Need to improve your meditation practice?
If you have tried meditating in the past and found it frustrating or stressful, I have a solution for you. I love meditation. Truly. If you’re familiar with my work, you know that it is always on my list of best practices.
But I still struggle with it.
I have anxiety – as in the clinical definition of it. That means I have to contend with a lingering sense of panic and overwhelm even when I am perfectly happy.
It also means that even though I love meditation and believe in it wholeheartedly, there are days when it is a miserable experience. Sometimes those days are too frequent.
But I discovered something that calms my brain and body just enough that I can actually be present in my meditation without feeling like a total nut case.
Here’s why I use them and why they work.
Meditation & Anxiety
Having anxiety and a history of heavy drinking means that my brain is often a special, shit show carnival of gut-churning memories and overthinking.
The monkey brain they talk about in yoga and meditation? Mine is on speed.
So there are days when meditation is really, really hard. But the thing about meditation is that you can’t skip it on days when it’s hard. You have to sit with your discomfort so your brain can go about the business of forming newer, healthier neural pathways.
Before I get into the blankets, let’s quickly talk meditation. If you’re already sold on meditation as a useful tool, feel free to skip down to the last sections.
Why Stressed Out People Should Meditate
Although the pace of meditation’s benefits is obnoxiously glacial, it’s worth the time investment. Ultimately, meditation and mindfulness are designed to teach you how to detach from overwhelming thoughts before they swallow you whole.
It’s the difference between panicking over a cryptic text message while piling on a dozen different disaster scenarios in your head and saying, “okay, you’re doing that panic thing again. This is just a thought. It’s not reality.”
Meditation teaches you how to calm down and (gently) call yourself out. If your mind is airing a 24-7 disaster porn channel, it is easy to get lost. You become trapped inside your own head.
Meditation helps you get out and back into a significantly less dramatic reality.
Your Brain on Meditation
Why does meditation help you become a calmer, more clear-headed, sympathetic human being?
It changes your brain.
Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist at Harvard, conducted studies on the impact of meditation on the brain. The results are stunning!
Her research found that long-term meditators “have an increased amount of gray matter in the insula and sensory regions, the auditory and sensory cortex.” Heightened senses? Sure, I’ll take it!
They also found increased gray matter in the frontal cortex means better memory and decision-making. (We could all use a little more of that last one, amirite?)
In her study, she took a group of non-meditating folks and put them through an 8-week meditation course to see what, if any, impact it would have on their brains. After eight weeks, she found brain volume had increased in five different regions of the brain.
Meditation grows brains, people! You can read the study here if you like, but the summed up version is that meditation grew the parts of the brain responsible for self-regulation, empathy, cognition, emotional regulation, and learning.
As an added bonus, meditation also shrinks the part of your brain responsible for stress and anxiety.
And all of this after only eight weeks.
Do you have a history of heavy drinking? The restorative benefits of meditation are especially important for you. Learn why –>> WHY ALCOHOL DAMAGES YOUR BRAIN + HOW TO START HEALING.
How Weighted Blankets Improve My Meditation Practice
Now that I’ve (hopefully) convinced you that meditation is worth your time, let’s talk about these blankets. I’ve written about weighted blankets before so I will summarize their primary benefits for you and then explain why I use them to meditate when I’m having a difficult day.
Weighted blankets are exactly what they sound like – blankets with weight. They’ve traditionally been used to help children with autism feel calm and secure. But their benefits extend to anyone.
Weighted blankets essentially give your body an all-over soothing hug. The gentle pressure of the weight helps us feel calmer and has been shown to improve sleep quality for people who struggle with insomnia.
I’ve found that the weight hugging quality of these blankets have dramatically helped my meditation practice and here’s why.
1. Weighted blankets are wonderful tools to fight monkey brain.
Meditation is hardest for me when my mind is going a mile a minute and I cannot for the life of me shut it off. For people who are new to meditation, this is common and also a reason a lot of people give up on the practice.
It sucks trying to sit still while your mind insists on falling down any rabbit hole it can find. You want to follow your breath, but halfway into your first exhale you’re suddenly thinking about the fight you had with your spouse or what you forgot to get at the grocery.
Those seconds start to feel like hours. After two minutes, you’re done.
Weighted blankets can help you get a sense of calm and comfort when you are frazzled.
2. Weighted blankets promote grounding.
When used for sleeping, weighted blankets help push your body down. This process is called grounding. It mimics deep pressure touch, which is a type of therapy used to treat chronic stress.
Grounding may also help reduce nighttime cortisol levels, which translates to less stress and stress-related problems in your body.
Related Post: What Chronic Stress is Doing To Your Health and Body
I have found that this grounding effect is helpful not only for sleep but meditation as well.
If I’m having a particularly stressful day and want to do some mindful breathing to help settle myself, putting a weighted blanket over my chest has been a small miracle.
The pressure and warmth instantly take my brain from an electric 10 to a manageable 4 or 5. It’s the extra support I need to focus enough to allow my breath to do its thing.
Now you may be thinking, “Okay, but I’m pretty sure that would make me fall asleep.”
To that I say, so fall asleep!
If your body doesn’t need sleep, you’ll stay awake through your session. If you drift off, it means you need to the rest.
Enjoy a luxurious, weighted blanket nap, my friend.
3. Weighted blankets help alleviate some of the physical symptoms of anxiety.
I meditate every day, come rain or shine.
On days when my chest is heavy and that lump in my throat are particularly bothersome, the additional weight of the blanket instantly soothes my symptoms.
They don’t disappear, but the warm pressure it applies to my body dulls them significantly. This allows me to be able to concentrate on the meditation itself and my breath.
It is the most relieving feeling next to an actual hug from a human you adore. Breath, warmth, weight.
Which weighted blanket should you buy?
Here’s an updated list of weighted blankets I’ve recommended in the past with links to buy them for your convenience.
These blankets are absolutely fantastic. They come in a variety of colors and weights and are one of the top-rated and top-selling weighted blankets on the market. If you’re especially fancy, you can have one custom made and designed.
The price ranges from $170-$200 which is standard. The good news is they will last forever and you get a thirty-day trial period. If it’s not for you, no problem. Just return it.
By the way, they’ve started selling weighted sleep masks which I do not own, but sound very amazing for days when you have a headache or sinus pressure.
This is one of the best selling weighted blankets on Amazon. The price varies depending on what size of blanket you get of which they have MANY options.
YnM blankets are made with a breathable fabric so you won’t get all sweaty and are designed for optimal, even weight distribution. They even come with a three-year service warranty in case your blanket needs any mending. (Don’t want those glass beads getting out.)
Here’s another top-rated blanket with some pretty cool technology. It comes with two duvet covers: one for heat and one for cooling. They boast a 10-point locking system to distribute weight evenly throughout the blanket and offer a 365-day money-back guarantee.
Their customer reviews are outstanding. Definitely worth a shot, especially with the one-year money-back option.
Click here to visit their page on Amazon to get more information and view their video testimonials.
The Luna blanket is another consistently high-ranking brand that gets high customer reviews on Amazon. It’s made with 100% breathable, organic cotton which is great for people with sensitive skin and hot sleepers.
It also has a 365 money-back guarantee and is offered at a lower price point so it’s a big win for folks on a budget.
Quility weighted blankets may have the highest ranking customer satisfaction score of any product I’ve seen on Amazon. There are 7,634 folks who have given this blanket an average five-star rating.
It clearly deserves to be on this list.
Their blankets are made with 100% cotton for excellent temperature control and 7-layers to ensure they never leak. They also come with a soft, minky duvet cover that looks extra snuggly.
You get a 100% money-back guarantee if you’re not happy with the blanket, so there’s low risk. The price point is also incredibly affordable.
Click here to visit their Amazon page and get size and weight recommendations.
If you want to read more about meditation, check out these related posts:
- 3 Books About Meditation For People Who Hate Meditation
- Why Meditation Is An Important Tool For Sobriety
- 9 High Impact Things I Do Daily To Maintain My Sobriety