Before And After Meditation – Changes You Will See

before and after meditation

Have you ever noticed how much of a difference you feel when you start your meditation session compared to how you feel afterwards?

Before meditation, you might notice that your mind is full of noise. If you’ve been working hard without taking enough breaks, you’ll notice that you have a very busy mind. You will be thinking all sorts of thoughts in one frenzied blur. And because you’re lost in your head, you’re also not paying any attention to the present moment.

So before meditation, you’re in your head, lost in thoughts, being mindless. And because of that, you’re probably not at your best. Maybe you’re feeling stressed dealing with all those thoughts, or you’re just not particularly happy because you’re not living in the moment. Because you’re also not being very aware, you’re more likely to make mistakes, like that time I went ten miles to the swimming pool only to realise I hadn’t taken my trunks, or maybe you didn’t notice that you’d included your boss’ email when you sent out that funny meme of a dog humping a lamppost. We make stupid little mistakes like those when we’re not paying enough attention to the present moment, which is usually when we haven’t meditated.

Another huge issue that I personally experience when I haven’t meditated is that I’m very reactive to my thoughts. For instance, if I think about something stressful I will immediately start to feel stressed—after meditation, those thoughts have far less effect on me; more on that in a moment.

Then you begin to meditate. Some of the effects of meditation start immediately. As soon as you’ve closed your eyes and taken one deep, mindful breath you will start to feel more relaxed and more aware. Honestly, within about ten seconds of meditating I’ll remember that I don’t have to rush and I don’t have to be so stressed. Speaking of remembering, quite often when I start getting into my daily meditation I’ll remember something that I’ve been forgetting to do (today, for instance, I remembered that I had to call my doctor). There’s a reason for that. When you haven’t been meditating you have too many thoughts, a lot of which are worthless, and those worthless thoughts prevent you from noticing the thoughts that do matter.

What happens next will generally depend on the type of meditation you are doing. For instance, one of the main forms of meditation is Vipassana, in which we observe and label our thoughts and feelings [1]. This makes us less reactive to those thoughts and feelings, which in turn helps with everything from happiness to anger. As you continue to become more aware of your thoughts you also gain more cognitive control. You’re more able to change your thoughts, which can help with… well, virtually everything. Our thoughts influence our actions, so if you have more control of your thoughts you have more control of your actions.

Then the relaxation kicks in. Because we have been deep breathing, calming the mind and reducing thoughts, we start to relax. Specifically, our parasympathetic nervous system kicks in [2]. This is the “Rest and Digest” system. You’ll know when this happens because of how your body feels. You’ll feel a wave of relaxation throughout your body, and any tension that you’ve been feeling (in your mind or your body) will start to dissipate. As you continue to meditate you will become more aware and more relaxed.

I would like to mention that you will experience different things depending on the exact meditation you do. For instance, if you’re doing Metta (Loving Kindness Meditation) you’ll notice that you start to feel happier, more compassionate, and more connected to other people. And if you’re doing mantra meditation you might notice that your body feels positively energised, which is because the mantra creates gentle reverberations in your body that essentially massage your organs.

So how about after meditation? Suddenly, my world feels like an easier place to live in.

After meditation, everything starts to feel so much better. One of the immediate effects of meditation that I personally notice is that is makes my mind quiet. All those thoughts that were running through my mind only moments earlier have suddenly subsided and there is quiet and inner-peace.

I find that meditation also has the effect of organizing my mind. If I’ve got a lot to do and I’ve been running around frantically trying to get it done, meditation will slow my mind down so that I can do things logically, one at a time.

There are physical changes too. I breathe slower and deeper, I feel less tension in my body, I stand taller after meditating, and even my walk changes (I have a much more confident gait after I’ve meditated).

And as for my behaviour. Well, it’s a lot more pleasant and productive. I’m pretty sure all my family, friends and colleagues can notice after I mediate, too. I’m a lot more thoughtful, compassionate and patient after meditating. I also seem to become more creative after I meditate. Certain meditations have the effect of stimulating divergent thinking (the ability to formulate new ideas based on disparate information). That’s one reason I always meditate before I start blogging or writing one of my books.

More than anything though, the biggest difference I notice before and after meditation is that it creates a sense of space. Before meditation I feel tight and confined, like I have no freedom. After meditation, I feel much more relaxed and flexible in my body, and much freer in my life in general.

Overall, I feel a tremendous difference before and after meditation, with relaxation and awareness being the two biggest differences. I will point out, however, that there are also some side effects of meditation. 

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By Paul Harrison

Paul Harrison BSc is a qualified meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in teaching meditation and mindfulness both to individuals and to corporations.

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