It seems as though meditation is everywhere these days. It’s almost impossible to browse the internet without running into information about the benefits of meditation and it can be quite overwhelming. But it’s true, there are dozens of scientifically proven benefits of meditation.
What are the Benefits to Meditation?
The popularity of meditation is increasing as more people are discovering its benefits. Research has shown that meditation can give you a sense of calm, peace and balance that can benefit both your emotional wellbeing and your overall physical health.
Some of the psychological and emotional health related benefits of meditation include; better stress management, increased self-awareness, improved emotional wellbeing and better management of symptoms of conditions including anxiety disorders, depression and sleep disorders. One of the most common reasons people choose to meditate is stress reduction. Studies show that nearly 1,300 adults demonstrated that meditation may decrease stress. This effect was strongest in individuals with the highest level of stress. Less stress therefore means less anxiety. Studies have also shown that meditation reduces symptoms of anxiety disorders, such as phobias, social anxiety, paranoid thoughts, obsessive – compulsive behaviours and panic attacks. Some forms of mediation can also lead to improved self-image and a more positive outlook on life. Two studies of mindfulness meditation found decreased depression in over 4,600 adults. Research shows that maintaining an ongoing habit of meditation may help you maintain these benefits long term.
As well as psychological benefits, meditation also has positive physiological effects. These include a lower state of physical arousal, a stronger immune system, improved memory and a decreased heart rate. According to a study frequent meditation seems to improve immune system functions. They also produce positive long-term changes within the brain. As we age our brain functions gradually decline and memory loss can occur. Scientist now believe that regular meditation can help strengthen brain function and slow memory loss.
This all sounds amazing, so what actually is meditation?
Meditation is a mental exercise that involves relaxation, focus and awareness. It is a way to take responsibility for your own state of mind and train it to focus and redirect your thoughts. Meditation has been practised all over the world for thousands of years in many cultures. It can often be associated with religion as nearly every religion has a tradition of using meditative practices. Although meditation was originally meant to help deepen understanding of the sacred and spiritual forces of life, nowadays meditation is more commonly used for relaxation and stress reduction. During meditation, you focus your attention and disregard thoughts that might be crowding your mind and causing stress. This process is done with the intention to enhance physical and emotion well-being.
People often begin to practise meditation for three main reasons. The first is for specific benefits such as improving health, mental well-being and focus. The second, for growth. This includes emotion healing, self-knowledge, discipline and letting go. Finally, spirituality. This involves being in touch with God and to find inner peace. Meditation is said to be able to help your mind, body and soul.
How do you meditate?
If you are a beginner like myself you should have a look at my youtuube channel search Mitchell Stuart. Meditation it is recommended that you start slowly and increase when you gain confidence. There are no required skills or abilities needed for meditation. According to experts, just about anyone can learn how to practise meditation. To start many people often sit or lie comfortably in a relaxed position with their eyes closed. There is no right or wrong when it comes to meditation so you must do what feels most comfortable for you. Once you are comfortable make no effort to control your breath, simply breathe naturally. Focus all your attention on the breath and on how your body moves with every inhalation and exhalation. Try not to alter your breathing rate or intensity. If you find your mind wandering return your focus back to your breath. Since focusing the mind is challenging, a beginner might meditate for only a few minutes and then work up to a longer duration once becoming more confident and comfortable.
It is important to persevere as beginners often struggle to clear their mind and can lose focus. The practise of meditation requires training before you start to feel comfortable with it. Some of the benefits of meditation can be instantaneous but more often you will need patience to experience the long-term benefits. Although this is what is recommended to beginners of the practise, this is not by any means the only way to meditate.
What are the different types of meditation?
Meditation is often hard to define due to there being so many different types and ways in which it can be practised in different traditions. Some examples of different practises include; loving-kindness meditation, mantra meditation, transcendent meditation, kundalini yoga, zen meditation and walking meditation. Meditation can take on many different forms, but there are two main types; concentrative meditation and mindfulness meditation.
Concentrative meditation involves focusing on a single point or object and tuning out everything else around you. The aim is to really experience whatever it is that you are focusing on without distraction. This could be anything from your breath, a candles flame, single word or mantra in order to reach a higher state of being. In this form of meditation, if your mind wanders simply refocus your awareness back to the chosen object of your attention. Rather than pursuing these random thoughts, let them go. This process will improve your ability to concentrate.
Mindfulness meditation on the other hand encourages you to observe your wandering thoughts as they appear in your mind. The intention is not to get involved with these thoughts but to simply be aware of them as they arise. It allows you to focus on the present emotions, thoughts and sensations that you are experience at that moment.
Although it can be difficult to quiet your thoughts, with practise you will experience the benefits of both concentrative and mindfulness meditation. Resulting in benefits such as such as less stress and anxiety, lower heart rate and better self-awareness.
Although the practise of meditation may seem daunting and time consuming at first, the extensive list of both psychological and physical benefits are compelling. No matter the reason behind it, or the method you chose, frequently practising meditation is assured to positively benefit your emotional wellbeing and physical health. And therefore, greatly enhance your quality of life.