Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years and is usually associated with religious and spiritual practices. In recent times though, scientists have studied the effects of meditation and have been able to show that it does influence the mind and the emotions in a positive way giving us a more reason to consider it.
In a study published online in the journal Brain Research Bulletin, the researchers found that people trained to meditate over an eight-week period were better able to control a specific type of brain waves called alpha rhythms. “These activity patterns are thought to minimize distractions, to diminish the likelihood stimuli will grab your attention,” says Christopher Moore, an MIT neuroscientist and senior author of the paper. “Our data indicate that meditation training makes you better at focusing, in part by allowing you to better regulate how things that arise will impact you. They learn to be aware of where their attention is focused and not get stuck on a certain area.”
Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, recorded the brain waves of stressed-out employees of a high-tech firm in Madison, Wisconsin. The subjects were split randomly into two groups, 25 people were asked to learn meditation over eight weeks, and the remaining 16 were left alone as a control group. All participants had their brain waves scanned three times during the study: at the beginning of the experiment, when meditation lessons were completed eight weeks later and four months after that. The researchers found that the meditators showed a pronounced shift in activity to the left frontal lobe. In other words, they were calmer and happier than before.
What I like the most about it is that anyone can meditate, anywhere. It’s free and all ages of people can do it.
How to Start Meditating
Now, you can take lessons to master the finer points of meditation but it is possible to get the benefits from sitting back and listening to a guided meditation recording. I have used this approach and much prefer it. Breathing and breath control are integral parts of meditation and simple breathing exercises can give you similar benefits to meditating like a Zen monk. Here are few websites I have found helpful in getting started:
- Free Meditation
- The Guided Meditation Site
- Simply Being
Benefits of Meditation
Since I have started meditation, even just 5 minutes some days, I have noticed huge benefits. Here are just a few:
- Relieves stress. Stress is a growing health problem brought about by the fast pace of modern life. We have been taught to want more and then have do more to get it. This leads to stress which, if left unchecked, can create serious health issues. Meditation relieves stress and gives you strategies for dealing with stressful situations. Regular meditation sessions help to calm your mind and sort conflicting thoughts. After meditation, many people report that they feel more in control, can manage the stress, have greater clarity of mind and are more productive. Knowing that you can expect results like this will give you confidence to use meditation to help you handle stress in your life. Many wellness programs include mediation as part of their programs because they have seen the results participants get from regular meditation.
- Improves sleep. Many people suffer from insomnia or some form of sleep disorder. Chronic sleep disorders can lead to depression, stress and anxiety. If sleep doesn’t come easily to you, you will probably be aware that you are being bombarded by multiple thoughts as soon as you close your eyes. When you meditate for just 15 to 20 minutes before going to bed, you will find that you slip gently into a deep, relaxing sleep. Meditation clears away the clutter of thoughts in your mind (a.k.a monkey brain) to allow sleep to come naturally.
- Increases your productivity. Regular meditation helps you to organize your thoughts by allowing you to observe your feelings and thoughts. Meditation makes you more grounded and calm, so you are able to remain focused and to make better decisions. You are able to organize your thoughts and respond to problems positively. It helps you be clear-thinking and rational in the face of difficulty. You are able to be more present in situations rather than getting caught up with negative thoughts. Being present allows for shorter reaction times, more focused effort and increased efficiency.
- Increases self-awareness. The human brain is capable of processing thousands of thoughts at a time. Most of these thoughts just pass through without us even being aware of it. How many times has someone told you something that you have absolutely no recollection of? I can list a fair few times this has happened to me. Meditation allows you to clarify your thoughts and increases your awareness of more of the thoughts that pass through your brain. This means that you gradually become more aware of what you are actually thinking, how you feel and what you really want. You can make decisions faster and with greater accuracy.
- Allows you to improve your work-life balance. When you live a balanced life, you are more fulfilled, happier and get greater satisfaction from your life. You are also a better partner, friend and colleague. You are calmer, think more clearly and act more decisively; you know what you want and can work out how to get it.
Meditation does for the mind what spring cleaning does for the home; it clears away the clutter and cobwebs. It is like a vacation for the mind and the emotions. Meditation works like defragging your computer; it puts everything in order. After meditating, you will feel energized and rejuvenated. At least that is what I have found.
So, have ever tried meditating? What kind of benefits did you find?
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