In ancient history, the art of meditation for health has been practiced in various forms across several cultures. It is believed to help one achieve a strong self-awareness leading to a more stable, calm and balanced as well as healthier mental and emotional state.
For a long time, meditation was only practiced in the West by gurus, hippies, and seekers of all kinds. Today, however, this ancient spiritual practice is popular among everyone from hedge fund managers to movie stars. In fact, many of the world’s most successful companies offer meditation sessions to their employees, and at least one sports team trains its athletes to meditate as well as play.
Indeed, spiritual fitness seems to be the new buzz word being bandied around the health and lifestyle arena and as it would seem, with good reason.
Many studies have found that meditation provides immense health benefits, positively impacting a person both psychologically and neurologically. While some may remain agnostic to the belief that meditation causes any considerable changes, scientific research has shown that although the changes may seem minor, the neurological effects are significant. Now more than ever, meditation is being practiced in both personal and corporate environments for its health benefits.
The Light At The End Of The Tunnel
While meditation might not be the cure to all, it certainly plays a vital role in ensuring your body’s engine is well-oiled. At the current pace of life, rushing from meeting to meeting, or from one client to another, or even from one class to the next, taking a moment just to sit down, relax and clear your mind may seem like a waste of valuable time.
Knowing The Benefits Of Meditation
Meditation and its benefits are rapidly being recognized, and you should take note because it is telling us something incredibly valuable and quite possibly, life-changing. In this article, we list some of the benefits of meditation for health.
#1. Probe The Lobe
Meditation preserves the longevity of the brain. Numerous studies have been conducted on how meditation alters the brain's gray and white matter.
One study, in particular, tested this on 300 meditation practitioners and found that eight regions of the brain were significantly altered, one of which is the prefrontal cortex or the front part of the frontal lobe. This area of the brain regulates cognitive, emotional, and behavioral functioning.
The prefrontal cortex has been implicated in aiding us in decision making, personality expression, and moderating social behavior.
#2. Restrain The Pain
Studies show that approximately 15 percent of American adults suffer from chronic pain, excluding arthritis and joint pain. Additionally, in a survey conducted in 2008 by The Medical Expenditure Panel, an estimate of 100 million adults experience chronic pain.
Many factors, such as awareness, mood, and emotion, play a role in the severity of pain. However, other studies have shown that by practicing mindful meditation, the way in which the brain perceives pain alters resulting in a higher pain threshold.
In many cases, meditation has been proven to ease the symptoms, even for people who are completely new to the practice. Doctors also identify it as a less expensive and dangerous as well as more sustainable alternative to narcotics or chemical pain relievers.
Furthermore, other studies conducted on patients who suffer from chronic pain showed that meditation relaxes the sympathetic nervous system. When our bodies or minds are under stress, the said system accelerates, leading to higher heart rate, increased blood pressure, constricted blood vessels, and eventually, pain. Meditation hampers the nervous system from reacting in this way, cutting off chronic pain from the root.
Nowadays, it is challenging to find the balance between happiness and stress. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, 75 to 90 percent of physician visits are stress-related. The onslaught of media that pounds our doors 24/7 made demands higher than ever. As such, more people are now taking time to learn how to lead a life with less stress.
Apparently, these are among the reasons why mindful meditation is taking the corporate world by storm. Not only does meditation relaxes the mind, but it also plays a significant role in health care.
#4. Be ‘om’ Youthful Form
By stimulation and continued development of the prefrontal cortex, mindful meditation results in a higher intellect, raised awareness, and creativity. When practiced on a regular basis, meditation seems to have significant and long-term effects on the brain.
Recent research has shown that meditation combats the negative impacts of aging on our health, including dementia, obesity, osteoarthritis, and diabetes. Many of these are caused by the erosion of telomeres, which protective caps at the ends of our chromosomes. Meditation has been shown to slow this erosion, and in some cases even prolong the telomeres.
In addition, meditation can help treat depression, anxiety, and other disorders that affect both the brain and the body.
#5. Sleep Better
Insomnia and interrupted sleeping patterns often leave you feeling sluggish, affecting both your concentration and mood. Furthermore, lack of sleep increases your risk of serious medical conditions, including diabetes and heart disease, which shortens your life expectancy. If this doesn’t explain how important a solid night’s sleep is, then we don’t know what does.
A recent study published in the New York Times concluded that meditation could be a powerful remedy for insomnia, especially for senior adults. Meditation eases the mind’s arousal systems which helps you drift off to a better-quality sleep. Practicing regular meditation improves your psychomotor vigilance and boosts relaxing brain waves leaving you feeling rejuvenated and ready to take on the day.
Getting Started With Meditation for Health
To achieve a meditative state of mind, you need to:
Dealing With Inner Thoughts
At this point, the mind may begin to wander. All sorts of random thoughts may pop up, such as when last you cleaned the fridge, or when you’ve taken a bite of that last pizza slice.
It is crucial not to let these thoughts disrupt the meditation process. Rather, merely label them (for example as “housework”) and continue to focus on the process of breathing. It is also essential to ignore the thoughts that attempt to disrupt the meditation, such as frustration from not achieving an utterly relaxed state or that there are more important tasks to get done.
One method is to focus on one of your senses to bring you back into the moment. An example is zoning in what you can hear. What causes these sounds? Birds singing, cars passing by, music playing, etc. Whatever works or helps you to retrain your brain to come back into the present moment.
It may also be helpful to understand thought chains that occur during meditation. If a feeling is occurring over and over, then it is possible that you are not addressing it, and it is contributing to the stress levels outside of that meditation.
It doesn't matter that your mind wanders, this is normal. The magic happens when you train your brain to keep coming back to the present. And the great thing is, there is no right or wrong way of doing it as long as you keep coming back to the moment.
Applying Meditation To Your Daily Life
Meditation is a skill that takes time and practice to develop. Daily repetition will help you enter a relaxed state more easily each time. Short meditative bursts can also be conducted when necessary, such as when feeling stressed while waiting in line. A quick closing of the eyes and some deep breaths can significantly decrease stress levels.
When done on a daily basis, consistent decreases in stress levels can have long-term effects. It’s only logical that a reduction in your everyday stress levels can help you deal with emotions better and thus improve mental health and subsequently physical health.
Meditation doesn't take much effort or need skills. It can even be practiced by anyone anywhere, anytime, whether you are at home, in school or at the office. All you have to do is take a few minutes out of your day in a quiet corner, close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Let your thoughts go; forget about your surroundings and find your state of Nirvana. Before you know it, you are reaping its health benefits and rewards.
If you are eager to know more, there are many health websites out there that can help you. There are also other ways you can improve your health and well-being—seek a professional or a health enthusiast’s advice, read related blogs or articles, etc.
On the other hand, if there is anything you think we missed, then feel free to leave your comments below. Happy meditating!