The practice of meditation has been around for what seems like forever. It’s such an ancient practice and has so saturated popular culture that it is sometimes considered a joke or a relic. In reality, it is as relevant as ever. Meditation is timeless because its effects continue to impress and baffle scientists and practitioners alike. The results of meditation are astounding:
- One study found that meditation training improves focus and attention for as long as five years after mindfulness practices. By sharpening our focus and paying more attention to our daily lives, we are able to change and develop in ways we likely were not aware of before.
- Another research team with Harvard University discovered that regular meditation practice over the course of two months reduced brain activity in the amygdala — the part of our brain that manages our emotions. This discovery is helpful when health providers and individuals are attempting to learn more about depression, anxiety, PTSD, patterns of negative thinking and stress.
- Perhaps most impressive, a third study shows that meditators have more gray matter in the frontal cortex, the region of the brain responsible for decision-making and working memory. Most individuals’ gray matter decreases as they age, but in the study, the 50-year-old meditators have the same amount of grey matter as those half their age! That is truly incredible.
By combining increased focus and overall mindfulness with reduced depression, anxiety and other negative emotional symptoms, we allow ourselves to flourish in many ways. We open ourselves up to improving romantic, family and professional relationships and improve our own goals for ourselves and our connection to our unique worlds. Who knew it could be that simple? Well, therein lies the catch: what form of meditation works for you? Largely, what is meditation?
There are a few major types of meditation and they take a variety of forms. You should take time to experiment with different versions of meditation to find the best fit for you. Here are three of the most popular or flexible options:
- Body scan / progressive relaxation: Sit or lie down in a quiet space. Focus on each area of your body, starting at your feet to the top of your head. Picture the tension releasing in each area and breathe deeply. Take your time! This form of meditation is perhaps best for falling asleep as you will end up in a deeply relaxed state.
- Mindfulness: Though vague, this category is most flexible. This form of meditation requires you to resist dwelling on the past or future and focus entirely on the present moment. Zero in on the smells, sights, sounds and feelings of your present moment, wherever you may be.
- Breath awareness: This form of meditation is easily combined with the other two. Breathe slowly and deeply, focusing entirely on your body as you breathe in and out. Do this for a few minutes alone or while using mindfulness or progressive relaxation and you will be surprised at the results!
Before you get too worried about where and when you can possibly fit meditation into your already-busy schedule, remember this: most of us already DO meditate in ways we never realized are meditation! Think of going for a walk or run in nature, practicing your favorite sport, knitting or sewing and even sitting outside on a warm sunny night. These are all settings that we are naturally drawn to, and for good reason: they are making our lives more enjoyable and our minds more tolerable. Don’t be afraid to set aside time for yourself and your time to “meditate” — you should think of it as a requirement for your physical and mental health.
Studies show that as little as 20 minutes of meditation per day over the course of 8 weeks can help you reap the benefits. What’re you waiting for?
To learn more about your specific health needs and goals, let’s schedule a consultation. Reach out to me at 920-499-3333.
Best of Health,