Meditation works. From being a renowned spiritual exercise of eastern religions to being a secret mind conditioning tool used in both the military and corporate leadership, meditation has bee used in different cultures and settings. Countless scientific studies have already shown that its positive mental and physiological effects and we’re making a short-list of the benefits of meditation in our everyday lives.
1) Reduces Stress and Anxiety
The symptoms of stress are all part of our fight-or-flight response: elevated heart rate and blood pressure, increase in adrenalin and cortisol in our bloodstream, sweating, tightening of the muscles, and our immune system gets jacked-up. For our ancient ancestors, the short term effects of stress were beneficial, maybe even life-saving, especially in situations where there’s a threat to life or injury. But the sources of our stress have changed. Instead of facing wild predators, we now have pending deadlines at work, bills to pay, family problems, the list goes on, and we are pummeled every moment by these. This causes stress for long periods and it depletes both mental and physical resources which creates chemical imbalances in our bodies fatigue, and the inability to think clearly. Studies have shown that chronic stressing has been one of the leading causes of health deterioration. Meditation greatly helps in reining in stress response. It calms the mind, relaxes our muscles, level down our heart rate, and restores the normal chemical balance of our body. It has also been shown that continued practice of meditation also decreases hyper-sensitivity to stress factors, making you more resilient in stressful situations.
2) Promotes Mindfulness
Our fast and frantic culture overload our heads with thoughts and concerns, like a thousand little voices with each one vying for our attention. This often causes confusion, cloudy thinking and bad-decision making. Each thought carries an emotional burden that weighs us down. Meditation helps manage thoughts by promoting mindfulness, a different kind of introspective thinking. It’s thinking about thinking, an acute awareness of your own thinking process, and thoughts are recognized from a removed perspective. Thoughts then become accepted for what they truly are: just thoughts. This neutralizes the emotional baggage that often comes packaged with thoughts and allows for real rational thinking. This is how meditation helps in thinking straight and thinking straight helps in making effective and purposeful actions and a better sense of well-being.
3) Promotes Emotional Health / Reduces Depression
It could be argued that emotions are the prime motivators (or demotivators) of all people, and we all strive to live happier, fulfilling and meaningful lives. But the good always comes with the bad, and feelings of negative emotions like sadness or anger are all part of living. But the problem is when thinking and sense of being become slaves to emotions, especially to the negative types. It can be extremely difficult for a person to have himself removed from a place of negative emotion such that of depression. Meditation promotes better emotional well-being. As an exercise in self-awareness, not only does it help one to think of how he thinks, it also helps one think about how he or she feels instead of the other way around when feelings dictate the thought process. Meditation can be an effective part of a holistic approach in the long term treatment for depression. Meditation can also help you get back at your feet even if you’re just having a bad day.
4) Improves Focus / Lengthens Attention Span
As meditating helps quiet down the chatter of thoughts in the mind, it also trains the mind to discern thoughts better and help focus better. Many experts believe that improving mental tasks like paying attention and mental concentration has a physiological basis in the brain. In short, the brain can be rewired to improve focus and attention through mental exercises like meditation.
5) Improves Mental Acuity / Counter-Memory lost
The mental exercises that come with meditation can help you stay sharp as you grow older and a does it in a few ways. One is regarding the causes of memory loss. Most experts believe that we don’t really lose our memory when we forget, our brain just loses access to them. The lost of network access is not fully understood in all cases, but in diseases like Alzheimer’s, neural networks lose their fidelity because of protein build-up in the neural connection – a product of a faulty immune response. There have been suggestions that meditations ability to tame the immune system helps in keeping this build-up at bay Another way that meditation helps with mental acuity relies on the neural plasticity of the brain. Mental exercises such that of meditation helps the brain build newer connections between different regions. Much like a muscle, exercise strengthens the brain.
6) Better Sleep
Sleep is needed by the body and the mind to recharge, but anybody finds it difficult to sleep when there’s a lot of thoughts in mind. Again, we can see the calming effects of meditation in both mind and body help in getting a good night’s sleep
7) Improves Immunity
Everyday stress can really cause the immune system to go haywire. Symptoms include allergic reactions, hives and sometimes even serious auto-immune diseases. Meditation has been found to make the immune system less reactive.
8) Improves Your Body
A good number of studies have proven that meditation helps lower and maintain heart rate and blood pressure, relaxes skeletal and internal muscles (like the bowel), improves blood circulation (tense muscles squeezes veins and arteries) and restores the chemical balance of the body.
If you would like to know more about mindfulness and meditation, we cover these topics in the Thrive Yoga and Wellness 200 hr YA approved Teacher Training program. In addition to learning about the asana (or postures) found in typical yoga classes, we cover other techniques to help you improve your own personal meditation practice. If you are thinking of getting certified, now is the time! Check us out here.
Jennifer is a wellness lifestyle writer. She loves sharing her thoughts and personal experiences related to fitness, yoga, and natural remedies, through her writing. She can connect with others experiencing health concerns and help them through their recovery journeys through natural remedies.