This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure for more info.
Whether you’re a novice meditator or a seasoned veteran, you might sometimes wonder if your practice is achieving the results you’re hoping for. After all, it's hard to know how much credit to give your efforts when a wide range of factors could influence your health and well-being.
As with exercise or any other healthy lifestyle change, the goals of meditation are long term and cumulative, so it wll take time to see the full effects of your efforts.
However, you can use a few simple strategies to keep track of progress and make sure that regular meditation is doing its job for you.
For starters, determine why you’re meditating. Medtaton can offer many benefits for different people, but if your goal is connection to deeper spirituality or increased health and well-being, then the first step is being clear about what those benefits are in your case.
If you know what specific tangible benefits you would like from meditation, then it’s easier to recognize them when they happen.
Do you want more energy? More clarity? A more positive outlook on life? Make note of how your experience matches up with those goals.
Some changes will be immediate and easy to notice—feeling more energized or positive right after meditating can confirm that.
Other changes may take time to emerge, so you’ll have to exercise patience, methodical thinking and note-taking to see if meditation is working for you.
This blog entry should help you gain insight as to the effectiveness of your individual meditation practice.
"The more regularly and the more deeply you meditate, the sooner you will find yourself acting always from a center of peace." J. Donald Walters
Seven Considerations to Determine if Your Meditation is Working
1) Breathing is an essential component of meditation, and mastering it—or at least having a basic familiarity with its rhythm—can be key to feeling like you’re making progress in your practice.
The first way to tell if your meditation is working is by paying attention to your breathing and how it feels while you do so.
If you don’t feel comfortable meditating without guidance, try using an app or other resource to guide you through sessions until you get used to the process and can meditate on your own.
Once you feel you’ve gotten used to the basic principles behind breath work and can identify when it’s going well—and when it isn’t—then you’ll have a reference point for how it should feel so that you can use breathing as one way to measure your progress in other situations (for instance, during stressful times).
The other way that meditation improves over time is by allowing the brain to slow down and focus on the here and now.
If you’re continuously battling racing thoughts during your practice (some distracted thoughts are to be expected, especially lucid reflections discussed below), you can easily compromise the quality of the meditation and associated results.
2) Ask yourself if you find that your meditation practice is improving your life. Does it help you relax when you feel stressed? Does it improve your focus?
Perhaps you find that your memory is better or that you’re more mindful of the present moment. Maybe you notice that your posture is better and you’re walking with more confidence or that your actions just seem more in line with what you want.
Are there other things about yourself that are changing?
Remember that even if these changes aren’t dramatic, meditation is supposed to be something that continues to work for you for a lifetime—it’s supposed to fit into the background of your life and just help keep everything together.
So don’t think of this as one point in time where “Now I’m meditating” or “Now I’m not meditating.” Think of it as a path you choose to take when you’re ready--one which can enhance the quality of your life.
3) If you’ve been meditating for a while, you may have noticed that your meditation experience is actually changing over time.
This is because the practice of meditation develops in the same way that skills like playing an instrument or learning to dance develop. It’s a skill that becomes easier and more comfortable with practice.
So how can you know if your meditation practice is developing? Aside from paying attention to how you feel during and after your sessions, there are other specific signs that you can look out for.
One favorable sign is called “lucid reflection,” which is when you’re able to observe with greater clarity the thoughts and feelings (both positive and negative) that arise during your practice.
For example, if you’re meditating on compassion, you might notice how your mind drifts off into judgmental thoughts about others.
Or, if you’re meditating on patience, you may realize how impatience shows up in unexpected moments of your life—maybe someone is talking to you on the phone and it’s taking too long for them to get to the point. Perhaps you think of the driver ahead of you who, in your estimation, goes too slow on a one-lane road.
The more lucidly aware you become about these kinds of experiences, the more likely it is that you’re increasing your awareness of your thoughts and feelings as you go about your daily life ... which is a good habit to foment!
4) To expound on an earlier point, look for tangible emotional benefits.
For instance, if meditation is working, you’ll notice that the things that used to stress you out don’t bother you as much anymore. Instead of getting caught up in your thoughts and emotions, you’ll be able to let them pass through without overwhelmng you.
You’ll also feel more at ease with yourself and others around you. You’ll see yourself as an integral part of the world rather than a separate entity standing apart from it all.
This will allow you to better empathize with other people and understand what they’re going through based on their own unique perspective rather than yours alone.
If meditation is working, your overall mood should also improve dramatically! You’ll smile more often and feel happier overall — even when facing challenging situations in life.
5) Meditation is not an activity that can be measured by objective standards. The benefits of meditation are subjective, and they vary from person to person.
However, there are some physical benefits that you should accrue with regular meditation.
a) Meditation helps you relax more quickly when you are stressed or anxious.
b) Meditation helps decrease blood pressure and heart rate.
c) It improves your sleep quality, as well as increases the duration of your sleep cycle. This leads to a better functioning brain since it’s rested enough to work properly during the day.
d) It reduces inflammation in the body, which can reduce the chances that certain diseases develop.
e) It boosts brain activity by increasing the number of connections between neurons in the brain’s hippocampus region. These connections allow for improved memory function and learning abilities.
To find out whether meditation is working, determine whether you’re accruing any or all of the aforementioned benefits.
6) If you resent apportioning time out of your schedule for meditation, this practice cannot possibly be working.
Meditation is not about forcing yourself to sit still for a specific period of time; it’s about training yourself to become more aware of what it feels like when you’re still and relaxed.
If meditation is fun — a welcome escape — then at the very least, you’re benefiting from doing an activity you enjoy.
If you’re only meditating because you think it’s supposed to be good for you, and you’re not fully engaged with the exercise, you’ll be hard-pressed to attain positive dividends from it.
7) A final way to determine whether meditation is going well for you is by noticing how often you practice if. If it’s just a couple of times every month, then it’s likely that this method of meditation isn’t working for you.
Try to become more consistent in this approach, and again, have a goal in mind before starting your practice. If there has been no progress toward reeaching your goal after repeated attempts, perhaps look for another form of meditation or similar activity.
Final Words on Whether Meditation is Working for You
“When meditation is mastered, the mind is unwavering like the flame of a candle in a windless place” —Bhagavad Gita
Meditation can be a powerfully effective tool for introspection, self-discovery and healing. But if you’re new to meditation, it's hard to tell if it’s working.
As discussed in this blog post, here are some signs that your meditation practice is going well:
- You’re doing it regularly and with enthusiasm.
- You’re not doing it out of obligation or guilt.
- It feels good (physically, emotionally and mentally).
- You feel calm and relaxed when you end your session.
- You’re sleeping better at night and enjoying other physical benefits.
- Your mind isn’t racing all day long and you’re more in control of your wayward thoughts.
- You’re advancing toward accomplishing a goal you hope to reach through meditation.
As with all forms of therapy, results vary depending on each person’s needs and abilities, as well as their level of commitment toward changing their lives.
I hope you start or continue your meditation journey and soon accrue its potential myriad benefits ... and recognize them when they manifest!
MASTER YOUR MIND AND INCREASE THE BENEFITS OF MEDITATION 10 FOLD
We all know that meditation is good for us. But it's not always easy to get started, and even when we do, it can be hard to stick with it.
That's why meditation master, Giovanni Dienstmann, created this course: to help you master your mind and feel calmer, more centered, and more focused in just 5 weeks.
Here's what you'll get:
5 weeks of daily video lessons, teaching meditation in an easy to follow, systematic way.
“Meditation Cheat Sheets” for when you're on the go or need a refresher.
A private forum, where you can interact with Giovanni and other meditation experts and enthusiasts.