Rumbling chants of “Om”, silent retreats in Himalayan monasteries and flashbacks of Eat, Pray, Love – these are the images we typically conjure when hearing the word ‘meditation’. We’ve all heeded tales of how fantastic and beneficial meditation is for the soul. From John Lennon to Oprah Winfrey, and Deepak Chopra to Steve Jobs, we have listened as meditation’s praises have been sung, and sung again. Today’s role models and powerful figures – singers, writers, entrepreneurs, athletes, actors, politicians – are all touting this ancient practice for its revolutionary impact.
While most of us have a basic understanding of meditation, recent scientific studies continue to confirm what yogis have been waxing lyrical about for years – it positively alters our brain. While we all moan about living in busy cities and leading active lives, convinced that we don't have time for stillness and solitude, it’s time to make time.
So, what are the benefits of meditation?
Take a moment, and think: What gets your blood boiling? Chances are you’ll have no trouble coming up with a long list of day-to-day annoyances. While some stress is unavoidable, too much can be unhealthy and damaging, and though meditation may not be able to control the stressors in your world, it can alter your reaction to them. If you make it a daily habit, meditating can also decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
We all want happiness. Probably more than anything else, it is the greatest motivation in life. While you will probably feel cheerier after just one session of meditation, daily meditation encourages optimism and generates enthusiasm and appreciation for life, quickly giving you a greater sense of joy and contentment.
Meditation is also known to increase the body’s levels of feel-good chemicals, like endorphins and serotonin, and studies show it can reduce inclinations towards negativity. So, if you start feeling good consistently, that state of feeling good becomes a natural state. And as happiness increases, scientific research suggests that depression and anxiety reduce considerably.
A single sleepless night can impair brain function, wreak havoc with your eating habits, and cause chaos to your immune system. One common cause of insomnia is the bombardment of thoughts in your mind, which result in anxiety, stress, and depression. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, practicing relaxation techniques, like meditation, can significantly improve sleep quality.
While you sleep, your mind clears out its mental clutter, so by meditating before catching some z’s, your mind can take a well-earned rest, allowing you to slip easily into a peaceful sleep of improved quality. By regularly practicing meditation, not only will you fall asleep faster and with ease, but you will also stay asleep for longer and wake up feeling better rested.
Drinking green tea and hitting the gym, but still catching the dreaded winter flu? Meditation has been shown to boost your immune system and increase your chances of staying well. Whilst a number of things contribute to a strong immune system: diet, activity levels, and sleep quality, many of us don’t know that meditation has the power to boost immune function and protect us from viruses and toxins.
A study published in the journal, Psychosomatic Medicine, found that meditation could increase your body's ability to ward off illness and infection. The practice is known to calm the nervous system, enabling the immune system to work more efficiently and has been shown to increase the production of antibodies. So, if you feel a cold creeping up on you, take some extra time to build up your body’s defense and get meditating.
Did you know that 60,000 thoughts run through your mind every day? Do you know what you are thinking about all of the time? Of the thousands of thoughts, there are some you actively engage in and others you are not conscious of, but linger in your mind.
Meditation gives clarity to your thoughts and desires, which increases self-awareness. The more you meditate, the more self-aware you become. You become more conscious of what you think, how you think, what you feel and what you want. This clarity is important in your decision-making processes. Without this internal harmony, you become easily swayed by different external factors around you.
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