Before I start getting things thrown at me, I’ll have to admit that the title of this post may be a slight overstatement, as the word “motherhood” and the concept “a breeze” wouldn’t even qualify as acquaintances, they meet so rarely. This being said, taking up meditation could make motherhood ever so slightly easier, if not a walk in the park.
Any parent will tell you that having a child is simultaneously the most enjoyable, extraordinary and unbelievably stressful experience. The parts of being a parent that can make life challenging, the lack of sleep, emotional and hormonal upheaval, as well as sheer exhaustion, are all things that meditation can help relieve. You can sleep better, think more clearly and combat stress with meditation, and it’s a way to being kind to yourself at a time when you need it most.
Why meditation works
Meditation has been shown in various scientific studies to make people feel calmer, less stressed and more positive. The modern world triggers our stress response far too often, which can make us feel quite terrible. Everyday occurrences such as getting stuck in a traffic jam when you are in a rush sends our bodies into an emergency mode that we evolved to sprint away from lions, with our stomachs churning, brain blaring in panic and heart beating at a million miles per hour.
Parenthood can exacerbates this, as you suddenly find yourself with a lot more responsibility and hundreds of new things to worry about, making this stress a constant background buzz rather than the occasional blip. Meditation directly influences the area of the brain that creates the stress response, the amygdala, and unwinds it from its constantly over reactive state. MRI scans have shown that after only 8 weeks of the practice, the cell density of the amygdala is reduced, while brain areas associated with memory and learning are strengthened.
How on earth am I going to find the time?
This is probably the most difficult bit. With newborns, toddlers, adventurous eight year olds and grumpy teenagers to deal with (sometimes all at once!) parents are often left in a situation where having a few hours to themselves is about as likely as finding a cleaning fairy who’ll happily do all the housework. Adding yet another thing to the to-do list can feel like the last thing you want to do.
As far as this goes, it’s something of a “where there’s a will there’s a way” situation. The only way you will have the time to meditate is if you make the time, which is especially difficult with very young children, but with some determination it is possible to work meditation into your routine. New mothers have so little time for themselves, and can feel as if their whole lives and beings have been hijacked, so allowing yourself time to be quiet, still and completely free from demands is worth doing.
As kids get older this should become easier, especially as those after six can start meditating themselves, with significant benefits to be gained from them doing so. Before this point, however, grabbing the opportunity to meditate whenever you can will help you feel refreshed, energised and less stressed out.
Where should I start?
Simple breathing exercises are a good way to introduce yourself to meditation, and after that there’s a world of resources that can guide you. To begin, however, all you need to do is find a quiet space to yourself, and focus on your breathing. Fill up your chest as much as you comfortably can, and then release your breath slowly, concentrating on the feeling of released tension. Acknowledge any thoughts that distract you, and then resume your concentration, which is something that will become easier with time.
Doing this for as long as you can every day, and building up how long you spend meditating (20 minutes in the morning and evening is the goal) will soon make the habit come naturally to you. Then in no time you’ll be feeling relaxed and positive, taking the toddler meltdowns and 3am feeds in your stride.
This post was written by Holly Ashby who works for Will Williams Meditation, who provide courses on Vedic meditation in London, Brighton and Geneva.