by Hannah Myers
Every thought that enters your mind has the ability to motivate or deter, calm or agitate, comfort or worry. Thoughts can be a powerful tool or, in some cases, a self-deprecating weapon.
Many of us have seen the affirmation “Thoughts Are Not Facts” posted on social media or touted by mental health experts in podcasts and articles. Don’t get me wrong, we all need this affirmation, but sometimes a simple phrase just isn’t enough to quiet the voice in our heads telling us that we should have stood up for ourselves in that meeting or that we need to lose 5 pounds so we can look a little more “insta-perfect”.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we all found ourselves looking at a new normal: less human interaction, less travel, and - above all - LESS calm. We worried about ourselves, our aging parents and compromised grandparents, our finances, childcare, changing work situations...and the list goes on. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms of anxiety and depression nearly doubled from the previous year’s rate during the first six months of the pandemic.1 Mental health was on nearly everyone’s mind in 2020, and it still is in 2022.
While COVID-19 may no longer be our top concern, it was quickly replaced by the rapidly rising cost-of-living, war, and [insert your latest worry here]. What can we do to calm anxiety? Where do we look to heal our overstimulated anxious brains?
I am one of those people that dealt with anxiety during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and still struggle with it today. Quieting the brain isn’t exactly the easiest task. I was recently read the book 10% Happier which delves into the story of ABC news anchor, Dan Harris, and his discovery of meditation to calm nerves and anxiety.
I knew what meditation was, of course, but mostly categorized it as something for yoga teachers and the ultra “crunchy.” Needless to say, I went into reading it with a lot of skepticism. After I finished the book, I began researching meditation and found that it really did have scientifically proven health benefits such as improving overall sleep and fighting insomnia.2
Now, six months after I closed the book, I have slowly incorporated meditation into my daily life. I fit an occasional five minutes in at lunch, a daily ten minutes before bedtime, and the occasional meditation class at the YMCA into my schedule. Am I 10% happier yet? Not quite, but I have noticed a difference in my day when I incorporate even ten minutes of focused meditation into my routine.
Overcoming negative thought patterns is a journey. One that won’t happen overnight. I have found that this journey has been rewarding and one that I encourage everyone to explore. Afterall, we can all use a little more calm in our lives.
1 NIMH » One Year In: COVID-19 and Mental Health (nih.gov)
2 Mindfulness meditation helps fight insomnia, improves sleep - Harvard Health
About the Author
Hannah lives in Carlisle, Pa with her fiancé, Jon, and their pets, Yogi and Ninja. She is the marketing director and salesforce administrator for a wealth management firm and loves to use data to improve marketing campaigns and is a self-described data-nerd. Her hobbies include traveling the world, fitness, journaling, and trying to cook more plant-based. She is currently a member of Carlisle Young Professionals and Peak Collective and is looking forward to volunteering as a Franklin County Literacy Tutor this summer.