Most people think of meditation as sitting cross-legged somewhere, hands in some yoga position, eyes closed, humming ‘ooommmm’, looking for inner peace. And it can be exactly that, but meditation is an incredibly adaptable practice that can take place almost anywhere, anyhow you like. It’s also not only for avid yogis and free spirits. Meditation is great for simple stress and anxiety relief – ideal for anyone in the busy, frantic world we know. The point of meditation is to find some mental clarity an calm.
Millions of people meditate. Some of the most successful people in the world meditate. Companies like Google and Apple have scheduled it into their staff’s work day. Why? Science. The health benefits are undeniable, so take a moment to learn why you should be taking more ‘moments’ for yourself.
What happens to your brain when you meditate?
For the sceptics out there, it’s science. Meditation has been proven to significantly, and positively, affect our brain health and function. According to Harvard neuroscientist, Sara Lazar, areas of the brain associated with healthy brain function become more substantial, while those associated with undesirable behaviour actually shrink.
Noticeable improvement in:
- Learning, memory retention, focus
- Spatial orientation,
- Emotional regulation in self-awareness, empathy and compassion
- Sleep and physical functions
- Anxiety and stress regulation
This, after only 8 weeks of meditating for 40 minutes a day. It seems like a lot, and it is for most of us, but even just 5 minutes a day(consistently) can make a difference.
Meditation and mindfulness are incredibly interlinked, and a good place to start is listening to your body.
Practical reasons why you should be meditating
Keep your mind sharp.
Lazar’s data also proved that meditation may slow or prevent age-related thinning of the frontal cortex (the area responsible for memory).
- 40-50 year-old meditators had the same amount of grey matter in their cortex as the 20-30 year-old meditators.
A study from UCLA found that long-term meditators had better preserved brains. Although there was some volume loss in the brain, it was not as much as the non-meditators.
It also improves your concentration and attention span. ‘Focussed attention’ meditation can strengthen and improve your attention and its endurance. Here’s more on that study. It can also help reduce the tendency towards mind-wandering and unnecessary worrying.
Reduce stress, anxiety, pain and depression
Most commonly, meditation is used for stress relief and relaxation. Stress trigger an inflammatory response leading to various stress-related conditions. Research has shown that meditation could also improve stress-related conditions such as IBS, PTSD and more.
A research study at Johns Hopkins looked at the relationship between meditation and reduction of symptoms of depression, anxiety and pain. It found that meditation and antidepressant medications had the same effect on the brain.
Although meditation it isn’t a magic cure for depression, as no treatment is, it is one of the tools that can manage the symptoms.
Lower your blood pressure
Hypertension or high blood pressure can put significant strain on your heart overtime. Certain types of meditation can help alleviate this strain by relaxing nerve signals to the heart and control our ‘fight or flight’ response to stressful situations. This is both an immediate response as well as a long term benefit of regular meditation.
Where to start?
Meditation is no longer for the yoga fanatics. It is widely practised, and there are over 200 apps to help you on your meditative journey. One of the great things about meditation is that you don't need to know yoga to do it – and as an added bonus, you don't need rolling hills, an ocean or even space!
There are over 16 types of meditation, but here are the most basic forms of meditation:
‘Focussed attention’ or ‘mindful’ meditation
- Focus on a single, specific thing like breathing, a spoken mantra or specific sound – ‘om’.
- Ridding the mind of distraction and continually bring your attention back to the focal point.
- where you pay attention to all of the things happening around you,
- you notice, but you don’t react.
When practised in conjunction with a healthy exercise regimen and balanced diet, the benefits of meditation are amplified. So do some research and delve into the different practices that could work for you. At the end of our Integrated Movement Routines, there are a number of minutes dedicated to calm and breath, so if you’re looking combine your meditative and exercise times together, we’ve got you covered.