When meditation is thought of, often people think of a dimly lit room with flickering candles, excessive amounts of ornate pillows, smoke billowing up from incense, and someone sitting cross-legged and gently humming some sort of strange chant.
According to Google, mindfulness, a form of meditation, is the quality of having a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
People often disassociate the brain from the body. Even though the two tend to work in tandem in more ways than the majority of people think.
Consider stress. When you’re stressed the brain releases hormones called adrenaline and cortisol. While these hormones are good if you’re in a situation that requires you to expend energy, like having a rabid dog chase you, they are not so good in day to day life. But, alas, stress is something everyone experiences on a regular basis. All types of stress can release adrenaline and cortisol.
Adrenaline can increase your blood pressure and heart rate. Cortisol increases glucose (sugar) in the blood. Prolonged exposure to these hormones can make you depressed, anxious, give you headaches and sleep problems. The bigger worries can include heart disease and weight gain.
So how does one reduce stress to prevent these harmful hormones? With meditation, it can be as simple as breathing. Literally.
In short, using simple techniques and being aware of your breathing, thoughts, and present state, you are, in theory, able to reduce or eliminate stress and all health issues that follow.
- Set aside between 10 and 30 minutes of time to meditate
- Find an area that is quiet and free of distraction
- Get in a comfortable position (preferably just sitting)
- Close your eyes
- Bring your thoughts and attention to the sensations of your body.
- Breathe in deeply, through the nose, allowing your belly to thoroughly expand and fill with air
- Breathe out through your mouth until no more breath remains, but not straining
- Pay attention to each sensation during the inhale and the exhale
- Your mind will wander from noticing the sensations, that’s okay, just try to bring your mind back to focusing on each sensation
- When focusing on your sensations, focus on anything from your toes to your head
- Repeat for 10-30 minutes.
This video can help you in your experience with meditation. It will provide you with the cues needed to meditate effectively.
As you become more proficient in your meditation, increase the time that you spend on meditating more and more. The effects of meditation can be immediate, and last for hours. There is generally an instant feeling of relaxation, lowered stress, and overall sense of awareness.
Meditation can have a positive effect on your concentration. You may find that things are less distracting when performing a task. While it helps with the concentration on a single task, it can also help better your abilities to multitask.
Your memory may also improve. This is due to the brain receiving an increase level of oxygen and lowered amounts of stress hormones. The research is still out on the validity of memory increasing, but there are promising studies happening that show that the memories of those who meditate have increased folds in their brains that may mean better memory abilities and more.
There are a massive list of surprising benefits to meditating. Among the many, increased happiness was one that researchers were able to find rather quickly. Studies show that regular meditation has increased the signaling in the left side of the prefrontal cortex, the area responsible for positive emotions, while decreasing the number of signals in the right prefrontal cortex, the area responsible for negative emotions.
Other benefits are a little more difficult to quantify. One of these is the encouragement to a healthy lifestyle. The idea behind this benefit is that by reflecting upon one’s own self through meditation, you also want to better one’s self in other ways. This, of course, is not a neurological side-effect of meditation, but rather a lifestyle choice because of meditation. Either way, it’s not a bad thing. Wanting to be better, eat better, and do better is never a cause for concern and always welcomed.
With all the benefits, potential or guaranteed, meditation is something that you should give a try and see what it can do for you. If nothing else, it’ll give you some time in your day to reflect and be calm, and in this day and age, that’s a wonderful thing.
While mindfulness is a great thing, it’s only one part of the equation to better physical and mental health. The Bonaventure Senior Living Twitter has information to help you on your journey to being a better you.