Today we live in a fast-paced world. Things happen so quickly that more often than not, we do not have the chance to react to the things thrown at us. We somehow lose the ability to think things over in favor of lightning-quick decisions.
But it shouldn’t be so. Every one of us needs to slow down a little from time to time and be calm. Otherwise, stress will build up and will affect how we deal with the people around us, not only in the workplace but also at home.
What is meditation? The practice of meditation is a way for us to be still for a while and let our minds become focused until we become calm enough to deal with the daily pressures of life.
Buddha was once asked: “What have you gained from meditation?” To which he responded: “Nothing! However, let me tell you what I lost: anger, anxiety, depression, insecurity, fear of old age and death.”
Science reveals that our mind and body benefit from taking time out of your daily life and meditate. The benefits of meditation are endless. It is proven to be an effective way of enhancing the quality of life by improving physical, mental, and emotional well being.
Meditation techniques are constantly undergoing scientific scrutiny. Research often provides new insights into the effects of meditation on both mind and body.
Some may think that meditation is a completely religious practice. While it is true that a lot of religions, especially Eastern ones, take meditation as an integral part of their practice, it is not necessarily the case. In fact, more and more people who aren’t necessarily religious get into meditation.
People practice meditation for a variety of reasons. While we already mentioned that it helps us become still in this fast-paced world, other people meditate for health reasons and to attain a higher state of consciousness, among others.
So if you think that life is stressing you out, it’s probably time for you to slow things down a little bit. Your mind is probably too distracted with so many things to consider and to think about. Meditation can help you calm down and let you be stress and worry-free.
Meditation in recent years has seen an upsurge in popularity. This is probably because our lifestyles today are more complicated and stressful than it was just 30 years ago and meditation is helpful in managing stress as well as having many other health benefits.
In this infographic, we share 10 reasons why daily meditation is beneficial.
It focuses more on daily meditation because that’s where the most benefits are seen. Although any meditation you do will see benefits, meditating on a daily basis has many more benefits than just meditating once a week. Try it for yourself and see if you agree.
Meditation Makes Your Brain Plastic
Plastic meaning that our brain can change. That means our brain’s potential is not set at birth — we can actually strengthen and improve our brains in ways once science said is impossible. When we train our mind to focus we are happy. Keeping your attention focused on the present, accepting the moment without judgment, has been studied extensively for its infusion of positive psychological benefits.
Many scientists are now saying, focusing our awareness is where we find our true happiness. Understanding that the mind and body are one entity and that the energetic quality of the mind is the essence of life, focusing our awareness through meditation is a practical strategy for health, happiness, and transformation.
Increases Your Brains, Gray Matter
One way of measuring brain-change is looking at the distribution of Gray Matter Volume, which plays an important role in mental health, behavior and cognitive functions. A 2005 study on American men and women who meditated a mere 40 minutes a day showed that their brains displayed thicker cortical walls than non-meditators. What this could possibly mean is that their brains were aging at a slower rate. Cortical thickness is also associated with decision making, attention, and memory.
Meditation Protects Your DNA
Telomeres are the protective caps at the end of each strand of DNA that protects our chromosomes. They are likened to the plastic tips at the end of our shoelaces. “Telomere length represents our biological age as opposed to our chronological age”. Longer telomeres mean that you’re also likely to live longer. Research done by the University of California, Davis’ Shamatha Project has shown that meditators have significantly higher telomerase activity than non-meditators. Telomerase an enzyme that builds telomeres.
It appears that the more telomerase activity one has, means stronger and longer telomeres. So what you may say? We know that telomeres shorten over time naturally, and the shorter length is linked to a number of chronic illnesses, so increasing telomere length is thought to indicate healthier aging.
Meditation Can Improve Concentration
Today, there are a lot of things that help in keeping us entertained. On the internet alone, there is a multitude of websites that do such that like video sharing sites, gaming sites and other websites which cater to our interests.
While there is nothing wrong with entertaining ourselves, a problem arises with our constant need for distractions. Because of that, it becomes difficult for us to focus on one thing.
We do not need to take extreme measures to help us focus. There are practices which can do the job for us. It includes the practice of meditation.
People take up meditation for different purposes and improving concentration is one of them. There are several methods by which meditation does its job.
One is through breathing exercises. Even an exercise that is as simple as being aware of the times we inhale and exhale can do wonders to our ability to concentrate.
While it may sound easy, it can be quite difficult especially if one has to deal with distractions such as outside noise.
Another method is by reciting a mantra. A mantra is a phrase or a sound that is recited repeatedly. For Catholics, praying the rosary is a form of a mantra.
The repetition becomes the center of the meditation to which the person’s attention becomes focused.
There are other more methods by which meditation can help improve concentration. However, the two mentioned above are the most basic and could help beginners start out with the practice.
Breathing is an Integral Tool of Meditation
Proper breathing is required in many practices of meditation and is, therefore, an important tool to be possessed by people who wish to perform this activity.
The practice of proper breathing while meditating helps you relax while doing the exercise. Proper breathing is achieved by inhaling through the nose, letting the diaphragm (not the chest) expand and exhaling through the mouth.
Doing this slows down your heart rate which leads to a relaxed mood.
Breathing also plays a significant role when we aim to improve our concentration. This is done by focusing the mind on the act of taking in air and feeling it pass through the nostrils until the air is finally exhaled through the mouth.
While this may sound easy, it can be quite challenging when done for the first time.
Then there’s the method for increasing your awareness. Just like the concentration technique mentioned above, it involves putting your attention to your breathing.
But instead of focusing on the act of inhaling and exhaling air, it is the sensation of breathing where you train your thoughts. The feeling of the air passing through the nose, filling the lungs and expanding the diaphragm is the sensation that you should look for.
It helps you feel how it is to be truly alive.
I have shown you how important breathing is in the practice of meditation. It is no wonder, therefore, that the two are inseparable activities that a student of meditation should learn.
Meditation and Dealing with Fears and Phobias
Every person has a phobia of certain things, be it of heights or speaking in front of people. While most people overcome their fears, some are crippled by it. This, therefore, prevents them from doing things that they would otherwise find enjoyable.
Meditation is one way for people trapped by their phobias to finally get out of their shell and start living the full life.
A definition of fear is that it is the anxiety caused by perceived danger. It is the state of mind by which a person foresees something wrong happening either to him/her or the people around him/her.
Meditation helps in overcoming a person’s fear by altering his/her state of mind. There are several ways by which this practice can help people achieve this.
One such way is called mindfulness meditation. By training to live in the now, your attention is veered away from the future where that person perceives the danger. Besides, it is only a mere perception and such event may or may not actually happen.
Visualization can also help cope with fear by making the person imagine what they will do in case the perceived danger comes. By being mentally prepared for such an event, the person will be able to deal with the future situation better.
Again, fear is a mere state of mind. Facing it, therefore, needs some alteration in the person’s perception of what may or may not happen. It can be achieved through the practice of meditation.
Understanding Meditation and Pain Management
Anyone who has heard of the expression about the power of mind over matter will easily understand the benefit of meditation on people suffering from different forms of physical pain.
We will deal with several methods by which meditation can help in alleviating this condition.
Concentration techniques in meditation can help in easing suffering by keeping their mind away from the source of the pain. Usually, the pain is magnified because people choose to focus on it.
If their attention is trained somewhere else, the pain becomes more manageable.
Another method is called mindfulness meditation. This involves being aware of one’s present condition and accepting it as such. If a person accepts that they are currently in pain, dealing with it would be much easier.
Then there’s visualization. It could be considered as a form of self-hypnosis. It is done by creating an image of the pain and imagining it moving away from the body.
A study showed that its participants’ perception of pain reduced significantly after just three 20-minute sessions of meditation! This is because meditation changes the way the mind perceives pain. It trains the brain to be present which helps its practitioners to not anticipate pain.
As suggested by these methods, they do not actually take away the pain. Rather, they make dealing with the pain much easier.
This is also the reason why methods like those mentioned should be coupled with proper medical advice. In fact, consulting one’s doctor is advised before even trying the meditation exercises out.
Otherwise, there will be a risk of overlooking more serious conditions that could be causing the pain. Along with the proper medical advice, meditation can help improve a person’s tolerance for pain.
When life gets you down, de-stressing is the name of the game…
There are the runners, the readers, the video gamers, the bakers, the eaters, and then there are the meditators. No doubt you have heard of the wonderful and mystical world of meditation, but most people probably have not tried it for themselves.
Those same people probably believe they can’t meditate. Admittedly, with the fast-paced world we live in, it can be hard to calm the mind and sit still for any period of time. But meditation is still possible. There are many other misconceptions about meditation; however, with some helpful information, you can master the art of meditation and naturally utilize it to relax.
5 Misconceptions and Common Myths About Meditation
1) Empty Mind:
Meditation, contrary to common belief, does not completely still the mind. Meditation practitioners instead observe the mind in its unfettered state. Your mind never stops thinking. It’s impossible because that’s what it does. But slowing our minds, however, and focusing on the thoughts that come through can provide insight into what causes our stress. Once that has been addressed, we can more easily and effectively deal with said stress.
2) Religious Practice:
It’s true that meditation developed from religious or spiritual practices. But meditation itself is secular. There is no present belief system attached to meditation, so no added pressure! Meditation is all about no pressure. It allows you to be kinder to yourself, so you can chillax, relax and detox from your busy life.
3) Years of Hard Work:
You don’t need to be a super master unicorn of meditation to get the best results. It’s not necessary to practice hours of meditation for years to reap the benefits. According to scientific evidence, as little as 10 minutes of meditation a day can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, improve clarity, focus the mind, and help foster an overall sense of wellbeing. It’s that easy and simple, and rewarding too.
4) Calm Personality:
You need to be calm to meditate. FALSE! There’s no certain personality type that finds it easier to meditate. Meditation makes people calmer and more gentle and compassionate by repetition. By consistently meditating, people who are willing to invest the time in meditation can find balance and a calmer side of themselves.
5) Weird positions and strange words:
Sitting with your legs folded over your head and chanting witchcraft words, that’s what meditation is. Nope. That is a teetotal myth and one that has been perpetuated by the media. True, some meditation practitioners recite mantras while they meditate for hours. That being said, there is no standard for meditation.
The chanting and hour-long sitting are optional. You can meditate in silence, or with music, and practice in any position you want. You can sit, stand, drive, or even lie down (Try not to fall asleep if you do the latter. That’s not meditating; that’s napping). Ask any meditation practitioner and they will tell you that they meditate while riding the bus to work, in their office chair, and after waking up in the morning.
It can be done anywhere and in any way. There are no brownie points for making yourself uncomfortable. Remember, meditation is used to calm the mind and relax the body. If you aren’t comfortable, you can’t meditate.
Facts About Meditation
These days, going to the doctor when you are sick is not the only way so you will feel better. According to the National Center for Complementary Medicine, meditation is among the top 10 alternative therapy treatments. But before we get into that, it is best we learn some meditation facts.
First, meditation means awareness. Why? This is because your senses are heightened as you concentrate on your breathing and your hearing is sharper than before. You tell your mind to block out these distractions so you are able to find inner peace which you can carry with you when you open your eyes.
Some think that meditation is a religion when in fact it is a science. This is because numerous studies done in the past show that those who practice it feel relaxed, are physically fit, have improvements in their academic standing in school and have an increase in their productivity at work.
But where did the word meditation come from? This comes from two Latin words. The first is called “meditari” which means to think, dwell upon or to exercise the mind. The second is “mederi” which is to heal. If you put these all together, it describes basically what this activity is which is a time for you to reach deep in your mind and recharge.
Meditation Improves Your Memory
Research at UCLA showed that long-term meditation increases gyrification – which refers to the folding of the cortex. More folds on the cortex create more surface area, which allows for a better ability to retain information. A separate study by the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging also showed that those who practice meditation are able to adjust their brain waves better. Meditation practitioners are able to screen out distractions faster than non-meditators, giving their brains more room to accept and retain new information.
Meditation slows down neurodegenerative diseases
A study at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center suggests a link between positive brain changes like stress reduction as a result of meditation to the slowing of the progression of age-related cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. According to the study, Alzheimer’s patients who were part of the study showed a less cognitive decline after an 8-week mindfulness stress reduction program than those who didn’t take part. Instead, these patients showed higher levels of well-being.
Meditation increases your ability to multitask
In an article by Scientific American on How to Be a Better Driver, the editors suggested taking up meditation, as it increases the brain’s ability to multitask. A study by the University of Washington showed that people who practiced mindfulness meditation two hours a week for eight weeks had better focus during multitasking tests than those who didn’t. Why is this – you asked? The main reason is that meditation practice allowed them to notice interruptions and distractions without losing focus on their present task!
As you can see, meditation has benefits that are physiological, physical and psychological. You don’t have to take any pills or get a prescription from a doctor. It is free and it doesn’t consume much of your time. This can be done in 5 to 20 minutes each day. You just have to sit comfortably and close your eyes then continue with whatever you were doing.
Given that meditation has been practiced for centuries, various movements have emerged. But regardless of their names or techniques, this can be grouped into two basic approaches.
The first is called concentrative meditation. Here, the person focuses his or her attention on the breath, an image or a sound to create greater awareness and for clarity to come forth. Think of it like you are looking at something through a microscope so you are able to narrow your focus.
This is quite easy since all you have to do is sit down and just breathe. The correct way of doing it is to inhale and exhale slowly because as this becomes deeper and slower, your mind becomes more aware and tranquil.
The second type is called mindfulness meditation. Just like concentrative meditation, the person sits quietly and then reflects on his or her feelings, sensations and thoughts. These things come to mind one at a time without the person calling on any of them to come forth. It just appears and no action is taken so that when you wake up, you see the bigger picture and know what you have to do.
Which meditation technique is the best of all? There is no correct answer to that because this depends entirely on the personality of the individual.
The one fact about meditation you should remember is that regardless of what you choose, its focus is to quiet the busy mind.
It does not remove the stimulation which you feel but rather directs your concentration to something else to achieve that inner peace. You just have to keep an open mind to see what it can do because it is a science.