Benefits of Meditation As Backed by Science
In this highly connected and fast-paced world, we’re finding ways to find relief to the stresses in life. One of the age-old methods of calming and relaxing the mind is meditation.
For thousands of years, various civilizations across different races, religions, and communities have practiced meditation. But because of busyness brought about by technological developments and career ambitions, we often trade off this activity in favor of “urgent” and “important” tasks. We often see meditating for a few minutes as a practice that wastes of our time and grabs our attention away from our personal goals. Thanks to wellness and new gurus, along with the latest scientific findings, we are being reintroduced to the ancient method for boosting mental and emotional health.
What is Meditation?
Meditation is a set of activities and techniques aimed to reach a heightened state of awareness and focused attention. Even though this has been practiced in various ways in different religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Islam to boost spirituality, now, mental health professionals are encouraging people to include this practice in their daily lives.
People meditate in different ways. However, they can be divided into two types: concentrative and mindfulness.
In concentrative meditation, you should zero in all your attention on a particular thing without minding anything else around you.
Mindfulness meditation, on the other hand, involves engagement in a state of increased awareness in the present moment by making yourself open and accepting to the sensations without judging. It takes the form of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR).
Benefits Of Meditation
Mental health professionals use both concentrative and mindfulness types for many science-backed physiological and psychological benefits such as:
1. Stress Reduction
Coping with stress is the most common reason why people try to meditate. By engaging in this activity, you can lower the production of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, in your body. One of the adverse effects of cortisol in the blood is the release of cytokines, a substance that promotes inflammation in the body. When the body suffers from inflammation, it causes anxiety, depression, and sleep disruption. It can also jack up blood pressure, contribute to fatigue, and fuzzy thinking.
When done regularly, mindfulness meditation can reduce inflammation that triggers these health conditions in the body. It is also found to lower the improve the symptoms of fibromyalgia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), irritable bowel syndrome, and other stress-related conditions.
2. Lengthened attention span
In a world where you can encounter distractions everywhere, you need a way to strengthen the focus of your attention and thoughts. One such tool is meditation. It acts as a technique to train and practice the mind to focus and put undivided attention on a particular task. A study found that human resource employees who practice mindfulness activities maintain their focus longer than their peers who don’t practice the activities. Not only have they achieved prolonged attention span, but their memory also benefitted. Meditating habitually could change the brain patterns that lead to worrying, mind-wandering, and short attention span.
3. Improved Sleep
Sleep is one of your most significant life activities. Lack of shuteye can lead to a wide range of physical and mental ailments. However, despite the importance of getting quality sleep every night, Americans and many people from other developed countries lack quality sleep. Because of racing thoughts and distractions during the day, their minds fail to relax. Doing mindfulness exercises routinely helps your mind and body to relax, which is the number one requirement for a restful sleep.
4. Improved immunity
Scientists found that routine mindfulness-based muscle relaxation exercises can lower the risk of various diseases such as viral infections and cancer. These researchers discovered that daily sessions of the activity could reduce the risk of recurrence of breast cancer. In a research study on the effects of meditation, the authors concluded that regular practice of mindfulness and relaxation exercises contributed to the increase of the production of lymphocytes in patients. Lymphocytes are white blood cells that boost the immune system.
5. Boost in emotional health
While meditation is a solitary activity, it can help increase emotional wellbeing by improving self-image and promoting a more positive outlook on life. Meditation also quiets the mind and relaxes the body to help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. By having a better perspective in life, it can encourage better social connection and increase emotional intelligence.
6. Fighting addictive behaviors and impulsiveness
Devoting your time to meditating can help discipline the mind and can help you break impulsiveness that can lead to addictive behaviors. Researchers discovered that meditating could help people boost their willpower, which is substantial in controlling emotions and behaviors which, if not checked, can lead to addiction.
7. Lower blood pressure
Meditating regularly can make it easy for the heart to pump blood. This activity can relax the nerve signals that coordinate the function of the heart and reduce the tension in blood vessels. As mentioned above, meditation can reduce the release of cortisol that leads to an increased heartbeat and blood pressure.
The resurgence of meditation as a popular wellness activity is a blessing for many people, especially those who suffer from mental and emotional health issues. Devoting a part of your time to this activity can lead you to a better stress-free and well-balanced life.
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