Meditation: How Practicing It Brings Effective Health Benefits
Meditation is a practice where specific techniques such as consciousness, or focusing the mind on a particular object, thinking, or action are done. This technique helps you to practice mindfulness, awareness, and to achieve a clear state of mental and emotional stability.
There are hundreds of meditation techniques. These practices encompass different traditions, religions, cultures, and spiritual disciplines. Below are just a few.
Mindfulness meditation is the method of being fully present with your mind. Being conscious means being aware of where we are and what we do, and not be overly reactive to what is happening nearby.
You can practice mindful meditation anywhere. Some people prefer to sit in a calm place, with their eyes closed, and focused on their breathing. When practicing mindfulness meditation, you notice your thoughts and emotions, but let them pass without judgment.
Transcendental meditation is a simple technique assigned a personal mantra, like words, sounds, or a small phrase, repeated. It practiced 20 minutes twice each day while sitting with your eyes closing. This technique will allow you to settle into a deep state of relaxation, with the aim of reaching inner peace.
Guided meditation, which is frequently called guided imagery or visualization, is a meditation method in which you form a mental picture of you relaxing. A guide or teacher usually leads this process. It is advised to use as many senses as possible, such as smells, sounds, and textures, to evoke tranquility.
A BASIC MEDITATION FOR BEGINNERS
Meditation is not some magical process of wiping your mind clear. The purpose is to practice bringing our attention to our breath. If your mind wanders, always return to focusing on your breathing.
- Get comfortable. Prepare to sit quietly. Once you stop reading this, you will just focus on your natural inhale and exhale.
- Focus on your breath. Where do you feel your breath most? In your stomach? In your nose? Try to keep your attention on inhaling and exhaling.
- Follow your breath for two minutes. Take a deep inhale, expand your belly, and then exhale slowly, elongating your stomach out-breath.
If you are experiencing interference (and we all do), you have made an important discovery: simply put, it is the opposite of consciousness.
It’s when we live in our heads on automatic pilot letting our minds go here and instead of living in the present time. But that is where most of us live most of the time and quite comfortable, if we are honest, right? But it does not have to be like that.
It’s important to learn how to recognize when our minds are all over the place. Pause from that a little while so we can select what we want to focus on. In short, meditation helps us have a more healthy relationship with ourselves.
WHY LEARN TO MEDITATE?
When we meditate, we inject far and long-lasting benefits in our lives. And as a bonus: You do not need any additional equipment or other people.
Here are five reasons to meditate:
- Understand your pain
- Lower your stress
- Connect better
- Improve focus
- Reduce brain chatter
WAYS TO MEDITATE
Meditation is simple, but more challenging than most think. Settle in a quiet environment, where you can relax in the process, set a timer, and give it a try.
- Take A Seat: Sit still and quiet.
- Set A Time Limit: Select a little, such as five or ten minutes.
- Observe Your Body’s Stance: Try sitting in a chair with your feet on the floor, or you can sit cross-legged. You can kneel as well. Make sure you are steady, and in a position, you can stay in for a while.
- Feel Your Breath: Follow the sensation of your breath when walking, and with when moving.
- Notice When Your Mind Has Wandered: Inevitably, your focused attention will leave a breather as they are walking. When you realize that your brain has wandered for a few seconds, minutes, or even five minutes, just return your attention to your breathing.
- Your Mind Likes To Wander: Don’t judge yourself or obsess over your internal thoughts. Just come back to your focus.
Meditation is increasing in popularity as more people discover its benefits. It is the process of training your mind to focus and direct your thoughts. You can use it to enhance awareness of yourself and your environment. Many people use it as a method to reduce stress and develop concentration. In addition, you can use exercise to develop beneficial habits and feelings, such as positive mood and outlook, self-discipline, a healthy sleep pattern and even enhanced pain patience.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF MEDITATION
- REDUCE THE STRESS IN YOUR LIFE
One reason people try meditation is to bring calm into their life. One study involving more than 3,500 adults showed that it lives up to its reputation for reducing stress.
Mental and physical stress causes an increase in levels of the stress hormone cortisol. It produces many harmful effects, such as the release of inflammation-promoting chemicals called cytokines.
This effect can disturb sleep, promote depression and anxiety, increase blood pressure, and contribute to fatigue and cloudy thinking.
In an eight-week study, the meditation style called “mindfulness meditation” reduced the inflammatory response caused by stress. Another study in nearly 1,300 adults showed that meditation could reduce stress. In particular, this effect was most influential in people with the highest levels of stress.
- CONTROLS ANXIETY
Less stress translates into less anxiety. For example, a study of eight weeks of mindfulness meditation helped participants reduce their anxiety. It also reduces the symptoms of anxiety disorders, such as phobias, social anxiety, paranoid thoughts, obsessive-compulsive behavior, and severe panic attacks.
Another study followed up with volunteers three years after they completed the meditation program for eight weeks. Some volunteers continued to practice meditation regularly and maintain a lower level of anxiety. A more extensive study in 2,466 participants also suggests that different strategies of meditation can reduce anxiety levels. For example, yoga helps reduce anxiety. Both the practice of meditation and physical activity might be a real benefit.
- PROMOTES EMOTIONAL HEALTH
Some forms of meditation can drive an increase in self-image and a more positive outlook. Two studies found reductions in depression mindfulness meditation over 4,600 adults. One study followed 18 volunteers while they practice meditation for three years. The participants experienced a long-term decrease in depression.
Inflammatory chemical products called cytokines released in response to stress may affect your mood leading to depression. A review of several studies has shown meditation can reduce depression by reducing inflammatory chemicals. Another controlled study compared the electrical activity between the brains of people who practice mindfulness meditation, and other’s who don’t. Those who meditate show a measurable change in activity in the areas associated with positive thinking and optimism.
- LEARN TO BE YOUR BEST SELF
Meditation can help you develop a strong understanding of yourself. It also enables you to grow into your best self. For example, self-inquiry meditations’ explicit goal is to help you have a better understanding of self and how you connect to people around you.
Another form teaches you to recognize the thoughts that might be harmful to yourself. The idea is that when you gain a greater awareness of the habits of your mind, you can direct them toward a more constructive pattern.
Another study of 21 women fighting breast cancer discovered that when they take part in a tai chi program, their self-esteem increased more than that of those who receive social support sessions. In another study, 40 seniors and women who took a mindfulness meditation program experienced feeling less lonely than a control group placed on a waiting list for the program.
- LENGTHENS ATTENTION SPAN
Focused-attention meditation is like the heavy lifting for your attention span. When you are focused, it helps improve the strength and durability of your attention. For instance, a study researched the effects of an eight-week mindfulness meditation course and found it increases participants’ ability to reorient for longer periods of time.
Another study showed that HR workers who regularly practice mindfulness meditation stay on task longer. These workers also remember the details of the task. They are better than their counterparts who did not practice meditation. Besides, the review concluded that meditation might even reverse patterns in the brain that contribute to mind-wandering, worrying, and poor attention.
Even if you meditate for short periods it can benefit you. Even four to five days of meditation training may be enough to increase your attention span.
- MAY REDUCE AGE-RELATED MEMORY LOSS
Improvement of attention and clarity of thought can help keep your mind young. Kirtan Kriya is a meditation method that incorporates mantras or chants with repetitive movements of the fingers to concentrate. Kirtan Kriya increases the ability of participants to perform memory tasks in several studies of age-related memory loss. A review found that some meditation styles increase in attention, memory, and mental speed on older volunteers.
- HERE’S HOW TO DECREASE YOUR HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
Want to reduce the strain on your heart? Meditation can improve your physical health. High blood pressure, over time, forces your heart to work harder to pump blood, leading to poor heart function. High blood pressure also adds to atherosclerosis, or narrowing of the arteries, leading to heart attack and stroke.
When you meditate by focusing on “silent mantra” – a repetitive word unvoiced – it reduces blood pressure by about five points, on average. The silent mantra was more effective in older volunteers and higher blood pressure before the study.
- IMPROVES SLEEP
Almost half of the population struggles with insomnia at some point. One study compared two mindfulness-based meditation programs. One group practiced meditation, while the other did not. Participants who meditate fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, compared with those who did not meditate. Being skilled in meditation can help you control or direct the “runaway” thoughts that often cause insomnia.
MEDITATION IS SOOTHING AND ENERGIZES YOU
Enjoy the breath meditation energy.
In this particular meditation, you use a combination of relaxation, attention, and a gentle smile on your face to lift your mood and your energy levels.
We are adopting an upright position.
Make sure you’re back is relatively straight, and your chest open with your shoulders. Having a open, upright, dignified posture can help to give you more energy.
Take three deep in- and out-breaths.
Relax, so that you feel the breath moving in and out of your body.
Place one hand on your chest and one side on your belly.
On your next in-breath, make sure that you are breathing down on your stomach. Keep in mind the hand on your chest should remain relatively still, if possible.
Breathe out slowly from your mouth.
Feel the physical sensations as you do.
When you inhale, imagine the energy you feel.
Imagine gold light coming into your body, nourishing all your cells with soothing, lifting energy if you are a visual person. If you do not like the golden light, select any image that works for you. Remember you’re in control.
You are keeping a light smile on your face.
Doing so can help to increase your energy.
You are guiding your attention back whenever your mind wanders.
Do it with kindness and gentleness.
Bring meditation to a close after ten minutes or less.
Slowly open your eyes.
Meditation has been around for over 2,500 years, but was not taken seriously. That is until a group of psychologists had the courage to put the ancient ideas to the test.
So, like these psychologists, why don’t you challenge yourself? For the next 30 days, meditate for 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening and take a few 5-minute mindfulness breaks throughout the day. Before you know it, practicing meditation for health benefits will be your biggest motivator.
This article was written by Sherry L. Harris.