‘Meditation is a vital way to purify and quiet the mind, thus rejuvenating the body.’ Deepak Chopra
Reading the news online the other day, I discovered that meditation is really trending at the moment as it offers so many benefits ranging from reducing stress and improving sleep to great general health and improved concentration. In our socially distanced office, meditation came up in conversation the other day. One of my colleagues said she had read that it can help women suffering from PMS and a recent study amongst students at Iran University had shown significant improvements in easing PMS. I decided it was time to learn more about the unexpected and lesser-known benefits of meditation...
I admit that I did not know too much about meditation, other than it is thousands of years old and linked to religions like Hinduism and Buddhism. There are nine different types of meditation and mindfulness meditation, which originated from Buddhist teachings, and is the most popular type in the west. I also knew that numerous scientific studies each year prove meditation has far-reaching effects and that there are millions of people around the world, who will testify how meditation has had a positive impact on their lives. I was certainly intrigued to learn more – especially as someone else in the office had suggested that meditation can slow down the ageing process. I was keen to investigate!
The beauty of meditation is that it does not involve any special equipment and can be undertaken anywhere and just 10 minutes of regular meditation will reap many lasting benefits – which definitely has bonuses in our busy lives. Time to give it a go!
The essence of mindfulness meditation is to sit or kneel comfortably in a quiet place and to focus and anchor your thoughts on your breathing. Every time your thoughts begin to wander, they must be re-focused on each breath you take. This may sound easy, but most people who try meditating for the first time, find that their mind begins to wander in seconds – and I was no exception!
It takes patience and self-kindness to develop your meditational skills. A real bonus is that mindfulness meditation is ideal for those who want to practice on their own and do not have a teacher to guide them. (https://www.mindful.org/ how-to-meditate/ )
By silencing the thoughts in your mind through meditation, you can bring calm, peace, and balance to your life and the effects of meditation are long-lasting and far-reaching. Mindfulness meditation achieves this because it can cause structural changes to the brain and these change the way in which the brain functions.
‘The soothing power of repetition is at the heart of meditation. Focusing on the breath, ignoring thoughts, and repeating a word or phrase- a mantra - creates the biological response of relaxation’,explains Stan Chapman, PhD, from the Center for Pain Medicine at Emory Healthcare in Atlanta.
Meditation reduces stress levels
Trying to deal with stress is the most common reason for people to turn to meditation and one that particularly interested me. When a person is either physically or mentally stressed, the level of cortisol (the ‘stress hormone’) rises and this, in turn, causes the release of inflammatory chemicals called cytokines. When this happens, the person can have raised blood pressure and feel anxious and depressed as well as feeling continually tired and drained – something we had also mentioned in the office. On one website, it said that even after eight weeks meditators found these symptoms had noticeably reduced.
Interestingly, those suffering from stress-related conditions such as IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and Fibromyalgia can enjoy an easing of their condition through meditation.
Meditation is healing
A person in chronic pain caused by a medical condition is often depressed too and unable to control their pain. It has been found that practising meditation can be beneficial for helping to control pain. With meditation, not only do people with chronic pain cope better, their depression and anxiety are eased and this, in turn, improves the quality of life.
The good news is that practicing meditation for just 20-30 minutes, several times a week will make a difference and give your immune system a boost too. This will help protect you from all types of illness and infections – something we are particularly sensitive about at the moment.
Did you know that regular Meditation can help strengthen a woman’s body at different stages in their life? As well as really helping mild to moderate PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome), meditation is beneficial during breastfeeding and can ease symptoms of menopause. At these times in our lives, our sleep is often quickly impaired, making it difficult to cope with work, home, and family. This success story I read in Aactiv Magazine is just one of thousands online:
“I cannot say for certain what one specific thing made meditation work for me. I think I was just so desperate to find a solution to relearn how to sleep easily and calm down. I had faith that because so many people were doing it, it would work for me—and it has done so, beautifully. Learning to meditate has cured me of eight years of chronic insomnia for which I used to take tablets, which I now no longer need.” Mary, Austin, Texas
Meditation brings balance to your life
Modern life is stressful and I certainly find juggling work and home life challenging. Meditation can successfully reduce stress levels, which is why it appeals to me. It is gaining in popularity with all types of people including those working in government, medicine, and industry, as well as popular celebrities like Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, and Ellie Goulding. Meditation also helps to improve mood and self-control. Those who meditate regularly have improved self-image, a more positive outlook on life, and are more self-disciplined.
I also like the idea that meditation helps people to develop a greater understanding of themselves and this heightened self-awareness can help to develop self-confidence, creative thoughts and skills, and problem-solving abilities.
Yoga can improve a person’s connection with other people, how they perceive them, and how they interact with them. The Metta style of meditation focuses on improving a person’s positive emotions and interactions with others. The Buddhist scriptures suggest -
‘Knowing that the other person is angry, one who remains mindful and calm acts for his own best interest and for the other’s interest, too.’’
There are other bonuses, too.
Have you felt that your mind is often cluttered with thoughts and ideas? Regular meditation can help improve focus, attention, and memory. Doing very little regularly for a period of time is actually beneficial and can make you more productive. Meditating helps tidy your brain and gives you space to sort through and disregard unwanted thoughts. This helps you to focus much better. I love the idea that just 15 minutes of meditation each day can noticeably improve memory and attention span. Looking to the future, medical studies are currently taking place to determine whether meditation can have positive benefits on those suffering from Dementia.
Meditation is beneficial for everyone and is ideal because it can be done anywhere, at any time, and needs no special equipment. Meditation can be done on your own, on a course, or in a local support group and there is a style of meditation that will suit you well. There are some great apps to download on your smartphone such as Breethe or Calmand the market leader is Headspacewith 65 million downloads. I love ‘techie’ so am looking to invest in the clips that you slip behind your ears. They track your brain activity and also monitor your breathing, physical movement, and heart rate while you meditate.
Meditation is a great way to improve your life. Why not check out these apps and discover the benefits of meditation today?