How to psychologically survive a Trump presidency– meditation

So, I’ve been meaning to do a post on mindfulness meditation for a while now.  I’ve been reading about it and been intrigued for a while.  Mostly, because it has long come up in my research as a scientifically-validated approach to helping with ADHD and anxiety, two mental health issues that run in my progeny.  I haven’t gotten my kids into it yet, but I was curious enough that I decided I wanted to give it a try despite my own noted mental/emotional stability.  Basically, seemed worth trying.  As you might gather, I’m super-skeptical of anything remotely new-agey and most non-Western medicine, but I’ve been impressed by the solid research behind this and if you re-frame meditation as brain exercise (as I have done for my own benefit), it sure sounds a lot better to me.

Anyway, I did the free trial of Headspace because I was intrigued from this New Yorker article from last year.  My mind always seems to be racing, but I surprised myself how well I did in these 10 minute chunks.  After that, I looked for a free app, but stumbled upon 10% Happier.  Not free.  But affordable enough and I absolutely could not resist ABC Newsman Dan Harris’ pitch:

Interested in meditation, but allergic to woo-woo?

Despite its PR problem, mindfulness meditation is a simple, secular, scientifically validated exercise for your brain.

In this two-week course you’ll learn how to meditate with skeptical newsman Dan Harris and one of the greatest American meditation teachers, Joseph Goldstein.

Every day, delivered straight to your mobile device, you’ll get video lessons that teach the essentials, and guided audio meditations that walk you through the practice in the simplest possible way. Also, because self-discipline isn’t always enough, you’ll also get a living, breathing coach to help you follow through.

Just in case you’re worried, meditation does not require a lot of the things people fear it might. For example, you don’t have to sit in a funny position. (Unless you want to, of course.) You also don’t have to: light incense, chant, or believe in anything in particular. There’s nothing to join, no special outfits to wear.

Anyway, I’ve been at it for a couple months now, and damn if I’m not 10% or so happier🙂.  All of us perseverate on negative, unhelpful thoughts from time-to-time and I’ve found that since I began mindfulness meditation, I’ve found it way easier to not perseverate.  The first time I really noticed was when I had medium-sized fight with my wife in the morning.  Normally, I would have spent much of the day ruminating on it and thinking about what I would say when we continued our argument in the evening.  But nope, just made a mental note of the negative thoughts and put them aside.  Issues were resolved that evening, as I knew they would be, but with much less psychic distress during the day.

So, onto the title of the post.  Let’s be clear– Trump is a disaster of a human being and president.  I’m under absolutely no illusions about that.  And I will spend lots of time thinking about his awfulness for the next (hopefully, only) four years.  But what I surely don’t need (and you, either, presumably), is to get stuck in negative emotional loops thinking about Trump’s awfulness.  I was amazed by my calmness on election night and the next day, which I largely attribute to the meditation.  Again, I’m not at all saying don’t be angry, afraid, appalled, aghast, etc., by Trump, but personally I have found that I can be plenty upset by what Trump represents, but not find myself stewing in the negative emotions that come with this.  Or hey, maybe liberals totally drive you crazy.  Same principle.

Or, yet, forget the political tone of this completely, and just view it as a plug for mindfulness meditation from a former somewhat skeptic.  Ten minutes a day can make a real difference.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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