Meditation is talked about more than ever and is becoming mainstream as more individuals and businesses experience the benefits of meditating. You may be a regular meditator, you may dabble occasionally or perhaps you’ve never given it a go. As you’re reading this I’m guessing you enjoy exploring your creative side, perhaps as a pastime or as your livelihood, and meditation can be a useful tool in supporting your creativity.
Let’s explore how meditation can benefit you in your creativity and life, and address some of the common stumbling blocks to making meditation a regular practice.
One of the most obvious benefits of meditation is that it calms you down. When you have a mile-long to do list, people demanding your attention, and lots to think about it can feel quite overwhelming. It’s hard to switch to creative mode when your brain is busy juggling jobs and you feel stressed. Creativity isn’t something that responds well to being demanded! So, taking a few minutes out to quieten the mental chatter and focus on one thing, such as your breath, allows your parasympathetic nervous system to kick in and calm you, slowing your heart rate and lowering your blood pressure.
Calming and soothing your mind and nerves allows you to see what there is to do more clearly and enable you to be more focused. Often we can put off meditation because we think we don’t have the time. However, it can create a feeling of spaciousness in a crowded day because we’re no longer buzzing with competing thoughts. Allowing our minds to calm down gives us the opportunity to focus on one thing and give it all our attention.
If you’re switching from task to task to task and the next item on the list is to do something creative, whether it’s design a new product or photograph a flatlay, it can be hard to come up with great ideas that feel interesting and inspiring. Research shows that meditating helps us with idea generation. One study asked two groups of students to think of as many ideas as possible for making use of a particular electronic device. One group meditated for ten minutes first and the other group just let their minds wander. The meditation group came up with a broader range of ideas than the control group.
Many people report after meditation that as well as feeling calmer and more focused, they also feel more positive and optimistic. I know from my own experience that I can sit down (how I usually meditate but it’s not the only way) to mediate feeling a bit fed up and frazzled, and when I finish I feel noticeably brighter and in a more positive frame of mind to get on with my day. Those few minutes meditating haven’t changed my circumstances or shortened my to do list, but it’s affected my attitude and response to what I’m facing that day.
A valuable benefit of meditation is that it teaches you to notice your thoughts rather than be caught up in them. This comes from an aspect of meditation that so often people think is a sign they can’t do it – their mind wanders off while they’re meditating. Realising that your thoughts have drifted from the focus, like your breath, to somewhere else is a key part of meditation. It’s the realisation that teaches you to recognise your thoughts rather than engage with them. So every time your mind wanders off during meditation, and it will many times, you notice it and bring it back to your original focus. The more times it happens the more opportunities you have to practice noticing where your thoughts have gone and returning to the focus of the meditation.
This valuable practice translates into everyday life. In time you begin to realise when you’re getting lost in unhelpful thoughts – it could be comparing yourself to someone else, telling yourself no-one will like your new design or photo, making up stories for why your last Instagram post had less engagement – and you can step back and untangle yourself from them. You realise that comparing yourself, for example, is making you feel bad so you put down your phone or close the app and you do something that will help you get perspective and feel better.
Being able to notice when we’re becoming stuck in unhelpful thoughts so we can step back and take action to readdress the balance is incredibly valuable in protecting our creativity as well as our mental health.
As I mentioned earlier, meditation doesn’t have to be done sitting down, it isn’t one size fits all. You can meditate sitting, lying, standing, or moving. It doesn’t need to be a big chunk of time, a few minutes a day is more beneficial than half an hour once a week. You can be alone and in silence or in a noisy, crowded place. You can follow a guided recording or go it alone. The focus of your meditation can be your breath, your body, a mantra, nature, your senses, or other people.
You can view meditation as simply taking a few minutes to calm yourself, to press your reset button so you can continue with your day with renewed focus. It’s a practice that performed regularly will benefit you, your creativity, your life and those around you. There are several Makelight Meditations you can choose from, ranging from four to eight minutes in duration, if you’d like to have a listen and see how you feel.
If you’re interested in learning how to make meditation a part of your day, and create your own regular meditation practice that fits in with your life, take a look at my new e-course, Exhale, a beginners’ guide to meditation for overthinkers.