We’ve all heard about meditation—and chances are, some of you probably practice it already, but I wanted to start with a brief description.
Meditation is the practice by which you can clear your mind by training it to concentrate and cut out all distractions. The more you practice meditation, the more in control your mind will be—not wandering off in all different thought directions (as we’re all prone to doing—thanks to our super-busy lives). The result: the greater awareness you’ll have of your body and the world around you (hence, a more relaxed you).
There are many different types of meditation but all involve directing awareness inward by focusing on an object in the mind’s eye, your breath, or a phrase or word (mantra) silently repeated. You can also focus on the heart area while inhaling and exhaling—a technique called heart-centered meditation that’s used to help release fears and sadness, essentially “healing” the heart.
You can practice meditation by sitting in a chair or on the floor, lying down, or even by walking slowly and mindfully.
Many meditation proponents believe that meditation stimulates transformative power in the brain and provides you with great conviction and strength to change the course of your life.
"There is so much incredible research proving the benefits of mediation."
√ It can protect against mental illness: One University of Oregon study showed, in fact, that meditation can physically change the brain[ii]—and could even have protective effects against mental illness. The researchers found that after two weeks of practicing meditation, study participants had an increase in the number of signaling connections in the brain, called axonal density. And after a month of practicing regular meditation (about 11 hours of meditation overall), there were even more increases in signaling connections as well as an increase in the protective tissue (called myelin). Study participants also reported better moods overall.
√ It can boost memory...and more: Meditation is good for the brain: it can help improve memory, empathy, stress, and sense of self, according to one study from the Massachusetts General Hospital[iii].
√ It can make you more relaxed: Then there are the studies involving the brainwaves of meditating monks; they show that the actual brain circuitry in long-time meditators is different from that of non-meditators[iv]. When you’re upset, anxious, or depressed, the portion of the brain called the amygdala and the right prefrontal cortex become active. When you’re in a positive mood, these areas quiet down and the left prefrontal cortex—an area associated with happiness—becomes more active. Meditating monks appear to have high activity in this “quiet” area—definitely not a random coincidence!
√ It can reduce your risk of disease—and even mitigate symptoms: Other studies have shown that meditation can decrease heart and respiratory rates and reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke[v], increase blood flow to the brain[vi], and decrease chronic pain[vii]. It’s also been shown to treat anxiety disorders[viii], fibromyalgia[ix], irritable bowel syndrome[x], and PMS[xi].
√ It can reduce depression: Additional research has shown that people who previously were depressed who regularly practice mindfulness-based stress reduction are 50% less likely than others to have their depression return[xii]. Mindfulness meditation teaches us to alter our response to stress, influencing serotonin production-which regulates mood, sleep and appetite. Reducing stress also impacts the skin —giving you glowing skin that seems to radiate health from the inside out.
I, myself, practice meditation and find it to be relaxing and mind clearing. I even believe it has helped me get over colds faster.
So if you don’t meditate yet, this might be the time to start. Most experts recommend starting for just 5 to 7 minutes; there are plenty of apps (like Headspace) that can help you learn to mediate.
Be peaceful & focus inward,
“Mechanisms of White Matter Changes Induced By Meditation,” Yi-Yuan Tang, Qilin Lu, Ming Fan, et al., PNAS, May 9, 2012, 109(26), 10570-10574; http://www.pnas.org/content/109/26/10570.abstract
[ii] “Meditation Gives Brain a Charge, Study Finds,” Marc Kaufman, The Washington Post, January 3, 2005, A05; http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A43006-2005Jan2.html
[iii] “Mindfulness Practice Leads to Increases in Regional Brain Gray Matter Density,” Britta K. Höizel, James Carmody, Mark Vangel, et al., Psychiatry Research Neuroimaging, Jan. 30, 2011, 191(1), 36-43; http://www.psyn-journal.com/article/S0925-4927(10)00288-X/abstract
[iv] “Studies of Advanced Stages of Meditation in the Tibetan Buddhist and Vedic Traditions. I: A Comparison of General Changes,” Alex Hankey, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, December 2006, 3(4), 513-521; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1697747/
[v] “Meditation May Reduce Death, Heart Attack, and Stroke in Heart Patients,” American Heart Association Newsroom, November 13, 2012; http://newsroom.heart.org/news/meditation-may-reduce-death-heart-240647
[vi] “Meditation Effects on Cognitive Function and Cerebral Blood flow in Subjects with Memory Loss: a Preliminary Study,” A.B. Newberg, N. Wintering, D.S. Khalsa, et al., Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 2010, 20(2), 517-526; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20164557#
[vii] “The Clinical Use of Mindfulness Meditation for the Self-Regulation of Chronic Pain,” J. Kabat-Zinn, L. Lipworth, R. Burney, Journal of Behavioral Medicine, June 1985, 8(2), 163-90; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3897551
[viii] “Randomized Controlled Trial of Mindfulness Meditation for Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Effects on Anxiety and Stress Reactivity,” Elizabeth A. Hoge, Eric Bui, Luana Marques, et al., Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, August 2013, 74(8), 786-792; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3772979/
[ix] “The Effects of Meditation-Based Interventions on the Treatment of Fibromyalgia,” E.H. Kozasa, L.H. Tanaka, C. Monson, et al., Current Pain and Headache Reports, October 2012, 16(5), 383-7; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22717699
[x] “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for the Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome Symptoms: a Randomized Wait-List Controlled Trial,” K.A. Zernicke, T.S. Campbell, P.K. Blustein, et al., International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, September 2013, 20(3), 385-96; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22618308
[xi] “The Science of Meditation for Mind & Body Health,” McLean Meditation Institute; http://www.sedonameditation.com/meditation-research.html; “Meditation Balances the Body’s Systems,” Jeanie Lerche Davis, WedMD; http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/transcendental-meditation
[xii] “Study: Meditation’s Effects Similar to Pills for Depression,” Brian Krans, HealthlineNews, January 6, 2014; http://www.healthline.com/health-news/mental-meditation-as-effective-as-medication-for-depression-010614; “Meditation Effective in Treating Anxiety, Depression, Hopkins Research Suggests,” HUB: Johns Hopkins News Network, January 8, 2014; http://hub.jhu.edu/2014/01/08/meditate-to-reduce-depression