As my birthday was approaching last August, an interesting question popped into my head.
What could I request for my birthday that would help me be a better husband and father?
After nearly 30 of them, I’ve come to learn that birthdays are much better for you and those who love you if you just think about and tell them what you actually want. They’ll be happy to see you actually using what they gave you.
So last year I thought hard and asked for a few things that I thought would help me be better to, and spend more quality time with, my family.
One of my desired gifts was a subscription to the Headspace app, which I gratefully received. I’ve meditated nearly every day since. Although I was a bit skeptical of it at first, now I can see just what all the hype is about.
Here are just a few ways my life has changed after meditating for over seven months.
1. I get angry a lot less
I have been known in the past for my quick temper. I still don’t handle sudden change very easily. Although I am far from perfect, developing a meditation habit has helped me calmed down significantly.
One thing I’ve especially loved about Headspace is that it’s taught me how to calm myself down in tough situations. Instead of reacting quickly, I’m a lot better at breathing slowly to help myself relax and act with intention.
A couple of nights ago as we were coming in after a long day out, my boy was screaming. He seemed inconsolable, crying about something that, to me, didn’t really matter.
The look on his face pricked my heart. I remembered how hard it is for me when I care about something that isn’t going my way. Even if he was just tired or hungry, the feelings he was experiencing mattered, and I could see that.
My meditation habit had put me in a place where I could have compassion on my son, where previously, I would have become angry and impatient.
Because I was mindful of what was going on in the moment, instead of what I thought I had to get done that night, I remembered a parenting technique I read about recently.
My efforts to calm him down worked, and a few minutes later we were both laughing and playing together.
2. I can calm myself down faster
While this may seem very similar to getting angry less, I would include here that meditation has helped me calm down when things go wrong as well as when I am tempted to get angry.
A few weeks ago I lost my job. After the initial shock and horror wore off, I made some phone calls to get the ball rolling for a new job.
Then,I took some time to pause and think.
The day I was let go was filled with a wide range of emotions. Many of them still linger now, a month later. But I do remember the distinct feeling of peace that I had driving home from the office for the last time.
I just felt like everything was going to be okay, even though there was still a lot of pain and uncertainty ahead.
It wasn’t that mindfulness and meditation had taught me to cover my feelings that helped me so much after losing my job.
Instead, I felt that meditation had helped me learn to recognize, understand, and accept the way I was feeling a whole lot better. And that has helped me calm down more quickly.
In everyday situations that used to get me all bothered, I find myself pausing, breathing, and realizing that it’s not nearly as bad as I might think it is.
3. I am happier with myself
The first round of mediation I did was a group of exercises that were designed to help me with self-esteem. I was skeptical at first about how stopping to focus on my breathing would help me learn to love myself.
But I quickly grew to be grateful for the effect the habit was having on me.
I’ve struggled with beating myself up for mistakes since I was little. My self-esteem wasn’t always so bad but grew worse as I got older. Occasionally I would experience or learn something that would help me see my own self-worth.
Nothing seemed to stick until this last year after beginning meditation.
I would add here that I coupled the meditation exercises with reading self-improvement books. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned and applied recently is to play to my strengths always and in everything.
It was combining the two resources that helped me the most.
Now, I can see my strengths clearly, and I am working hard to live within them every day. Meditation helped me get quiet enough inside that I could see myself for who I really was — strengths, passions, and all.
Ironically, this has been met with no small amount of upheaval in many aspects of my life. Losing my job was just one example of that.
However, I see a far brighter future ahead for myself than I’ve ever seen previously.
Even though I was skeptical in the beginning, meditation has made a massive difference in my life after just a few short months.