I’ve been an alopecian for a long time. And I’ve been a regular meditator for around 2 years. Unfortunately, meditation hasn’t made my hair grow overnight. But it has helped me in lots of other ways – and that’s why I think meditation for hair loss is still a very valid treatment!
Read on to learn about my experiences with meditation, some of its main benefits, plus a few resources you can turn to for help. Yay!
Let’s address this first. Basically, “mindfulness” is the catch-all term for an awareness of the present moment. It’s a mindset in which you recognise your current thoughts and sensations – everything happening within you and around you – without judgement. Without wanting to change anything.
You can develop this state of awareness through the practice of meditation. Mindfulness is a huge topic in itself – and I’ll talk about it more in another post – but for now, let’s focus on meditation… or a technique that leads to a more mindful life.
You don’t need to squeeze yourself into a pretzel position, to find a cave to levitate in or to spend years pouring over Buddhist scriptures.
Meditation is accessible to all of us. It’s something we can try every day. Some days will be easy, others will be torture.
The thing is, meditation is not something you perfect – rather it’s something you learn from constantly. Keeping a “beginner’s mind”, staying open and curious, is kind of the point.
Note: Contrary to popular belief, meditation is not about clearing your mind. It’s simply about giving your thoughts – and emotions – less power. They’re like passing sensations. They don’t define you.
So whenever your “monkey mind” is racing with a million thoughts, you can learn to let it be. (The Beatles weren’t all just catchy tunes and dodgy haircuts. Apparently, they had some wise words, too.)
I started dabbling in meditation a few years ago, when my boyfriend Andy introduced me to an evening Mindfulness course. I’d probably flipped the lid at him one too many times. (Sorry, Andy!)
But it was only when I visited a vipassana meditation retreat in Myanmar that I started meditating regularly. Funnily enough, I actually loved the week of rising at 4am, not eating past “lunchtime” (at 10.30am) and meditating for up to 12 hours a day.
At first, it was agony – sitting cross-legged for 90-minute stints will do that to you. But once we’d made it past the dreaded Day 3 – known as the worst day in a meditation retreat – the benefits became pretty obvious.
I was hooked. And even when I fainted during a standing meditation, nearly knocking myself out in the process (everyone else just kept meditating around me, unperturbed), I knew that I was onto a winner.
The following year, I went to a silent meditation centre in Sri Lanka. And it was even more intense. Because for some reason, the silence made us meditators move in slow motion, like we were moving through mud. (Which meant a lot of queuing; a lot of waiting patiently while someone took 15 minutes to rinse a cup.)
Plus, any small noise – the clinking of a spoon against a bowl, for instance – was amplified to an almost painful magnitude. I began to notice how continuous meditation affected all my senses. Colours were brighter, food tasted better and I felt a sense of “oneness” with everything around me.
It was all very trippy. And after just 10 days, I felt like a different person. Who could take up to 15 minutes to rinse a cup, too.
Since Sri Lanka, I’ve kept up a (pretty much) daily meditation practice. And in my new home of Hoi An, Vietnam, I teach both yoga and meditation – gifts I feel privileged to share.
As for my own practice? Some days I’ll do a seated meditation. Other days, I’ll lie down or stand – luckily, I haven’t fainted again! Sometimes I meditate for half an hour, other times for 5 minutes. I might practice vipassana, mindful meditation, yoga nidra/iRest or metta (the practice of loving kindness). And I’ll usually do a little pranayama (breathwork) beforehand to help me focus.
It isn’t always easy. But the benefits are worth the effort.
When I meditate regularly, my mind becomes a lot calmer. Of course, I still have days where it’s restless. But I’m able to be aware of why that’s happening. Maybe I haven’t slept properly. Or maybe I’ve had 2 strong Vietnamese coffees too many. 😉
Whatever the reason, I can recognise it without over-analysing it or without beating myself up for being human. My mind has been calm before, and it will be again.
Side note: It’s taken me a while to learn this but being a meditator doesn’t mean I have to stay positive all the time. Because life isn’t always unicorns and glitter. (If only!) Sometimes I’ll feel stressed and sometimes I’ll feel shit. And that’s ok.
On the other hand, if I skip my meditation for a week or so, I notice a massive difference in my mood and in my reactions to external events. I’ll fall back into negative thought patterns and let my emotions take over. (No doubt Andy notices this shift, which is why he’ll not-so-subtly suggest I return to my practice!)
If you lie awake at night, unable to sleep with a racing mind, you’re not alone. It’s the daily hangover of modern life. We’ve all been there.
Unfortunately, sleep deprivation can have all kinds of repercussions – so it’s vital that we get enough of the snoozy stuff. And while there are lots of ways you can calm down in the evenings – like having a bath, switching off screens or getting your thoughts down on paper – meditation has been proven to be an even more effective method than adopting other healthy sleep habits.
Fun fact: Once you start sleeping soundly, the world’s a lot brighter when you wake up! And if you start your morning with meditation, it’ll put you in a more positive frame of mind for the rest of your day. Trust me – if meditation can make me a morning person, it can definitely work for you!
Here’s how it works: Daily meditation helps to reprogram the brain – freeing you from negative thought patterns. And once you start feeling better about yourself, you make more conscious decisions to lead a healthier life. Less anxiety in your life reduces the risk of physical stress-related conditions, from heart disease to obesity, and of mental health issues, too.
As someone who used to suffer from anxiety and depression, I’ve experienced the mental benefits of meditation first-hand. Which is why I keep banging on about it!
Since becoming a meditator, I’ve feel like I’ve become less judgemental – and maybe even a little kinder – towards myself and others.
Andy has always had a lovely way of looking at the world – he often excuses really mean or rude people by saying “maybe they have a bad back.”
I didn’t understand this… until I started meditating. Now, I can be more tolerant of others and their behaviour, even if I don’t agree with it. Maybe that person who sneered at my alopecia has a bad back. Or maybe they’re having a bad day. (Or maybe they’re just a dick.)
Whatever the case, I can usually respond to situations with intention instead of reacting automatically. Whereas if I neglect my practice, suddenly the whole world seems out to get me, with every sideways glance like a personal attack. Before I lose my head entirely – and even more hair! – I’ll make sure to meditate, pronto. (Chocolate is a good back-up plan. Nothing spells kindness like chocolate.)
Isn’t it obvious by now?! Monks are bald. So am I. (Ish.) So basically I’m pretty damn close to enlightenment. Nice one.
I’ll finish with this: Meditation isn’t easy. Especially at the beginning.
For most people, sitting down for even 5 minutes with their own thoughts is a horrible, cruel experience. And so they give up. They say “meditation isn’t for me” or “I’m too busy” or “it doesn’t work”.
Wrong, wrong, wrong. (Sorry. But it’s true.) Meditation is for everyone. Everyone can spare 5 minutes. And it does work, if you stick with it.
But I know how hard it can be – so I recommend turning to some outside resources for help.
When I started out, I used 2 great guides – both of which include the theory behind meditation and a practical 8-week course. They come with guided meditations, which I still find incredibly helpful… especially if I find myself straying from my own practice!
The first book is Mindfulness for Beginners by Jon Kabat-Zinn. He’s one of the guys who introduced meditation to the mainstream (from a more scientific point of view) and he talks about its effect on neuroplasticity. He even created a programme called MBSR – Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction – which is used in hospitals and medical centres all over the world. It’s fascinating stuff.
The next book is called Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Prof Mark Williams and Dr Danny Penman. It’s all about stress-relieving techniques, how to switch into “being” mode instead of “doing” mode (by turning off the autopilot) and how to reduce anxiety. It’s a really practical read and their step-by-step meditation course is perfect for beginners.
Then now’s as good a time as any to download Audible! Do it before December 13th and new Audible customers will get 50% off the first 4 months of membership. Yay!
Right now, I’m listening to Why Isn’t My Brain Working, which is all about the link between brain degeneration, autoimmunity and the foods/lifestyle factors that can trigger them. Fascinating stuff, especially for those of us with an autoimmune condition like alopecia!
For more technically minded types, there’s an app for you, too! If you haven’t heard of Headspace, give it a try. The founder and teacher, a guy called Andy, used to be a Buddhist monk and he explains meditation in a really accessible way. (Another dude with a very calming voice.)
I like to think of him as meditation’s Jamie Oliver. He just seems like a really nice guy.
Check out his TED Talk and prepare to be charmed
Finally, I’d really recommend going on some kind of meditation retreat. Just make sure to practise a little with the above guides first… think of it as training your brain before a meditation marathon!
The retreat doesn’t have to be silent, or even very long – but being able to sit in group meditations, and having someone to guide you through the process, is a very powerful thing.
Like learning anything new, it might take some time before you start noticing the benefits of meditation. And it will be frustrating at first – in fact, it’ll probably just highlight how active your mind is, which might stress you out more!
But stick with it. You can do it. Especially if you’re using meditation for hair loss, you should do it.
I’ll include some meditation tips and exercises in another post but for now, check out the resources I’ve shared, try meditating a little every day and see how it can improve your life.
Who knows? It might even improve your hair, too!
Psst… Have you ever tried meditation for hair loss or for any other condition? What was your experience like? Did it make a difference? Share your thoughts in the comments box!
If you like what I’m reading, maybe you’ll like what else I’m into:
1. Yoga – Read my review of a special retreat centre on Ireland’s west coast.
2. Nutrition – Some handy dietary tips, whether you’ve got hair or not!
3. Travel – My thoughts on how travel can affect your health.
4. Silly Stuff – Like the bald celebrities I’ve got a crush on.