Mindful Millennials: The “Meditation Generation”

Today, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t heard all about the joys and benefits of Mindfulness meditation. Vipassana, the 2000-year-old Buddhist tradition of “Insight Meditation,” incarnated in its modern form as “Mindfulness,” has taken the West by storm.

In recent years, people of all ages have turned to Mindfulness to develop self-awareness, overcome feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression, and feel more in touch with their own feelings and those of others around them.

Study after study has shown that Mindfulness really works, and that even bouts of 8-12 minutes per day over consistent periods of time make significant, positive changes to the brain’s activity. Mindfulness meditation improves concentration and self-control, and even boosts immune function – so it’s no wonder that hundreds of thousands of young Millennial Americans are beginning to explore Mindfulness practice.

Additionally, as a spiritual activity, Mindfulness can complement any religious belief or practice (or lack thereof), and doesn’t require one to adopt Buddhist doctrine or philosophy.

We’ve outlined five reasons why Millennials are the perfect candidate generation for Mindfulness meditation:

1. The Stresses of Modern Life: Today, perhaps more than ever, Millennials –from those on the younger side to those getting married and starting families – have to deal with overwhelming stress. To name just a few causes, the average workday for most has become intensely long, and most people’s work follows them home into evenings and weekends. In an era when college debt is skyrocketing, average wages have risen far slower than the cost of living, and uncertainties about the future abound, studies show that anxiety and depression have been on the uptick for years. Starved for meaning in an increasingly challenging world, Millennials nationwide stand to benefit from Mindfulness’ offerings. When it comes to what you can “get” out of it, nobody said it better than the Buddha: When asked, “What have you gained from meditation?” the Buddha replied, “Nothing. However, let me tell you what I have lost: anger, anxiety, depression, insecurity, fear of old age and death.”

2. There’s an App for It: Well, actually, there are dozens of apps for Mindfulness meditation. From Calm, to HeadSpace, to the creatively-named The Mindfulness App, it’s easy to set aside a few minutes a day – even during your busy schedule – to unplug from the outside world, plug into a meditation app, and turn your focus inwards. As the generation that grew up attached to modern technology, who better to utilize its benefits for mental and spiritual healing? On the flip side, perhaps no generation more than Millennials (except maybe Gen Z’ers) is more prone to developing issues stemming from technology reliance, such as reduced attention span and difficulty creating in-person connections, as well as related issues of body-image, self-esteem, and social-life satisfaction borne of social media addiction. In other words, Mindfulness apps can be used to help us heal the very problems technology exacerbates!

3. Instant Gratification: This one is perhaps most likely to resonate with our fellow Millennial readers, who, growing up in a world where pretty much anything one could ever want is just a couple clicks away, both expect and demand instant gratification of their impulses and desires. Hey, we’re Millennials too – we get it! What’s not to love about getting what you want, when you want it? So in the spirit of instant gratification, what could be more satisfying than finding authentic joy and equanimity in the present moment! Think about it – Amazon Prime promises same-day delivery; but with Mindfulness meditation you can find peace of mind immediately (beat that, Jeff Bezos!) With nothing standing between you and the present moment, you have the power to cultivate mindful-awareness anytime, anywhere (absolutely free!) Talk about instant gratification! For a generation that has come to expect nothing less, what could be better?

4. Spiritual But Not Religious: Though Mindfulness emerged from Buddhism, a religious tradition over 2,000 years old, the practice itself is essentially a-religious. Though a Buddhist would attest that the final aim and purpose of meditation is to recognize what Buddhists call anatman, or “no-self,” the idea that the human being has no intrinsic and consistent identity, one does not have to practice meditation with the acceptance of this Buddhist tenet, nor with the hope or expectation of realizing it. Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, atheists, Zoroastrians, Rastafarians and Pastafarians alike can all practice Mindfulness without giving up their cherished beliefs or other religious practices. The only side effects are greater self-awareness, tranquility, and joy in daily life. That’s why Millennials are the ideal candidates for Mindfulness practice! As a generation increasingly brought up in households of mixed religious heritages, and one increasingly abandoning traditional religious systems, Mindfulness offers Millennials the opportunity to fulfill their spiritual hunger with neither attaching to nor abandoning any religious doctrines.

5. Making an Impact: Perhaps no generation before ours was keener to “make an impact,” to “make the world a better place,” and “leave it better than we found it.” Studies show that what Millennials seek above all is the feeling that their work makes a positive difference for society at large. Career satisfaction hinges on Millennials’ feeling that what they’re doing makes a difference. So for a generation eager to make the world a better place, practicing mindfulness is an ideal starting point. We all know that making the world around us better must begin with self-healing. If we’re walking around all day angry, lashing out, feeling depressed and ridden with anxieties, there’s no way we can make the world a better place! In fact, we’re probably just making it worse by spreading our negative energy wherever we go. So, rather than sit around and feel badly while dreaming of someday making a difference, why not start right now? Trust that if you feel happier, lighter, and more in touch with your thoughts and feelings, you’ll instantly begin cultivating loving-kindness, compassion, and empathy. In no time, you’ll be making the world a better place, just by being yourself!

So for a generation saddled with challenges and hardships of all sorts, and which suffers from stress, anxiety, and depression at exceedingly high rates, meditation is the ideal solution to bring Millennials some much-needed peace of mind.

Trying it is easy! Just find a quiet place, sit in an upright, comfortable position, and close your eyes. Now, don’t do anything, just let yourself be. Let your thoughts arise and fall away. Let your breath come and go as you inhale and exhale. Don’t try to force anything – don’t inhibit any thoughts or feelings, don’t try to think or feel anything in particular – just let the thoughts and feelings come and go along with your breath.

Slowly, turn your attention towards your rising and falling breath. If you find yourself gripped by a specific feeling or thought, simply watch it form and dissipate in your mind’s eye. Don’t judge your thoughts or feelings – simply let them be. And if you find yourself swept up by the current of your mind’s activity, gently return to the breath. Rely on your breath. Your thoughts and feelings will come and go, but your breath will remain as long as you do. Therefore, it will always be there for you to come back to.

If you practice consistently, carefully, and intentionally, you will quickly discover the immediate benefits of meditation. You’ll find yourself more relaxed, more able to concentrate, and less emotionally reactive. If you continue your practice, these qualities will develop even further, and greater equanimity will ensue.

We believe Millennials are poised to become the “Meditation Generation.” Why do you meditate? Comment below, we’d love to hear from you!

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