Meditation helps more than just your mind and body – it can also help improve your writing.
Confession: I have a hard time focusing.
It’s not a huge surprise. My job as a blogger and community manager at FlowReader requires me to be able to switch between tasks and different content quickly. It’s really more stimulation than any brain needs. I am in a constant state of processing information, brainstorming content, and ticking off boxes on my to-do list.
As a result, I often find it hard to get my mind to stop jumping around when I sit down to write.
Recently, after telling my mom about about it, she asked:
“Why don’t you try meditating?”
It turns out meditation is not only great for your mind and body – it can be beneficial for your writing as well.
Meditation is just plain good for your brain, body, and soul.
Meditation has been shown to benefit your mind in a variety of other ways including:
- Regulates of our emotions
- Improves our compassion
- Reduces pain and anxiety
- Accelerates brain cognition
- Sharpens concentration
- Improves multi-tasking
- Fights depression
But why does it work?
Buddhists have been meditating for thousands of years, but it’s only been in recent years that neuroscientists have been able to take a peek into our brains and see what’s really going on. By scanning the brain with fMRIs and other modern technology, scientists have been able to determine what happens when you meditate.
For one thing, it actually changes our brain. The brain is constantly making new connections and disrupting old ones based on experiences we encounter – this is called experience-based neuroplasticity. Essentially, our neural circuits change, which affects how our brains are structured and how we respond to situations.
It’s also been linked with larger amounts of gray matter in our brain in the hippocampus and frontal areas of the brain. For those of you who don’t know (I didn’t either!), gray matter is connected with positive emotions, better emotional stability, and a more diligent focus during daily life.
All pretty awesome things if you ask me.
Meditation helps you access creative ideas.
If you’re a writer like me (or another creative), there is some research that shows the effect of meditation on creativity.
Apparently, it depends on the type of meditation you choose. Although ways to meditate differs largely based on personal practice, there are two methods backed by scientific research.
- Mindful (Focused-Attention) – You focus on one thing like your breathing or an object and bring your focus back to it when your mind wanders.
- Open-Monitoring – You notice and focus on what’s happening around you without reacting.
According to a study conducted by researchers at Leiden University in the Netherlands, an “open-monitoring” meditation method helps individuals solve creative problems. Participants were asked to think of ways they could to use a brick, and those who used an open-monitoring technique came up with the most ideas.
While the affects on creativity are trickier to prove scientifically, there is a wealth of content filled with personal testimonial that I feel supports (even surpasses) the research.
Meditation will make you a better writer.
I am not saying that meditation is the only element necessary to turn you into a master writer, but if this practice is absent from your writing and creative process, you are simply leaving too much potential on the table.
The basic gist of everything I read was that meditation is a great way to declutter your mind and unlock your creativity. We spend so much time consuming that we forget to allow ourselves to process everything we’ve read about and learned throughout the day.
It’s important as a writer (and a person) to reflect and really explore both our external and internal experiences. Meditation provides a way for us to open our minds and create a space of awareness that might not otherwise be possible.
Basic tips to help you get started:
- Just do it. Don’t over think it – make a commitment to try it out and go for it.
- Get comfortable. Sit on the floor on a cushion, close our eyes, and rest your hands in your lap.
- Ask yourself a question. Faroosh Brock suggests using a mantra that has to do with your writing like, “How can I write differently about an old topic?”
- Set aside a time every day. Creative professional coach Mark McGuinness spends 20 minutes every day meditating before he starts work.
- Avoid distractions. Find a quiet spot somewhere. It might not be easy, but it’s worth a little effort and creative thinking. You want to let distractions go, not invite them to the meditation party.
- Breathe and relax. Focus on your breath and try to relax. Stay there for as long as you want – this doesn’t need to be a 5 hour affair. Start with 5 minutes and continue from there.