What do you think about meditation? I’ll admit I was skeptical about it. It seemed a little unconvincing that sitting around doing nothing could be beneficial. But, I’m taking an online well-being class from Yale University (aren’t I snooty?), and the homework was to practice a method that they taught. Afterward, I have to practice it for several weeks.
I chose meditation. Meditation is a mental exercise of focusing on one thing for a certain amount of time. So that seems alright. Besides, there’s scientific evidence that it improves focus, stress, depression, and anxiety. Not to mention, people have done it for thousands of years, and it continues to be valuable!
So far, I’ve meditated for 5 -20 minutes (aiming for just five) every day for the past ten days. I’ve already noticed a difference in my stress levels. Now, I can do what I need to with more clarity and effectiveness. That’s an enormous benefit!
You can have the same effects too!
Here are the advantages you can get from meditation:
1. Meditation improves focus
“Meditation is like a gym in which you develop the powerful mental muscles of calm and insight.”
We are all bombarded by constant distractions. Yet, we all want to accomplish things that require complete focus.
According to research, meditation stabilizes the area of the brain linked to mind-wandering. As a result, your ability to concentrate will soar through the roof. Meditation requires you to hone your thoughts on one thing, your breathing.
In one study, researchers gathered two groups. One group was of experienced meditators, and the other had those who never meditated. They gave each participant a set of numbers, for example, 3-5-7. Then the researchers flashed numbers on a screen. Participants were to press a button if their set of numbers appeared.
For instance, if 1-4-3-5-7 appeared, and they had the numbers “3-5-7,” they were to press a button. The meditators proved to have far superior concentration compared to the others.
2. Meditation increases your productivity
“Meditation is a vital way to purify and quiet the mind, thus rejuvenating the body.”
Along with your enhanced focus, comes more productivity! When you meditate daily, you’re training your mind to do what you want. So, if you want to get something done, you can concentrate on that task until it’s finished. Therefore, ensuring that you get more important things finished in less time.
Some companies are taking advantage of this by including meditation in the workplace. Just five minutes increased the productivity of workers for the entire day! Also, it strengthens the immune system, resulting in fewer sick days.
3. Meditation improves your awareness
“The body benefits from movement, and the mind benefits from stillness.”
Meditation boosts mental awareness; this means you realize what you’re thinking. Many of us don’t stop and listen to our thoughts. Instead, we allow them to run wild.
Over time, these thoughts build-up and can create tons of stress or depression. You might feel like the world is against you. But the events in your life don’t cause your mood; your perception of the events causes your emotions.
In meditation, you learn to watch your thoughts and, most importantly, how to release them. Then you won’t get caught up in rumination.
4. Meditation stops negative thought patterns
“Meditation and concentration are the way to a life of serenity.”
—Baba Ram Dass
Meditation also helps you to notice when you’re thinking negative thoughts. When you’re aware that you’re thinking this way, you can let these thoughts go instead of marinating your mind in them.
Recently, researchers have found it decreased negative thoughts for six months afterward!
Now you’ll know how to remain calm even in times of stress.
5. Meditation boosts neurotransmitters
“Quiet the mind, and the soul will speak.”—Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati
Your brain has billions of chemicals called neurotransmitters. The tips of neurons release neurotransmitters to communicate. Then other neurons catch them with their synaptic clefts.
Unfortunately, depressed people lack serotonin and norepinephrine neurotransmitters. These two chemicals are vital for improving depression symptoms. Studies prove meditation increases both serotonin and norepinephrine.
6. Meditation shrinks the amygdala (the fear center)
“If we can make just 1% of the population meditative, this world will be a different place.”
The amygdala is an area of the brain behind your ear that creates the fight-or-flight response. It was useful in prehistoric times; for example, if an animal is going to attack you, you wouldn’t just stand there. You’d feel the fear and run to safety! Otherwise, if it catches you off guard, then you fight it.
That would be a common scenario back then when we lived with predators in Africa. But today, it’s rarely useful. However, the amygdala is still activated in modern people’s brains, and it’s overactive for those with anxiety.
During stress, the amygdala releases harmful chemicals (like cortisol) into the brain. These chemicals result in anxiety or depression.Luckily, studies reveal meditation can shrink the amygdala in 8 weeks. A weakened amygdala will decrease fear and anxiety, allowing you to be more rational and calm.
7. Meditation strengthens the hippocampus
The hippocampus handles your ability to learn, remember, and regulate your emotions. But, depression and stress destroy the hippocampus. Fortunately, our brains are resilient and can heal themselves. Research proves meditation fortifies the hippocampus, increasing its size and strength. Therefore, it improves your memory and help you to learn new things.
8. Meditation reinforces the prefrontal cortex
Your prefrontal cortex is essential for your success in life. It allows you to plan, decide, and regulate your behavior. It’s also the newest area of the brain. Unfortunately, stress, age, and depression deteriorate it.
But, don’t worry, you can counteract its demise! According to Harvard neuroscientists, meditation causes growth in the prefrontal cortex.
How to meditate:
Are you sold on meditation yet? Great, because it’s free! Plus, you don’t need to dress like a monk, chant mantras, or say, “Ommmm.”
Sit down and get comfortable, keep your back straight, and close your eyes. Now, focus on your breathing.
Be aware that, at first, your thoughts will go wild. That’s okay; just let the thoughts pass rather than chasing after them. You can listen to a guided meditation if that helps you. There are free apps like “Headspace” or “Calm” that can guide you through it.
If you meditate for just 5 to 10 minutes every day, you’ll reap the rewards.
In short, I can honestly say that after ten days of meditating, I’ve noticed a massive change in my focus and level of calmness. The first time is the most difficult, and after that, it’s effortless and enjoyable! It’s almost like taking a mini-nap. Don’t forget to subscribe and meditate for your future well-being!
Have you ever tried meditation? Let me know in the comments below!