Meditation is a practice where the mind becomes calm and silent, and an overall sense of peace washes over the body, mind, and soul. The practice of meditating has been around since the beginning of times and has been better known in Western culture to be practiced at home, class, a yoga studio or at a religious foundation, but because of the many benefits of meditation, it has been gaining more and more popularity with a wider range of audience in the past few years.
Meditation Can Be Found In Many Schools
Now, meditation can be found in many schools’ curriculum even in primary school to help mindfulness and reduce stress. Companies such as those in Silicon Valley promote employee meditation not just for mindfulness and relaxation but also as a creativity or productivity hack. Last but not the least, meditation is even gaining popularity among teenagers to help with school and regulate emotions.
Let’s look at how this practice, once better known for religious devotees or tree hugging hippies, is now becoming widely used by everyone as a method to help the body and mind in healing and renewing itself by looking at the many benefits of meditation.
Improves the ability to concentrate
- A study done on participants at the Shambhala Mountain Center showed that the active practice of meditating improve’s the brain’s ability to concentrate and focus on a task despite how trivial or easy it is. Also, meditation reduces activity in the default mode network of the brain, which is the network that promotes a wandering mind and thoughts of the self. Because of its quieting effect on this network, those who meditate can better control the wandering mind that worries about anything and everything except for the moment or task at hand.
Lowers blood pressure
- A recent study on Transcendental Meditation (TM) has shown that this method is proven to be effective in lessening a wide range of risk factors for heart disease, which includes lowering blood pressure. Researchers believe that the restful awareness that TM allows you to gain ultimately creates biochemical changes in the brain that helps the body to repair itself.
Reduces physical response to stress
- Stress is a major contributor to many health problems. It can trigger cortisol, a stress hormone, and other hormones to present itself often in the body, which can put the body at risk for health problems such as heart disease, asthma, diabetes, acne, the common cold, and more. Meditating helps manage stress simply by breathing deeply, which calms down the physiologic stress response. Studies show that meditation and reducing stress has even shown improvement for patients with fibromyalgia and psoriasis.
Reduces emotional response to stress
- Meditation in itself is a skill to manage stress and helps build new perspectives on stressful situations. In addition to physical responses to stress, meditation also helps alleviate emotional responses. A study that Charles L. Raison, MD, participated in showed that those “who meditated regularly for six weeks showed less activation of their immune systems and less emotional distress when they were put in a stressful situation.” Overall, meditation can reduce feelings of anxiety, depression, and other emotional
Improves the immune system
- With stress, feelings of loneliness, or depression, the immune system is easily worn down especially with long-term exposure. However, meditation can increase the ability to handle stresses and lessen the triggers of stressors within the body, which leads to a healthier immune system.
Helps social interactions
- Because meditation increases self-awareness, listening skills, feelings of compassion, and a general relaxed mindset, it can help manage and even enhance personal and professional relationships. Furthermore, it can reduce anxiety and manage social anxiety.
Promotes emotional well-being
- Meditation helps direct your attention on the present and clear your mind of everyday stresses and burdens of the past. Thus, this tool can lessen negative and painful emotions and make problems seem much smaller than they actually are.
- In addition, there is actually scientific proof that meditation can alter areas of the physical brain related to fear, anxiety and stress shown by a 2011 study performed by a team at Harvard. Because of meditation, the participants reported feeling psychologically better with overall improved moods and well-being.
Improves quality of sleep
- As meditation can relax the body and decrease stress, it can clear the busy and restless mind that usually prevents us from falling asleep peacefully at night.
How to Meditate
Ideally, we’d all like to reach the state of clarity where we can sit for an extended period of time with a peacefully empty mind, but considering we live in a busy society with endless obligations, this type of meditation can be hard to achieve even with lots of experience. However, there are dozens of ways to meditate and different types of practices to help a complete newbie or practiced guru to reach a state of stillness and calmness within the mind and body.
Here are some methods to get you started on meditating and better health:
- Staring at a candle and focusing on its light while letting your thoughts pass in and out of your head without attachment,
- Finding a mantra that resonates with you, which you can repeat over and over,
- Using a guided meditation from YouTube or Apple Podcasts,
- Listening to meditation music from GooglePlay or Soundcloud,
- Focusing on your breath as you breathe deeply in and out,
- Counting your breath as you breathe in and out so that each breathe is steady and rhythmic as the last,
- Performing a series of mindful poses through yoga,
- Physically moving while breathing deeply with Tai chi,
- Mindfully moving to restore and maintain balance with Qi gong (pronounced CHEE-gong), and
- Picturing the mountains or a calming setting in your mind and focusing on its serenity.
With so many different ways to practice it and only positive effects to report, it’s no wonder that meditation has become ever-increasingly popular for any person of any age and hope it can bring a sense of peace to your life as well with the many benefits of meditation.