’s challenge is to meditate for 10 minutes a day. Because if it really makes you calmer and happier, then 10 minutes would be worth it, right?

Andy Puddicombe, author of Get Some Headspace: How Mindfulness Can Change Your Life in Ten Minutes a Day, says it’s best to meditate first thing in the morning, if possible, and in the same place every time. “Avoid judging your meditation,” he told the Huffington Post. “It is tempting to think you are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ at meditation. In truth, there is no such thing… Taming the mind is a skill to develop over a lifetime.”

What do you think? Do you meditate already? Do you feel good afterward? Would you be up for trying it? We’ll check in later this month!

P.S. Are you too busy? Also, cat bounce.

(Graphic design by Rachel for Cup of Jo. This post first appeared on Cup of Jo in May 2013, but we never completed the challenge, so we’re rerunning it today.)