Everyone is talking about meditation these days.
It feels like it is the not-so-new, latest thing. In fact, it’s been around for the last 5000 years so it’s not very new at all.
In many conversations around having less stress, reducing anxiety and improving mental health, meditation seems to be one of the first suggestions that is put forward. Once upon a time, that would have been considered very left of centre, but times have changed and there is now a deep appreciation of the power that meditation holds.
I have always fantasised about being an amazing meditator and I do believe that I am on the path. That being said, I still have a regular battle with my thoughts, getting distracted with writing the shopping list or planning my day. One of the greatest gifts I ever received as a beginner was being told to “just observe the thought and let it go” – something I still have to practise every single time.
Initially I would get into a hardcore battle with the thought and fight with it: “You shouldn’t be here, go away!”, “No, I mean it, scoot, I am meditating for God sake, you can’t hang round right now!”
This battle made it very tough to feel the benefit. I really thought I “just didn’t get the whole meditating” thing. Thankfully, I have persisted and use several different methods of practice. I believe the key is finding what works for you and doing that.
There are many different varieties of meditation to choose from – Transcendental Meditation, Mindfulness Meditation, Spiritual Meditation, Focused Meditation, Movement Meditation and Guided Meditation . This list is not exhaustive either – there are more.
Beyond the different ways you choose to meditate, the benefits are really impressive, in fact they are outstanding!
Below are five scientifically proven benefits that a regular meditation practice can provide.
Meditation Helps Reduce Anger
Letting go of anger can be something we struggle with but recent research has found that meditations with the heart practices – such as compassion and metta– decreases the stress and immune response in difficult and unpleasant situations. This research suggests these practices can create a difference in how the brain and body respond to stimulus, thus reducing anger responses.
Meditation is an Anti-Inflammatory
In 2013, Richard J. Davidson found that meditation reduces inflammation all the way down to the cellular level. In a study at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, the team found an extraordinary benefit of meditation – it actually changes the genes acting upon cellular structure in the body, reducing inflammation. This means less medication or maybe none at all! It is a phenomenal study demonstrating our ability to heal our bodies.
Your Immune System Strengthens
Mindfulness meditation can strengthen your immune system, meaning that you become more physically resilient and strong. A 2003 study published in Psychosomatic Medicine had people participate in an eight week mindfulness meditation course, finding that individuals had increased immune function when meditating when compared with the control group. Considering the flu season we have had here in Australia, adding meditation to your daily routine could be the key that keeps you well.
Meditation Improves Working Memory
Have you had a moment where you have doubted the ability of your memory? I certainly have! In 2013, Mrazek, et al. investigated the relationship between mindfulness and working memory. Participants took just a two week meditation course, and then took multiple tests to measure focus, working memory, and more. The researchers found that the individuals who participated in the mindfulness meditation course had a significant increase in working memory when compared with the control group.
Meditation Improves Your Ability to Solve Problems
A 1982 study published in the journal Memory & Cognition found that meditation practice increased verbal problem solving. This study actually looked at Transcendental Meditation, not Buddhist meditation. The study found the meditation to be effective in helping individuals develop verbal problem solving skills – their ability to speak and question in a way that helped solve problems.
Reading through that list, it seems crazy that we KNOW meditation works to not only reduce our stress and make us FEEL better, it actually changes our biochemistry and improves our immunity.
It heals us.
It soothes us.
It grows us.
It connects us.
It teaches us.
If it’s something you have never done, maybe today meditation could be your self-care gift to yourself?
A great app that I use almost everyday is Insight Timer. It has thousands of different meditations and tons of brilliant educational content on there.
Another app that really helped me in the beginning is One Giant Mind. This app teaches you to meditate in 12 easy steps and allows you to track your progress.
Happy meditating my Friend…