KILDARE RUNNING LIFE: Meditation is more than the latest millennial fad

Advice to runners of all levels

Barry Kehoe

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Barry Kehoe

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editor@leinsterleader.ie

KILDARE RUNNING LIFE: Meditation is more than the latest millennial fad

Mellennials are mocked for their obsessions with fads - like avocado toast - but they may to on to something with meditation

Don’t mess with a millennial’s avocado toast. For some, their obsession with avocado toast represents everything that’s wrong with this Instagram-obsessed generation, so-called because they came of age at the turn of this century.

But all that millennials bring may not all be bad. In seeking to restore order and balance to their tech-besotted lives, millennials have embraced meditation.

It has become nearly as trendy as smashed avocado, green juice and coconut milk flat whites, but is meditation just a wellness fashion or is it of any use?

It’s easy to dismiss meditation as craze. Millennials spread some ridiculous fashions, but this obsession with mindful meditation may, in fact, be sensible.

Once regarded as the spiritual practice of hippies and yogis, it has since become the fad-fitting fascination of “generation Y”.

In a world in which we’re all so busy and have so many distractions around us, it’s often rare that we actually have time to sit in quiet calm.

Digital technologies give constant engagement, distraction, noise and have robbed us of our opportunities to be still. We live in an incredibly busy world, the pace of life is often frantic and we are always doing something.

When did you last take any time to do nothing? When were you last completely undisturbed — not emailing or texting, not on Facebook, Instagram, or Netflix or reading — just sitting in the moment, not planning for the future or reminiscing about the past, but simply doing nothing.

“To do nothing is the most difficult thing in the world, the most difficult and most intellectual,” according to Oscar Wilde.

Our minds are lost in thought almost 47% of the time, according to research, and this distraction is a direct cause of unhappiness. So we spend nearly half our lives missing and swimming in thought. Research of the effects of meditation on the brain has been rolling out in recent years, and seems to be confirming the benefits that committed practitioners have experienced for thousands of years.

Meditation may have the ability to reduce the symptoms of depression, anxiety and pain.

It also seems to slow the aging process of the brain, as long-term meditators have better preserved brains than non-meditators, according to a 2014 study.

The practice seems to have an amazing variety of neurological effects. Runners often see the daily run as a form of meditation, and there is so many similarities between running and meditation.

They are both repetitive, technique-based, and require discipline. They both have a cumulative effect — you get better at it the more you do it. Between the aches and pains, and wiping the snot dripping from the nose during a run, problems are fixed, plans made and moments relived.

Running is the opportunity to be uninterrupted, as nobody else’s thoughts or words invade.

It is an assured space away from a world where it’s becoming increasingly difficult to be unreachable.

Most training plans include short interval training to improve speed, long runs to improve endurance and rest days to allow recovery and prevent injuries.

But runners can improve any training plan, not only by adding more intervals or slogging through more miles but by sitting still and training the mind by practicing meditation.

Sometimes, when running, I struggle with neverending internal commentary which tends to be negative and hypervigilant. I think about my lacklustre heavy legs and a slow pace, but meditation has helped me to gag the critical inner voices.

More than anything, however, both running and meditation provide sanity; a time in every day that brings focus and time to make mental progress and sort out issues.

I think about nothing in particular, but the mind naturally finds topics to focus on — usually things that have been avoided all week.

Life-changing decisions are made, new businesses born and families planned.

Non-runners and non-meditators sometimes dismiss these practices as a way of life, but for me it’s a means of understanding and appreciating the art of meditation.

Local physio and Newbridge AC member Barry Kehoe offers advice to runners of all levels. See www.kehoephysio.com