What is Meditation?
Meditation is a practice in which a person trains attention and awareness of the mind. There are many variations and methods to this practice, but the general forms include freeing your mind of any conscious thought or actively focusing on something particular. Meditation most often involves breathwork at the same time.
Chanting, more aggressive breathwork, and even body movements and stretches are all forms of meditation, usually done in conjunction with Yoga.
Meditation is an age-old practice, and it is a part of religious practices in multiple religions.
It is a big part of spirituality, and different spiritual movements involve meditation practices to achieve higher levels of consciousness or other special experiences.
Why Should You Meditate?
There is plenty of research showing meditation's very powerful and highly varied positive effects. Even adding a very short routine of meditation can have a profound impact on your quality of life.
The following are some of the most important and well-demonstrated benefits of meditation:
- Increase in Self-awareness and Level of Consciousness:
When you start meditating, one of the first positive effects you will notice is you begin to learn new things about yourself, your environment, and your relationships.
- Stress Reduction:
Meditation has been shown to reduce stress and the health problems associated with a chronically high cortisol level. Chronically high-stress levels are a widespread problem today, and it’s something that aggravates almost all health conditions. Meditation has been shown to lower inflammatory cytokine levels released in response to stress. Our fast-paced urban lives make stress reduction a critical requirement.
- Management of Anxiety and Depression:
The mechanism for this is the same as the one in stress reduction, which is calming the body.
Meditation helps transition the body from a sympathetic to a parasympathetic state which enables recovery and healing. Anxiety sufferers, especially those having social anxiety, have repeatedly reported meditation as being effective in helping them. Meditation has been demonstrated to be as effective as popular antidepressant drugs. It has been shown to raise serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain, which are associated with a happier state.
- Boost in Concentration and Attention Span:
It goes without saying that learning to train and control the mind would improve concentration. Meditation has been shown to help with task completion and performance.
- Addiction Recovery:
Meditation has been reported to be very effective in people trying to recover from addictions and is utilised for drug rehabilitation. It aids in impulse control and combats the desire to give in to impulses. Meditation alone is more effective than certain comprehensive de-addiction programs.
- Improvement in Emotional Health, Making You Kinder and More Compassionate:
Meditation increases your positive thoughts and reduces negative ones. As previously stated, it has been shown to reduce depression and anxiety while increasing levels of serotonin and dopamine in our brain, both of which are associated with happiness. Meditation has been demonstrated to make people kinder and more compassionate toward themselves and those around them. Certain types of meditation, such as positive affirmation meditation and Metta, a Buddhist meditation practice, are specially primed for this purpose.
- Powerful changes in the brain:
Recent studies have shown something incredible about meditation. It can make very significant changes in brain structure and function. During meditation, the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with mental performance, grows larger, while the amygdala, which is associated with negative thoughts, shrinks. Meditation has been shown to reduce the loss of grey matter volume in the brain with ageing.
If you're wondering whether these observed brain changes translate into positive effects in practice, confirmatory research has shown that they do.
- Can Help Kids in School:
Meditation in the school environment has been shown to improve student performance, reduce suspensions, and increase attendance. This is a genuinely remarkable result.
How to get started
We recommend starting with short 5-10 minute meditation sessions where you simply clear your mind and focus it. These usually involve some basic breathwork as well. A couple of mobile apps very popular for offering free meditation tutorials are Headspace and Calm. You just connect your earphones/speaker and follow the guidance. They’re both very good, and we recommend them.
You can also do it on your own by closing your eyes, practising deep breathing, and allowing any thoughts to pass without being bothered by distracting thoughts.
Once you're comfortable with short meditation sessions, you can progress to more advanced techniques based on your preferences. There are numerous options to consider. We strongly recommend Dr Joe Dispensa's meditation as we ourselves use it at iThrive. Happy meditating!