My 60th year has been the busiest of my life. Before it’s over, I will have moved twice, put the heat to a back-burner passion, refreshed important friendships, picked up a new musical instrument and increased my income by improving my habits.

It didn’t start off to be a year of self-improvement, but when I decided I wanted to live to be 100, I knew it was time to get busy. I think a lot of us make important decisions and go through changes on big birthdays.

I credit one new habit with having the best influence on me this year. I’ve started meditating. Here’s how it all came about for me.

Stress Attacks from the Inside Out

If selling a home of 26 years wasn’t enough, we had already started building another home and moved to a third location where we would live during construction. Perhaps most taxing: I am the realtor, and the most demanding client ever is my husband. After 90 days on the market, he was stressing us both out.

A much younger, very with-it realtor found our buyer. She sensed my stress. “You should try meditation,” she said. Sure, I thought to myself. There’s not enough time in a day as it is.

A few days later, I end up in the doctor’s office with a miserable rash on my right arm and down my right side. I fear it’s shingles.

That same morning, I’m packing to go out-of-state for a family wedding. More problematic than hiding this rash in my new sleeveless dress, is that shingles is a no-no around my pregnant niece and the adorable young children I can’t wait to see in person rather than on Instagram.

It wasn’t shingles, though I learned stress can aggravate the shingles virus. My doctor diagnosed my ugly, itchy skin as a stress reaction. She prescribed Prednisone and suggested meditation. “Meditate any way you want,” she said. “Just learn to calm your mind.”

Meditation Cures Many Ills

More than 3,000 scientific studies have proven the benefits of meditation. It lowers blood pressure, reduces anxiety, wards off depression and boosts immunity.

Some research shows meditating improves cellular structure and cures disease, speeds healing and fights some cancers. New research on aging suggests meditation helps lengthen telomeres, those protective caps on our chromosomes, which may add years to life.

Simply put, meditation is a dose of good medicine with no negative side effects, something we don’t hear about very often. Plus, it’s free.

Anyone Can Meditate Any Way, Anywhere

There are no rules about meditating, and here’s how I go about it.

I meditate first thing every morning for just 10 minutes. While some people find music distracting, I listen to classical music if I’m inside or just the sounds of nature if I’m outside. I sit in a straight back chair and set a countdown timer. I close my eyes and start with 4-7-8 breathing popularized by Dr. Andrew Weil.

After concentrating on my breath, I spend a couple minutes on gratitude. Then I move on to awe, feeling deeply that the universe is so big and mysterious, yet I’m an important piece of the puzzle.

I may ponder how perfectly the solar system works so there’s life here on Earth. I may contemplate the human body, a miracle computer like none other. The subject matter for awe is endless, and I almost always get tingles during this part of my meditation.

When my timer goes off, I smile, stretch and try to carry all that with me for the day.

The Benefits are Subtle Yet Substantial

I’m frustrated when I talk to friends about meditating and they say, “I don’t sit still that long” or “I just can’t get into it.” A year ago, I was a skeptic too. Now I’m a believer that meditation makes a difference and hope it’s adding years to my life. It has become a treat, not a chore at all.

I still rush to get everything done, but sometimes I feel like I’m floating through the stressful parts of the day. I’m much more likely to hold my tongue and keep a negative thought to myself. I may just slough it off, like less-than-positive thoughts aren’t part of me at all.

My cholesterol has dropped about 40 points to under 200 for the first time ever. Could that be related to meditation? It’ hard to say because I’ve made other lifestyle changes, too. I’m willing to bet meditating plays at least a small part. But I’m not taking any chances. I’m sticking with it, and I am a cheerleader for everyone who gives it a try… any way you want.

How do you meditate? What does it make you feel? How do you talk about it with friends who think meditation is a waste of time? Please join the conversation to share your thoughts.

Terri Edmund WhiteTerri Edmund White is an innkeeper on Anna Maria Island, Florida. She enjoys life with her husband Jim and their cats, adopted from the Humane Society of Manatee County. A former corporate writer and editor, Terri is currently penning her way to her 100th birthday and has started a 100 Year Project website to write about the journey.

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