Chad Butnari on Meditation
What do you think of when you hear the word “meditation?” Does it conjure a vision of a yogi sitting with his legs crossed on the top of a mountain? If so, don’t worry, it does for me too.
Last year, I had heard so much about the practice of meditation that I thought I would try it. I am a fan of Tim Ferriss’s podcast, and he had suggested the app “headspace.” At the time they were offering a free trial so I thought I would give it a go. I was skeptical but after hearing about the benefits so many people experienced, I figured it couldn’t hurt. I tried it for about two weeks. The practice consisted of putting headphones on, sitting very still in a chair, closing your eyes, and thinking about “nothing.”
Was it relaxing? Yes. Was it calming? Yes. Was it a nice way to start the day? Yes. But, like many things, it just didn’t stick for me. My kids would wake me up and interrupt the session, or, I would start thinking about things I needed to do for the day. It just didn’t seem to work for me. Upon reflection, perhaps these are just excuses. Perhaps I didn’t take it seriously enough or give it enough time. Regardless, I felt like I gave it a try.
Although the practice of meditation wasn’t my cup of tea (perhaps I’ll try again in the future), there are things I do for my mental health. After a busy week, if I have a lot on my mind, or I feel overwhelmed, I tend to engage in distracting activities. Activities that force me to focus only on that activity and nothing else. And here’s the catch, I prefer to be alone while doing them. For me, I like to work out (typically lift weights or get on my airdyne bike), go to jiu-jitsu class (before the pandemic), play pool (billiards), or engage in activities outside like mountain biking. Each of these activities has one thing in common, I can’t afford to think about anything else while I’m doing it. If I do, there will be consequences. They could be as significant as injury in the case of jiu-jitsu (there’s no better motivator to concentrate than another person trying to impose their will ? ) or as insignificant as missing a shot playing pool.
Regardless of which activity I choose, when I am done, I feel like I just hit the “reset” button. The overwhelming feeling is gone. I feel refreshed and I’m able to think more clearly than I could beforehand. I’m not entirely sure why this occurs (although I trust there’s a biological reason behind it) but I do know the feeling is tangible for me. What I’ve learned about myself is that I need this “me” time and I shouldn’t feel guilty about it. I believe I’m a better husband, father, co-worker, and yes, advisor, by doing so.
Amid something as serious as the pandemic and what we’ve been through over the past year, I know many people are feeling the effects on their mental health. This can manifest itself in different ways but honestly, I think we are all feeling it to a certain extent. I believe, whatever your method of maintaining your mental health is, we can all benefit by focusing on “self-care” activities. The effects will be noticeable by the people you care about and yourself.
Mike Andrews on Meditation
I, like Chad, read consistently on behaviours and habits that can enhance our health and overall well-being. Meditation continues to be in the top 5 most of the time. I had attempted it a few times myself using different online tools. I was inconsistent at best until I learned three important “tricks” and I now have done it over 200+ times. I’m not perfect at it, and my mind wanders, but I’ve learned that’s ok.
The Secrets I Discovered
The activity itself is just as much about breathing and relaxing as it is about focusing on nothing. Don’t get frustrated, frustration is just nature’s way of getting us to quit, persevere.
I linked the activity to an existing habit. When I finish my workout and stretches, I meditate for 10 minutes. As I workout 5 days a week, I now meditate 5 days a week. Linking a new habit to an existing habit increases the likelihood of success exponentially.
The other thing, which is essential to ground this new habit, is a celebration. Congratulate yourself when you do it. A simple little reaffirmation provides your brain with what it needs to look forward to the next time, it gives it “stickiness.” A 2009 Research paper would tell us that on average it takes 66 days to make a new habit automatic. I use the Peloton guidance meditation app. They have different themes such as gratitude, courage, happiness, sleep, etc. I find that the diversity helps keep my interest.
The interesting benefit is that managing my breathing (as simple as it sounds) has helped me with my other activities like trail running, mountain biking, working out and even engaging in challenging conversations.
As much as meditation may not be for everyone, I would suggest that even going for a walk in the woods is a form of meditation. My advice? Find something that gets you over the 66 days, so it becomes a natural, sticky habit.
What is your form of meditation? How do you keep yourself mentally healthy? We would love to hear what practices or activities have been helpful for you.
By Chad Butnari
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