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Why Meditate?

By April 29, 2024June 3rd, 2024Mind Body Tools

If I told you there was a pill you could take that would relieve anxiety, help you feel more joy, lower your blood pressure, increase the anti-aging hormone DHEA and help reduce pain, would you take it? If I said you have to sit quietly for 10 minutes to ingest this pill, would you be willing to do that?

That magic pill is meditation.

Meditation not only soothes our mind but it also improves every function in our body. It allows our body to move away from fight/flight into rest/restore. Studies show it can reduce pain and support our immune system.

Research indicates it increases the length of our telomeres making us biologically younger, protecting our cells from aging, degeneration and disease.

A regular meditation practice has be associated with increased grey matter in the hippocampus, the area related to learning and memory, as well as areas related to self-awareness and compassion.

Meditation is a tool to restore our inherent state of balance and well-being. It is one of the best tools we have to balance our emotions, deal with physical or psychological distress and promote peace and joy for ourselves and others. Meditation can remove stress and replace it with a sense of calm. In the silence of meditation we get bursts of inspiration. We notice tender feelings of compassion towards ourselves and others.

Benefits of Meditation

If you’re wondering why meditate, research has established that a regular meditation practice produces tangible benefits for the body mind and spirit including:

Meditation Reduces Stress

Mediation enables us to release stress. In meditation, we go from fight or flight to rest and digest. We feel an inner state of calm.   A 2011 study published in the Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine Journal found that full-time workers who spent a few hours each week (15 minutes a day) practicing meditation reported a significant decrease in job stress, anxiety, and depressed mood.

Meditation Improves Memory and Concentration

Scientists used to believe that beyond a certain age, the brain couldn’t change or grow. We now know the brain has a quality known as plasticity, enabling it to grow new neurons and transform throughout our lives. Meditation is a powerful tool for awakening new neural connections and even transforming regions of the brain. A recent study led by Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital found that after only eight weeks of meditation participants experienced beneficial growth in the brain areas associated with memory, learning, empathy, self-awareness, and stress regulation.

Meditation helps us to stay focused even with all the distractions in our world. A study at the UCLA Mindful Awareness Center showed that teenagers and adults with ADHD who practiced various forms of meditation for just eight weeks improved their ability to concentrate on tasks, even when attempts were made to distract them.

Meditation Improves Creativity

When we quiet our mind we connect to what is known as the field of infinite possibilities or pure potentiality, and we open to new insights, intuition, and ideas. Meditating helps you “get into the flow”. Instead of being burdened by the past or worried about the future you are in the eternal “NOW”. The mind is in an open, receptive state and is able to receive flashes of insight and fresh perspectives.

Meditation Improves Happiness

Meditation triggers the brain to release neurotransmitters, including dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins. Each of these naturally occurring brain chemicals have been linked to different aspects of happiness.

  • Dopamine is linked to reward and focus
  • Serotonin calms us down
  • Oxytocin is the pleasure hormone. It gives us a feeling of security and contentment

Meditation Can Reduce Pain

Meditation can help people suffering from chronic pain. A study conducted by Wake Forest University School of Medicine (published in the April 2011 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience) found that participants who attended four 20-minute training sessions over the course of four days experienced a sharp reduction in their sensitivity to pain. In fact, the reduction in pain ratings was significantly greater than those found in similar studies involving placebo pills, morphine, and other painkilling drugs.

Additional Benefits of Meditation

  • Decreased blood pressure and hypertension
  • Lowered cholesterol levels
  • Reduced production of “stress hormones,” including cortisol and adrenaline
  • More efficient oxygen use by the body
  • Increased production of the anti-aging hormone DHEA
  • Improved immune function
  • Decreased anxiety, depression, and insomnia

Meditation Has Made Me Healthier

I have been meditating almost every day for the last 10 years. The more I do it, the more I love it. I enjoy the 15 minutes of letting go. It feels like coming home. This is why I meditate.

Meditation has helped me respond differently during challenging situations. When problems come up I can more easily take a few deep breaths and find my center. As a result I make better choices and my body spends less time in fight/flight. I realize I am more than this situation. I am more than the fear or judgement that arises. My digestion is stronger now. For years I wasn’t able to digest grains and beans. Now I eat them once or twice a week and feel great.

Meditation has also helped me to notice what I say to myself throughout the day. So when I hear myself say something not nice to myself like (ugh, you look terrible or you shouldn’t have eaten that), I can stop, take few deep breaths, love myself how ever I feel and choose a better feeling thought. One of my favorites is, ‘I love being in my magnificent body.’ I find I have a higher metabolism and it’s easier to maintain my natural body weight.

Saying I love you to myself no matter what is very soothing. This is a very powerful practice because our cells are always listening and do what we tell them. The field of psychoneuroimmunology has scientific research supporting the theory that “Our Cells are Listening to our Thoughts.” It’s better for my health to say something kind and loving to myself. Meditation helps me do this and makes me healthier and happier. I am also kinder to others even when they are challenging.

How To Meditate

There are many ways to meditate.  There is no single “correct” way to practice meditation.

The best way to meditate is the one that works for you.

Here’s a very simple meditation you can do each morning:

Seat yourself in a comfortable chair, or on a cushion on the floor. Keep your back as straight as possible, without straining. Take a deep breath or two, and then close your eyes.Focus on your breath. Notice your breath going in and out. You may want to focus on the space just underneath your nose but it’s not necessary.

Allow your thoughts to flow as they will. Don’t try to control them.

But don’t get too involved with your thoughts either. Don’t chase after them, and don’t push them away. Just let them pass through your mind, while you keep your attention – ever so lightly – on your breath.

If you lose track of your breath, that’s all right too. When you notice you’ve forgotten about your breath, just gently return your relaxed attention back to it. Be very gentle with yourself, don’t try too hard. Even if are able to focus on your breath for just a few minutes you’re doing great.

Do this practice for 5-20 minutes. When finished celebrate yourself for taking the time to quiet your mind.

Meditation Tips

Even though you know there are many health benefits to meditation, sometimes we have a hard time incorporating a daily meditation practice into our lives, I understand. Here are a few tips to help you create a regular meditation practice.

  • Meditate at the same time every day
  • Meditate in the same place. Sit in a comfortable place with a backrest if necessary, don’t slouch. If you have to, lie down, that is fine too.
  • Listen to the same music each time you meditate. This is optional but I find it very helpful. Your brain will associate the music with the meditative state allowing you to drop into meditation more easily. There are many meditation tracks on youtube Here is one I like. Click for Meditation Music
  • It is good to meditate when you wake up in the morning. This is a beneficial time. First, our busy schedules give us excuses to postpone the practice, second it is the best time to achieve optimal brainwave states.
  • Celebrate yourself for meditating. Tell yourself ‘good job‘. Feel pleasure for doing it. Celebrating gives a boost to your motivation. You create new neural pathways of pleasure for getting things done.
  • If possible sit in the bright sun while meditating. The sun on your closed eyelids produces melatonin and helps balance your circadian rhythms. You will sleep better.

Additional Meditations You May Like

I hope this information inspires you to give meditation a try. Namaste.

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