In this feature, I am going to cover the benefits of meditation and how to meditate effectively. If you are looking for a greater sense of inner calm, peace of mind, greater energy, a feeling of joy and vibrant health, increased focus, positive relationships and fulfilment in life, then read on and get ready for tranquillity.
Before you go and dismiss the benefits of meditation and how to meditate, thinking that you will have to jump on a plane to Nepal, trek and climb to a nearby monastery in the Himalayan foothills, shave your head and become a Buddhist Monk and attain spiritual enlightenment, fear not.
As fun as that sounds – well to me it does anyway, I find that rather appealing 🙂 – there is an easier way to experience the proven benefits of applying meditation in your own life.
Meditation is something that can be learnt, enjoyed and mastered in the comfort of your own home. The benefits of meditation and its efficacy has been well documented and proven by many scientific studies over the years.
I know when I first started to meditate just over 4 years ago, that even after 1 week of meditating just 10 minutes each morning, I found my mind was not so busy and chaotic with all the stuff I had to do or get finished. My mind became calmer and I had a greater sense of inner peace. Which is no bad thing!
One of the other things I noticed is that I was more focused on completing tasks and did not jump from one thing to another trying to get loads of things finished at once. I was able to focus on one task at a time, without the disruption of other things popping into my head. This was great for me as I am not one the world’s best when it comes to multitasking.
In fact, if I am to be completely honest with you, I am absolutely useless at multitasking, so it was a huge relief to me to discover that practising meditation even after one week, changed my whole working day.
I was more productive, more relaxed, also far more enjoyable and less stressed and have even found my ideas and thoughts to be clearer, less cluttered and more creative. It was amazing to see that the productiveness of doing nothing was more productive than doing more.
If meditation can show great improvements in just one week, what could it do in 4, 8, or even 24 weeks?
John Denninger, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, conducted a five-year study on how the ancient practice of meditation affects genes and brain activity in the chronically stressed, by adopting a technology known as neuro-imaging and genomics technology which allows scientists to measure physiological changes in greater detail.
“There is a true biological effect,” said Denninger, “The kinds of things that happen when you meditate do have effects throughout the body, not just in the brain”.
Meditation offers two principal benefits:
- Prevents stress from entering the body
- Releases built-up stress in the body
Both of these happen together when meditating meaning you really do feel refreshed and uplifted.
The Physical Benefits
The benefits of mindfulness meditation on the human body actually goes through some very interesting physiological changes with meditation even down to cellular health.
Every single cell in the body is filled with higher levels of energy called ‘Prana’, which is the Sanskrit word for ‘Lifeforce’ which happens by entering your body through your breath and is then sent to every cell in the body through your circulatory system. Science refers to these physiological benefits of meditation as the ‘Relaxation Response’.
Other physical benefits include:
- Dramatic reduction in stress and anxiety due to lowered levels of blood lactate
- Increases energy level (inner source of energy)
- Improved physical well-being
- Improved immune system
- Increases serotonin production for improved behaviour and mood
- Decreases tension pain, such as, tension headaches, ulcers, insomnia, muscle and joint problems
- Improves mood and behaviour due to increased production of serotonin
- Improves and strengthens the immune system
- Lowers high blood pressure
- Better, more restful and refreshing sleep
When meditating your brain activity enters into an Alpha brainwave state. The mind becomes fresh, delicate and beautiful.
With regular practice of meditation:
- Improved mental and emotional stability
- Creativity increases
- A greater sense of inner peace and tranquillity
- More happiness and flow increases in your life
- Intuition develops
- Improved confidence and self-esteem
- Gain clarity and peace of mind
- Problems become smaller and more manageable
- Reduces the tendency to immediately react, and increases the tendency to respond in a more constructive way
- Meditation sharpens the mind by gaining focus and expands through relaxation meaning a reduction in tension, anger and frustration (An expanded consciousness without sharpness can lead to lack of action/progress)
- Makes us mentally stronger so we are able to face any situation with greater positivity and a smile
- Meditation makes you aware – that your inner attitude determines your happiness
There is no escaping turbulent situations in life, but we can learn to deal with them and face them in calm relaxed way with a smile. Meditation helps us to navigate our life and live it with a clear uncluttered and focused mind.
Although there are many great on-line resources providing information on the benefits of meditation, through my own experiences of learning and applying meditation to my life, I am sharing the ones I have found helped me more than others.
Here are two online teaching platforms I would recommend as a place to start…
Calm is a visual and guided audio meditation platform with sessions lasting 5 to 30 minutes. It’s free and can get you started. They also teach how to meditate http://www.calm.com/
I really like this one, and still, use it to this day. You can take part in their 10 days 10 minute guided sessions which also teaches you how to meditate. The founder Andy Puddicombe gives some teaching videos which are great if you are a total beginner, as he also goes over many of the myths about meditation and teaches you how to meditate effectively even when you are walking or brushing your teeth, yep, you can be mindful even when walking and brushing your teeth. I am a big fan of headspace and helped me more than using Calm.
This is just my personal preference.
There is also an app you can use on your smartphone and get random messages sent to your phone throughout the day informing you about the benefits of meditation. I highly recommend this site. http://www.headspace.com
Alternatively, you can always look for meditation groups or Buddhist temples in your area who provide a place for you to learn and practice the art of meditation.
A good place to look for meditation groups in your area is meetup.com
To summarise, the brain needs some downtime and a break from being busy and full of activity. Having a clear mind will allow you to make good choices which will almost feel like they are automatic.
Applying meditation to your daily routine could really help you in your journey to making your life dreams and goals a reality. Having your mind devoted to a constant influx of data, information, activity and in a state of busyness, does not translate to greater productivity and is certainly not healthy.
Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration—it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.
Tim Kreider – New York Times essayist commenting on mental downtime on Scientific America
This statement by Tim Kreider just sums up nicely the necessity to free your mind and allow it to do absolutely nothing. Meditation replenishes the brain’s cache of attention and motivation, encourages productivity and creativity, and is essential to both achieve our highest levels of performance and simply form stable memories in everyday life.
The benefits of meditation are not to be underestimated and the great thing is, it is not hard to learn how to meditate.
Keep an open mind, try it for 10 days at least, and please come back and tell us all about your experiences and the changes you have noticed.
Harvard Medical School: Harvard Yoga Scientists find proof of meditation benefit.
Huffington Post: Meditation Health Benefits: What the practice does to your body.
Scientific America: Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime.