You’ve likely heard that meditation has many physical and psychological health benefits. But, did you know meditation can be especially beneficial for writers?
Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years throughout the world. Modern research is just beginning to uncover how meditation affects the brain… and why it’s so powerful.
Let’s delve a bit more into what meditation is, how it can help you as a writer, and simple ways to get started.
Benefits of Meditation for Writers
What is meditation, exactly? It has many definitions, but meditation is essentially being in a “flow” state.
You’ve likely experienced a flow state when you’ve been completely lost in an activity, like writing, running, or watching a beautiful sunset. If you’re writing, the words and ideas flow effortlessly, you focus intently, and you lose your sense of time. Some people call this “being in the zone.”
A flow state tends to be a very random, spontaneous experience. It’s nearly impossible to force yourself into flow… and you’re usually not aware you’re in it until you come out of it. But, research has revealed that the more you meditate, the more likely you are to experience flow in your daily life, including your writing.
The following are some specific ways meditation can benefit your writer’s life.
1. Overcome Writer’s Block
Whether you’re stuck on writing one sentence or an entire project, meditation can help the words and creativity flow.
How? Meditation is shown to reduce the activity in the prefrontal cortex in your brain, which is the area responsible for many of your organized thoughts, such as making decisions, self-reflection, and working memory.
When prefrontal cortex activity is reduced, your logical, thinking brain gets to take a break. That means other parts of your brain can come alive and freely communicate with each other.
This is why you may have spontaneous inspiration and creative breakthroughs when you’re in a flow state or meditating. You may also suddenly see connections between things you’ve never noticed before.
Meditation allows you to access more of your whole mind and think outside the box, which helps you get unstuck and back to writing.
2. Combat Stress
Stress can be a creativity killer. Have you ever been under pressure to write, and the words simply wouldn’t come?
Meditation is particularly well-known for reducing stress and anxiety. These feelings originate in the amygdala in your brain. Research has found that over time, meditation can reduce the size of the amygdala and help practitioners cope more effectively with stress.
Many meditators report feeling calmer and less reactive when faced with a stressful situation. The writer’s life can come with its own stressors, but a regular meditation practice can help you navigate these difficulties with greater ease and emotional balance.
3. Increase Concentration and Focus
Meditating regularly boosts your ability to pay attention and focus. Meditation often involves focusing on something like your breath, an image, or an activity. Over time, meditation essentially trains your brain to focus and concentrate better.
The secret behind this may have to do with that shrinking amygdala I mentioned above. As your amygdala and stress responses calm down, it allows the higher functions of your brain to come forward, such as attention and concentration.
If you’re having a hard time concentrating on your writing, try taking a break and breathing deeply for a minute or two. Often, this rest break will calm your amygdala enough that you can find your focus and flow again.
4. Regain Perspective
Fear, self-doubt, and imposter syndrome are common among writers. If you’ve ever struggled with these, you’ll understand how important it is to be able to step back from your thoughts and regain a healthy perspective.
Neuroscientists believe you can blame these self-critical thoughts on your prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex in your brain monitors your behavior and self-perception. It’s also where your inner critic resides.
Self-criticism is likely nature’s way of keeping us safe and preventing us from taking unnecessary risks, but it’s not helpful when you’re plagued by self-doubt and unable to move forward on your writing goals.
Meditation’s ability to reduce prefrontal cortex activity can help silence your inner critic, allowing you to approach life with more courage and pursue new possibilities without fear or judgement.
5. Boost Self-Control and Motivation
Do you find yourself procrastinating about your writing, even when you have a deadline looming? Many of us struggle with self-control and procrastination, even when we know better. This is another area where meditation can help.
Meditation has been shown to enhance self-control, and one study might have found out why. The study followed a group of people new to meditation who participated in a basic mindfulness course for eight weeks.
At the end of the study, the meditators had significant increases in grey matter in many parts of their brains, including areas involved in self-control and setting goals.
Meditation can help you strengthen your self-control muscle, so to speak, and motivate you to move ahead on your business and personal goals.
How to Include Meditation in Your Daily Life
A daily meditation practice looks different for everyone. You may enjoy traditional forms of meditation, such as sitting on a cushion in silent reflection.
Or, you may prefer more modern forms of meditation, such as guided, recorded meditations. American Writers & Artists, Inc. has a guided meditation program designed specifically for writers that you can check out here.
Your local community likely has one or more meditation courses and groups you can participate in. There are also lots of books and online resources describing different meditation methods.
YouTube is another great source of guided and self-guided meditations.
But, remember, meditation is essentially about getting into your flow state, where you’re so absorbed in an activity nothing else seems to matter. You can do this in countless ways, such as going for a walk, gardening, enjoying a meal, or talking to a friend.
The key is to have the intention to be mindful during an activity. You can transform nearly any activity into meditation with the following approach:
Choose a daily task to make into a meditation practice, such as brushing your teeth, preparing breakfast, or getting the mail.
Before you start the activity, take three deep breaths to focus and relax.
While you’re doing the task, pretend the past and future don’t exist. Pay close attention to all the details involved. If you’re brushing your teeth, feel the weight of the toothpaste tube in your hand, the movement of the brush on your teeth, and the temperature of the water as you rinse it off.
Keep your attention fully on the task until it’s finished. If you find your mind wandering, simply bring it back to focus on what you’re doing in the moment.
Try doing this meditation daily for a week or two. If you enjoy it, you can start including more tasks as meditation throughout the day.
Do you practice meditation? Has it increased your flow? We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments!