Meditation has been scientifically proven to help improve brain function and mood. In recent years this eastern practice of meditation has become something sort of a fascination and fad with people. However, it's here to stay and just keeps gaining momentum in our western culture.
If you know me well, then you are very aware of my meditation habits. I've been meditating since I was about 14, so yes in high school, but back then it wasn't the "cool" thing to do. I did it anyway. I knew in my gut it helped me and I saw the results for myself.
My mom had introduced me to a mindfulness master called Depak Chopra. At that time in my life I struggled with terrible anxiety and depression. I mean hello high school, who doesn't? But, I can whole-heartedly say meditation helped me more than any medication. For me it let my mind rest and be at ease.
If you haven't tried meditation click here for my full beginners guide.
Meditation practice isn't about trying to throw ourselves away and becoming something better. It's about befriending who we already are.
Anyone can practice meditation and the best part is that you don't need any special equipment or tools to do so...and it's free! The best part is that you can practice meditation anywhere, on your couch, walking the dog, on your car or train ride home (yes I'm talking to you New Yorkers). Meditation helps you connect to your higher self and gain clarity in a way you haven't before. It has so many benefits for the mind, body spirit that you'd be crazy not to try it.
1. Meditation helps reduce stress
It's no question that stress plays a major factor in our day to day lives, the real question is what can we do about it? Well friends, meditation is your answer. Practicing meditation helps ease the mind and allows you to feel more relaxed and tranquil. Even spending 5 minutes in meditation can help restore calm.
When we are stressed our minds become a big jumble of demands - things we need to do, all the things that are being asked of us, and the pressures we put on ourselves to get stuff done that may or may not need to happen. When we meditate we allow our minds to have space between all these factors causing us stress. With space and separation from these demands we can evaluate what things are important and which are not.
2. Meditation improves focus and concentration
Studies and brain scans have shown that are brain changes throughout our lives and the grey matter of our brain is responsible for a large portion of our emotional state. When you go to the gym and work out you improve your muscle strength, so think of your brain as a big muscle. If the grey matter of your brain is a bunch of muscles, and you work them out regularly you will see improvement.
3. Practicing meditation regularly increases self-awareness
4. Meditation increases happiness
5. Meditation increases acceptance
6. Meditation promotes a healthy lifestyle
7. Anti-aging benefits are linked to meditation
8. Promotes cardiovascular and immune support
9. Lessens premenstrual and menopausal symptoms
10. Meditation combats depression and anxiety
I can tell you through personal experience that mediation greatly improved my struggles with anxiety and depression, but there have been multiple studies that have proven the fact. In layman's terms meditation allows you focus on the moment-to-moment rather than getting stuck and focusing on one particular incident.
Basically meditation allows you to monitor your reaction in a state where you have separated yourself from the situation, staying calm and evaluating before you react. It helps your brain flow through patterns more easily without getting hung up on the outcome, and helps you focus on the fact rather than the emotion. Studies have shown this allows your brain to move through cognitive patterns and reduces the gray matter areas in the brain related to stress and anxiety, according to a study conducted at the University of Wisconsin.
We will all encounter stressful situations in our lives, and it is best to learn coping skills to deal with said stressors such as financial despair, loss of a loved one, divorce, etc. Practicing meditation is a great way to train our brains to evaluate a situation before reacting to it and teaching us to give the issue space. I will most definitely be continuing my meditation practices. Will you?
How do you combat stressors in your life?
Further reading if you're interested: Massachusetts General Hospital Mediation Study