Yo Man, time to chill out and get all peeeaced out. Is this your impression of meditation and why you probably haven’t tried it? When I first meditated I admit, it did feel kinda strange, sitting up right consciously sitting with your back straight and eyes closed, concentrating on breathing correctly, it was the stuff of the 1970s love revolution but meditation has been around for thousands of years before then. Meditation has many many benefits to not only your mental health but it can exude into other areas too! In this article we will discuss just 10 of the many reasons why you should start meditating today.
1. Decreases anxiety and gain clarity
An anxiety sufferer tend to think about events and things before they happen, over and over in their mind starting at a bad situation until it gradually builds into a snowball so big that it is almost impossible to confront the thing they wanted to do. By meditating it stops you thinking too much by closing your eyes, focusing your attention on your breathe and away from any thought you are juggling in your mind. Once you have meditated you will find a stillness that was not there before you began thinking about the problem or thing you had anxiety over and gain a clearer and less anxious situation.
According to Huffington Post over 50% of the UK population alone have increasing levels of anxiety. Being surrounded by so many distractions and now more than ever your brain is in overdrive and work pressure is increasing the ability to know how to meditate will help in reducing anxiety and stress related illness.
After the mindfulness intervention, participants have greater activity in a brain network associated with processing information when they reflect on negative self-statements. In other words, they pay more attention to the negative statements than they did before the intervention. And yet, they also show decreased activation in the amygdala—a region associated with stress and anxiety. Most important, the participants suffered less. “They reported less anxiety and worrying,” Goldin says. “They put themselves down less, and their self-esteem improved.”
2. Improves happiness
Meditation can increase your levels of feel-good chemicals, like endorphins and serotonin. Studies also indicate it may increase your capacity for happiness and reduce your propensity towards negativity.
Meditating allows you to stop doing what you are thinking about regularly and detach from your emotions rather than being consumed by them and if you have been unfortunate enough to experience many difficulties with little respite it is likely those thoughts are of the negative variety. When you are depressed your brain lacks its feel-good chemicals and it is difficult to feel good or positive about a lot of things, by meditating it naturally increases your level of feel good chemicals and helps in reducing the negative thoughts.
3. Improves your attention
Meditating allows you to focus and retain attention better as you begin to filter your mind out of all its thoughts, whether negative or positive. I see this a little bit like turning your computer off at the end of a working session, closing all your files and reopening it with a new blank desktop. With less clutter in your mind you are able to focus more easily on the one thing you set your mind to.
In a study published in the journal NeuroImage in 2009, Luders and her colleagues compared the brains of 22 meditators and 22 age-matched non meditators and found that the meditators (who practiced a wide range of traditions and had between five and 46 years of meditation experience) had more gray matter in regions of the brain that are important for attention, emotion regulation, and mental flexibility.
4. Can reduce cravings for addictions
One study, for example, pitted mindfulness training against the American Lung Association’s freedom from smoking (FFS) program, and found that people who learned mindfulness were many times more likely to have quit smoking by the end of the training, and at 17 weeks follow-up, than those in the conventional treatment.
Another side effect of depression is gaining an addictive personality because you are lacking in the feel good chemicals. You can be addicted to many thing, food, smoking, exercise, drugs, alcohol, gaming, sex and more! Any addiction is unhealthy and very dangerous for your health and must be tackled no matter the embarrassment you may feel to admit you have a problem.
Meditation on a regular basis releases the natural feel-good chemicals in your brain which means you are less likely to feel you need your addiction as much as before.
5. Can calm you down whenever you feel overwhelmed emotionally
It cleanses and nourishes you from within and calms you, whenever you feel overwhelmed, unstable, or emotionally shut down.
It’s no mystery that when you suffer depression or anxiety your emotions become out of control and can engulf you like a disease but when you meditate you stop your emotions over-riding your rational mind. It could be said that this is probably due to the exercise of breathing properly and regulating your brain waves. By breathing correctly you find peace, read this other article where I discuss the idea of how breathing correctly can influence your mental health.
6. Personal growth and awareness can improve
Taking time out for yourself where you don’t work, don’t watch television or distract yourself with another activity forces you to pay attention to your thoughts more and contemplate the day just gone by or the day ahead of you. Spending time doing nothing allows you to reflect on past events and how to improve in future rather than constantly being distracted by social media, television or any other distraction in our lives.
It is so important to look at how far we have come not just how far we have got to go.
7. Creativity improves
As previously stated, our mind can become cluttered with many many thoughts. Science believes we have as many as 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts per day! That is right, up to 70,000 thoughts! I bet you never thought that was possible. How can we be as creative as we want to be when our mind is that engulfed in so many ideas and thoughts?
By meditating we reduce the amount of thoughts passing through our mind by slowing our breathing, paying attention only to passing thoughts, our breath and our posture so when completed we are more clear and focused and ready to study or produce our next masterpiece.
8. Lowers high blood pressure
Recent studies have offered promising results about the impact of meditation in reducing blood pressure. A 2012 study showed African-Americans with heart disease who practiced Transcendental Meditation regularly were 48 percent less likely to have a heart attack or stroke or die compared with African-Americans who attended a health education class over more than five years.
Meditating uses a lot of deep synchronistic breathing which naturally regulates your blood flow and as you slow your breath in regulated pattern you blood pressure also naturally decreases. Not only does meditating lower your blood pressure it can also de-stress a busy work life and decrease your chances of having a heart attack.
9. Less bothered by ridicule and judgements
How many of us have wished to be more self confident and not care what others think of us? By meditating you become aware of your negative self chatter ( probably the main cause of your low self esteem and the belief others are right what they say about you ) and you begin to relax, which is probably the most important part about becoming more self confident.
It’s well worth becoming aware of how you think, and how those thoughts cause you to take certain actions… which have predictable results. And then, using the mental mastery you develop in meditation, you can change the way you talk to and about yourself – and then your actions and results will change as well.
As you become more self confident about yourself through using meditation you will find that what others say or think about you won’t matter. It is unlikely to be an instant solution to depression, low self-esteem or anxiety but with consistent meditation you can change your perspective.
How to get started if you want to start meditating?
So now you know the benefits of meditating I bet you want to give it a shot!? Well when I first started meditating I used a guided meditation cd for around 15 to 20 minutes a day, particularly when I was suffering from a lot of stress during my Architecture degree and the results were unbelievable! I was totally removed from all my worries and stresses just 20 minutes in.
Take a look on amazon for guided meditation cd and give it a shot today, or if you want to, maybe just check out YouTube for some free versions. Have you tried meditating? How did it feel? Please comment in the box below.