Mindfulness

How Meditation Helped Boost My Happiness and Find a Flying Unicorn

By Lindsay VanSomeren, Pretzel Kids contributor

I am a skeptical person.

Don’t tell me about how you believe in astrology, homeopathy, or healing crystals. I won’t buy your darn essential oils, Janet, or your hideous tights for that matter. I’ll crouch in the corner of the room and hiss if forced to be near anything that’s been within a mile of Gwyneth Paltrow. That’s why I’m still so surprised each morning when I find myself sitting on the couch in my patchwork pajamas with my eyes closed like some sort of homeless zen Buddhist monk.

I’m meditating. It’s weird.

But believe it or not, it’s helped me in almost every area of my life. One of the biggest ways it’s helped me is with my money situation. Let me explain.

How I Discovered Meditating

As you can tell, I used to think that meditating was some sort of hocus-pocus. That all changed when I was watching The Colbert Report one night and saw an interview with former news anchor Dan Harris (ahhh, those were the days). Harris had a panic attack on live national television. 

Afterwards, he spent quite some time on a hilarious scientific journey to re-find himself. The result was his book, 10% Happier. It’s one of the best books I’ve read in a long time and I recommend it to anyone. What he said in the interview and in the book piqued my interest. We all have an internal monologue going in our heads. Mine sounded like an abusive, gold-toothed pimp. Harris proposed that I might be able to change that.

I had to learn more.

What It’s Like To Start Meditating

The first time I sat down to meditate, the heavens opened with a beautiful ray of light heralded by doves and cherubs with rosy butt cheeks.

Obviously that didn’t happen. The first time I sat down to meditate for reals, it was weird. Honestly, it’s still weird. I knew that I couldn’t just sit down and be a meditation guru. I needed some guidance. But with a recording. And in my own house. With the blinds closed. You know, where people can’t see me.

I started off with the 10% Happier app, which Robyn Parets, founder of Pretzel Kids, writes about here. I’ve since switched to the popular Headspace app and Parets uses the Calm app. But, you can also find guided meditations on YouTube or on some other free apps.

Warning: you can get into the hokey granola-crunching territory very quickly. That’s why I tend to stick to these scientific-based apps. Ain’t nobody got time for your crunchy kale and chakras, Becky.

Even with a guided meditation, it’s going to be weird. I wasn’t even sure if I was doing it right for a while. To be honest, I’m still not sure if I’m doing it 100% correctly (but according to my calculations I’m approximately 92.35% there with a confidence interval of ± 14.29%). After a while though, I started to notice that things felt a little…different. (in a good way).

How Meditation Works

That’s the million-dollar question. Despite all of my highest sciencing powers, I am not a neurologist nor a psychologist and thus I still have a difficult time understanding it.

This article in Scientific American describes some of the difficulties in studying meditation. Despite some studies (or lack of studies), the skeptical authors still believe that it is useful for reducing stress and other related conditions.

Here’s what I think about how meditation works: It gives you a 1,000-foot view of how you think. If you can see how you think, that opens up a world of possibilities. You can actually insert a wedge in the normal stimulus-response cycle. Do I really need to eat a Double-Super-Whopper-McCheese-Baconator or can I wait a half hour for a snack? Should I buy that thing in the store window, or wait until next month when I have more money in the bank?

You can also recognize faulty thinking on your part, and correct it. Yep, that’s right. Your brain is a hard-drive run by weird software attached to a mushy motherboard. It’s prone to faulty thinking.

How Meditation Has Helped Me Up My Money Game: Stop Spending!

At this point you might be wondering. Well, all this is great, but what the heck does it have to do with money? I’m glad you asked, my friends.

Meditation has helped me curb back my impulse spending. I used to spend more money than Kanye West, especially on restaurants. But now I stop and think before each purchase: what’s the opportunity cost of this money? How many tacos could I buy with this cash instead?

How Meditation Has Helped Me Up My Money Game: Earn More!

See, I used to be an expert at negative self-talk. As someone who’s a) made a lot of mistakes, b) spends a lot of time thinking about things, and c) is afraid of her own shadow, it was easy for me to get into this headspace.

I’d spend hours banging my head away at how stupid and unworthy I was. I even believed it for a long time. That’s why I was never brave enough to try making more money: I knew I’d make mistakes, so why bother?

Meditating, however, has allowed me to decouple these events. Since striking out as a freelance writer, I’ve made a ton of mistakes. I’ve even had a Harris-esque panic attack while on a live conference call with established writers at the first website I ever wrote for.

Now, when I do something “stupid”, I’m able to pull a 180 and stop those thoughts.

Case in point: A client recently sent back a rough draft with approximately 1,003 edits for me to correct and rewrite. Before, I would have been wracked about the inconvenience I caused them, how stupid I was to make so many “mistakes” (they didn’t provide any guidance on what they wanted), and why on Earth I have so many split ends in my hair.

​Now, though, my internal dialogue went like this: “Meh.

[spends a while fixing ‘mistakes’]

[moves on]

Taming my inner mind-monkeys freed me from the biggest thing holding me back: myself. And, better yet, even if I don’t meditate regularly, I’m still able to use this skill to avoid getting all worked up over nothing. It’s one of the biggest factors that I credit in being able to earn more money. When I started meditating in 2015, I was earning $2,500 per month working in a job I hated. In October, I invoiced for over $9,200 while working for myself. Boo yah.

Can meditating help you too?

Is there a side hustle – like teaching Pretzel Kids yoga – that you want to pursue, but a voice in your head keeps telling you shouldn’t do this? I hear ya.

Meditating won’t open up a portal and solve all your problems. It won’t sprout a Bloomin’ Onion from your stove each night, nor will it file your taxes for you. Sadly, it won’t help you find a flying unicorn – but that doesn’t mean you can’t try! But, it’s definitely made a small but measurable difference in my happiness. And that’s gotta count for something. Namely, it costs nothing to meditate so why not give it a try?

Lindsay VanSomeren is founder of Go Science Finance. She has also been a professional dogsled racer, a wildlife researcher, and a participant in the National Spelling Bee.

Editor’s note: Pretzel Kids now offers a course specifically on how to teach mindfulness and meditation to kids. In the “How to Teach Mindfulness to Kids” course, you’ll not only learn simple mindfulness techniques for kids, but you’ll learn tips for starting your own meditation and mindfulness practice. Check it out here!

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