Meditation has gotten more and more mainstream attention, and for good reason. Aside from putting you in a better and happier mood, meditation has an enormous range of health benefits and can lead to permanent improvements in your brain’s structure. Meditating is on almost every list of daily health tips, and it’s time to explore what all the hype is about.
What is Meditation?
Meditation is a word that gets thrown around frequently, but you may not understand exactly what it refers to. One reason for this is because it can refer to a variety of activities that are all aimed at the same things- clearing your mind, reducing stress, and helping you feel more grounded in the present moment. One type of meditation involves mantras, which is repeating a certain phrase over and over. This can be a phrase commonly used by yogis or it can be one that you create yourself, one that has a personal meaning for you. Another type of meditation is visualization, which refers to forming a mental image of a situation that you find happy or relaxing. It can also involve a real situation in your life or a future event, but the main idea is that it involves you picturing it going as well as possible. Mindfulness meditation is another type, which involves you focusing on only the present moment. This can help to clear your mind and to prevent you from dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Yoga is another commonly practiced type of meditation.
It doesn’t matter which type of meditation you practice, the important thing is finding one that works best for you. To get the full benefits of meditation, you should practice it on an ongoing basis. Many people meditate daily. It will get easier and easier to get into a meditative mindset as you move forward, as it can initially take some time to focus your attention and stop the chain of constant thought in the mind.
Health Benefits of Meditation
Meditation has been proven to have wide-ranging health benefits, and researchers are constantly discovering more. One common finding is that meditation can help to lower blood pressure and improve heart rate, both of which are very important factors for preventing heart disease. One study found that meditation turned on genes that are responsible for protecting against pain and high blood pressure, and that these genes were not active in those that did not meditate regularly.
Meditation has also been proven to greatly reduce stress, which can be very damaging for the human body. Stress can exacerbate just about any medical condition and leads to dangerous internal inflammation. Stress causes a physical reaction in the body, and many people carry around much more stress than they realize. Meditation helps to reduce this and release the physical tension in the body, which can cause pain such as headaches and joint issues. It can also help you react to stressful situations in your life. One study showed that people who had been meditating for six weeks daily had less emotional distress when put in a stressful situation. Stress reduction is also important for preventing heart disease and improving fertility.
Meditation has also been shown to enhance the immune system in a way that isn’t immediately clear to researchers. Those that meditate frequently have more protection against infection and viruses, and recover more quickly if they do get sick.
Aside from these benefits, meditation has also been shown to help with anxiety, chronic pain, PMS, and IBS. It has also been proven to help people fall asleep easier at night and wake up feeling more rested.
How does it do this?
There is still much that scientists and researchers do not know about the beneficial effects of meditation and exactly how they work. However, many studies have shown that meditation does lead to permanent changes in the structure of the brain. One study looked at the brains of Buddhist monks who meditated regularly and found that they had permanent change to their brains in areas that involved learning, attention, and memory. Scientists think it does this by changing the pathways in our brain to make certain areas more interconnected. While the exact science still leaves a few questions, there is no question that meditation is an amazing practice that can lead to many health benefits.