The Secret Weapon in your Rebooting Arsenal: Meditation

Man Meditating on a Rock at the Beach

Okay, I suspect that some of you will dismiss this article just from reading the title. Meditation? Really? How is Meditation going to help me with quitting porn and rewiring my brain for real sex?

Glad you asked.

New research shows that regular meditation practice helps people quit smoking, lose weight, kick a drug habit, and stay sober.

-Kelly McGonigal, The Willpower Instinct

Meditation is a very powerful tool you can use to train your brain and increase your willpower (willpower that you can use to resist the temptation of porn). It lowers stress levels, teaches you how to handle negative inner dialogue (anxiety, worry, cravings), and deal with external temptations (images, sounds, smells).

The Willpower Instinct

Let’s rewind a bit. In previous posts, I’ve written about habit change and some of the success factors. We’ve already identified that according to the most recent scientific research one of the most important things you can do is choose a replacement habit. This way of thinking was inspired by reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg — essential reading if you’re serious about overcoming a porn addiction (or changing any habit).

A related but often overlooked areas in relation to habit change is that of willpower.

In doing research for creating my first Reboot Blueprint product, I’ve been re-reading a lot of the books that originally helped me make big changes in my life. One of the most influential and important books for me was The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal.

(Note: If you want to be notified when my first product is released — a step by step reboot program — join my mailing list)

In her book The Willpower Instinct, Kelly McGonigal, a Stanford professor who teaches a course called The Science of Willpower, looks at the most up-to-date research on willpower. It turns out that willpower, though a combination of faculties based in our pre-frontal cortex, acts in a very similar way to a set of muscles. If you use these muscles too much in a short period of time (if you metaphorically ‘lift too much’), your willpower can become exhausted. But also like a muscle, with proper use and training it can become stronger.

Let me just repeat that for effect: With proper training, your willpower faculties can become stronger.

This is huge. I hear from a lot of guys out there that have difficulty summoning up the willpower to overcome their porn addiction. Well, I’m about to give you a proven technique to systematically increase your willpower. And to start off, it can be as little as 5 to 10 minutes per day to see big results. I’m talking about meditation.

WillPowerInstinct1

Here is what McGonigal has to say about why meditation is so amazing:

Neuroscientists have discovered that when you ask the brain to meditate, it gets better not just at meditating, but at a wide range of self-control skills, including attention, focus, stress management, impulse control, and self-awareness. People who meditate regularly aren’t just better at these things. Over time, their brains become finely tuned willpower machines. Regular meditators have more gray matter in the prefrontal cortex, as well as regions of the brain that support self-awareness.
(Kelly McGonigal, The Willpower Instinct)

It also doesn’t take years of living at a Zen monastery to see the benefits.

One study found that just three hours of meditation practice led to improved attention and self-control. After eleven hours, researchers could see those changes in the brain. The new meditators had increased neural connections between regions of the brain important for staying focused, ignoring distractions, and controlling impulses. Another study found that eight weeks of daily meditation practice led to increased self-awareness in everyday life, as well as increased gray matter in corresponding areas of the brain.
(Kelly McGonigal, The Willpower Instinct)

Our brains are incredible organs, capable of rewiring to whatever we spend our time doing. (If you have experienced porn-induced ED, you know this can work against us as well.) The brain reacts to exercise in a similar way that muscles do – by getting faster and stronger in the areas that we train. Think of meditation as your gym to build a better, stronger brain.

So now that we know that meditation is a tool for strengthening our self-discipline and willpower muscles, how do we do it?

Thankfully, McGonigal gives us a great step-by-step tutorial as well.

Simple but Effective 5-10 Minute Meditation

Here is a summary of a simple, five to ten-minute meditation technique from Kelly’s book:

1. Stay still.

Sit cross-legged on a cushion or on a chair with your feet on the floor. You should try to be still during the meditation — try not to move around, fidget or scratch any itches. This is one of the ways this exercise is so effective in building those self-control muscles — you’re learning to put distance between the urge to do something and the act of doing it.

2. Focus on your breathing.

Close your eyes or focus on one spot directly in front of you. Bring your attention to your breathing. As you breath in, silently say to yourself “inhale”. As you breath out, in your mind say to yourself “exhale.” You’ll notice that your mind will wander (everyone does), but just bring your attention back to your breath. Don’t beat yourself up for letting your mind wander, just bring it back to your breath each time.

This practice of coming back to the breath, again and again, kicks the prefrontal cortex into high gear and quiets the stress and craving centers of your brain.
(Kelly McGonigal, The Willpower Instinct)

3. Notice what your mind is doing.

After a few minutes of saying “inhale” and “exhale”, try focusing on your breath without the these words. Just notice how your breath feels as you’re breathing in and out. The feeling of the air flowing in and out of your nose and mouth. Or the feeling of your chest or belly expanding with each breath. If you notice your mind wandering, bring your attention back to your breath. You can go back to step 2 if you need to refocus.

This part of the practice trains self-awareness along with self-control.
(Kelly McGonigal, The Willpower Instinct)

That’s it. Simple, but not easy.

I’m telling you: don’t dismiss this exercise because it sounds hokey or new-agey. This is a powerful tool for building your willpower muscle. In addition to the improvements in self-control, I’ve noticed a ton of other benefits in my life:

– Increased focus and concentration.
– Lower general level of stress in my life.
– More energy.
– Feel healthier.
– Feel more in the moment.
– Lower levels of anxiety.

Start with 5 minutes a day and when that becomes a habit, try moving up to 10 or 15 minutes. The more you do on a REGULAR BASIS, the more you will build your willpower muscles. I recommend doing this first thing in the morning to start your day on a strong note.

If you enjoyed this, consider supporting Kelly and purchasing her book. It is required reading for overcoming any addiction.

##

On a related note, guided meditation did wonders for me in terms of teaching me to relax. You can read about that here.

Be Sociable, Share!
    About Brian

    Brian overcame a long-standing addiction to Internet porn and fully recovered from serious porn-induced erectile dysfunction and performance anxiety. For more about Brian, see my story.

    Comments

    1. I cannot agree more. In march of 2013 I realized that I had a porn addiction. I had ED, sexual performance anxiety, general social anxiety and trouble focusing. I gave up porn and masturbating and started exercising and meditating. The change has been incredible. Gone are the above mentioned problems. I have no trouble having sex with my wife or interacting with new people. Also, meditating twice a day for 10-15 minutes on average has given me a peace of mind that I would not believe is possible. No more constant mental dialogue. Planning everything, worrying. Now I just do. Meditation always a space to “see” your thoughts and choose whether to continue having them. So when I get the occasional porn craving I am able to see it for what it is, a thought. I don’t have to do what it says. I can choose to think of something else or nothing at all if I choose. I recommend daily meditation to anyone whether they are struggling with an addiction or not.

      • Hi Kevin,

        Thanks for contributing your inspirational story!

        It’s great to hear from guys other than myself who have overcome this problem.

        You’re right — meditation can be a huge help to guys struggling with sexual problems. And of course the positive results carry over into everyday life!

        Thanks again

        Brian

    2. Hello from Italy. I’m 36 yo, single. I’ve been addicted for the last 4 years more than ever, but i was even before, maybe in a milder way. I also experienced ED from time to time, getting worse lately. Now i’m at day 15 of total abstinence, since my problems about human relations and especially sentimental relations finally lead to desperation, the deepest emptiness i’ve ever felt. I feel this is my last chance to get a normal life… So many good friends always depending on me for good advice, people say i’m wise and they like talking to me; i’m respected at work, i play in a rock band and practise table tennis. A happy life, everyone would say… But i’m so deeply unhappy! Now i see the light at the end of the tunnel, my only hope. This meditation is helping a lot, but I have a question about it, if anyone would like to answer: do you think it’s useful (besides meditating for 10-15 minutes twice a day) to train my mind even avoiding small things such as eating my nails or other little habits? For example: when i have the impulse to eat my nails, if i notice i’m about to do it, i consciously stop. Do you think these small things can train my brain faster, in order to become more aware of all of my thoughts and actions and make the recovery faster as well? Hope my English doesn’t suck too much! A good day to you all, patient readers of this post!

      • Hi Joe,
        Thanks for sharing your story! It sounds like you’re committed to making positive changes in your life, which is great. Also, your English is great :)
        To answer your question about nail biting: yes, I think this could help to become aware of your thoughts. While I’ve never had a nail biting problem, I did have a “complaining problem”, and by becoming more aware of my thoughts it really changed my life for the better.
        Here’s some recommended reading: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tim-ferriss/no-complaint-experiment_b_5610433.html
        Cheers
        Brian

    Speak Your Mind

    *