One increasingly popular method of mental relaxation leaves psychologist Adam Grant out in the cold:
I'm being stalked by meditation evangelists.
They approach like a football fan attacking a keg at a tailgate party. They ask, "Which method of meditation do you use?"
When I admit that I don't meditate, they're stunned. It's like I've just claimed the Earth is flat. "How could you not meditate?!"
I have nothing against it. I just find it dreadfully boring.
"But Steve Jobs meditated!"
Yeah, and he also did LSD -- do you want me to try that, too?
Meditation is exploding in popularity. Schools and workplaces are offering classes.
But a recent study concluded that the science is spotty. And an analysis of 47 meditation programs in a major medical journal found zero evidence that meditation was better than exercise or relaxation.
And consider this: If your goal is to reduce stress, remember the stress response can be healthy. It's a signal that you're facing a challenge, and it can help you rise to that challenge.
When psychologists told anxious people it was perfectly normal to feel stressed before an impromptu speech, they relaxed physiologically.
And if your goal is to become more mindful, there are other ways to focus on the present.
In a world filled with distractions, I think we need more planned laziness. That just means being thoughtful about how you spend your downtime. There's evidence that watching TV can restore your energy. But channel-surfing doesn't do the trick -- you actually need to immerse yourself in a show … which is why I only turn on the TV when I already know what I want to watch.
So, if you want to become less stressed, or more mindful, you don't have to sit and say "Ommmm." You can reflect. Write in a journal. Chat with a thoughtful friend. Get quality sleep and exercise. Read a novel. Listen to podcasts.
Meditation isn't snake oil. But if you're judging people for not meditating, it's pretty clear that meditation hasn't made you mindful yet.
The next time you meet people who choose not to meditate, just take a deep breath … and let us relax in peace.
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Story produced by Robbyn McFadden.
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