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    Posted on Apr 18, 2018

    This Book Will Make You Want To Meditate, No Matter What Your Excuse

    The most common misconception about meditation is that it's all about the breath, or posture, or having no thoughts at all.

    Last year, I read a book that sold me (a skeptic through and through) on meditation.

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    The book is called Joy on Demand, and it's written by former Google engineer Chade-Meng Tan. At Google, Tan earned the job title of "Jolly Good Fellow" after starting a mindfulness training course called Search Inside Yourself. (A course where many participants came in with an engineer's "Prove it!" mentality.)

    I loved his book so much it inspired me to spend an entire month testing popular self-care habits, including meditation.

    The book didn't magically transform me into a carefree yogi, but it did give me the tools to help me feel happier at work and get my anxiety under control — all through meditation. 🌷

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    If you're the kind of person who rolls their eyes at self-help books or the ~magic~ of Himalayan salt lamps, this book is for you. It's funny, loaded with quick and easy "happiness exercises," and most importantly (at least for me), included real explanations of how these habits can actually change brain chemistry and your day-to-day happiness.

    Best of all, these tips are achievable with what you already have on hand: your mind and an open-minded attitude.

    Here are my favorite takeaways from the book:

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    (Though, if you're interested, you really should look through a copy yourself. If I could, I'd buy it for all my close friends and co-workers. I honestly think the world would be a better place if everyone read this.)

    1. The most common misconception about meditation is that it's only about breath, posture, and having no thoughts.

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    While many people might assume that meditation is about the perfect breath, keeping your back super rigid for an extended length of time, or being super zen and free of thought, it's actually about none of those things. Meditation is about attention and learning how to focus it in a way that might help you reach the level of calm you've come to associate meditation with.

    2. Meditating on the bodily sensations related to anxiety can weirdly help relax you.

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    If bringing your attention to your breath doesn't help, turn your focus to your anxiety's physical effects. For example, if your anxiety is making your chest feel tense, or upsetting your stomach, zero in one those sensations. It might sound counterintuitive, but this strategy might help shift your experience from an emotional one to a physical one. Of course, this exercise is not to say anxiety is something that can simply be reframed and wished away. It's more to remind you of the fact that your anxiety is something outside of yourself, that will eventually pass.

    3. When you're trying to establish a meditation habit, less is more. (Seriously!)

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    One sentiment that Tan expresses over and over in his book is, "Do less than you can." What he's trying to get at is: don't try to do too much, too fast. If you create a meditation habit that's comfortable, natural, and brings you peace or joy, you'll have a much better chance of sustaining it. If this sounds familiar, that's because this is a tried-and-true strategy that works for dieting, exercise, or any other habit.

    4. The minimum amount of meditation practice needed to feel its benefits is just 👏one single breath👏.

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    Forget every stereotype you've heard about meditation — like it's strict or time-consuming. Because while it is true that meditation takes more than a moment to master, it can start improving your mood like, literally now.

    The next time you're waiting for your laptop to turn on or for someone to get back to your text, take a single deep breath. (Here are some animations that might help.) You'll experience your heartbeat slowing down and/or your focus reset. If one breath helps, do another. And another! Even if you don't feel your anxious thoughts going away, you may find that by experiencing your thoughts flitting past you as you breathe, you're able to witness any horrible emotions without being overtaken by them.

    5. Meditation "works" by grounding you to the present moment.

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    When you put your attention intensely on your breath, you are fully in the present. And as Tan says: "To feel regretful, you need to be in the past, and to worry, you need to be in the future."

    6. There are zero health requirements to meditating.

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    That's because meditation is the training of attention. It has nothing to do with body type, sensation, or any object outside of you. It has to do only with attention.

    7. Meditation can help you grow compassion, which, according to Tan, is a shortcut to happiness.

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    In the book, Tan suggests a compassion-growing exercise he calls "loving-kindness meditation." On your next workday, randomly identify two people walking in your office, and secretly wish for each of them to be happy.

    This practice is so wholesome I still roll my eyes at myself every time I do it, but I swear it works. Every time I start feeling agitated at someone, I make myself wish them a productive day, and I instantly feel my mood shift.

    Tan says that this practice of "loving-kindness" and "the wish for others to be free from suffering" is closely related to compassion. And as he explains in the book, compassion is the happiest mental state ever measured in the history of neuroscience. Once you get into the swing of thinking happy thoughts for Megan who's constantly snapping her gum, you'll almost feel like you're in possession of a magical power.

    Get a copy of Joy on Demand by Chade-Meng Tan on Amazon for $10.87.

    Excerpts from JOY ON DEMAND by Chade-Meng Tan, copyright 2017 (HarperOne/HarperCollins).