In this post I want to continue the theme of cultivating self esteem by developing habits that affirm the self. One of the most powerful self-affirming habits is the practice of meditation. There are many different styles of meditation – the kind of meditation you do is less important than that you do it!
The most basic form of meditation is to simply pay attention to your breath. Breathing naturally, with eyes closed, just notice the physical sensations of the air moving into your nostrils, filling your lungs, and then flowing out of your body. Continue to focus on your breath, and repeat through several cycles of inhalation and exhalation.
An important side effect of this practice is relaxation.As you pay attention to your breath, you are activating the parasympathetic nervous system, the part of your nervous system that calms you and cools things down. This is why anger management advice often includes: “take a deep breath.”
How does the practice of meditation build healthy self esteem? When meditating you get a powerful self esteem boost as a result of several interacting factors:
- As you pay attention to the bodily sensations of breathing, you are not using your brain to think. Thinking with low self esteem often leads to self-critical thoughts, which only confirm the feeling of self-loathing.
- It is pleasant to relax. Calmness and relaxation contribute to a feeling of well-being which adds to self esteem.
- Meditation ameliorates the impact of stress on your body. With reduced stress, it is easier to be confident and optimistic.
You don’t have to meditate for long periods to get significant benefit. Begin by focusing on your breath for a minute. After a few relaxed, easy breaths open your eyes and go on with what you were doing. Later, focus on your breath for another minute. As you do this over a few days, build up to a couple of minutes at a sitting. There is no need to force this. Even if you can only manage a minute at a time, that’s great. Several minutes’ cumulative meditation per day will soon begin to have a noticeable positive effect.