You don't have to be a hippy dippy or religious to benefit from meditation. Meditation can benefit us all. It is an exercise like any other. We know if we exercise our bodies we will become: stronger, faster, healthier, and more efficient. So, why don't we give our minds the same attention?
Reasons to begin meditating
1. Improved immune function: 8 weeks of practice found participants in the meditating group were less likely to catch the flu versus than the non-meditating group .
2. Reduced inflammation: A study found meditation reduced emotional stress, and decreased the inflammatory responses .
Note: chronic inflammation is an underlying cause of most of today’s diseases: chronic pain, obesity, ADD/ADHD, peripheral neuropathy, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, migraines, thyroid issues, dental issues, cancer, leaky gut, and autoimmune diseases .
3. Reduced blood pressure: A study found, after practicing meditation for 4 months, the meditating group lowered their blood pressure with lasting results .
4. Physical Pain: After only 4 days of starting a meditation exercise, a study found participants reported pain reduction by 57% .
- Meditation increases cortical thickness (our thinking cap), which thins as we age .
- Stress causes premature aging. Meditation is well documented for reducing stress .
- Improves sleep: Sleep is when our body repairs itself .
- Our brain shrinks as we age. Mediators grow more brain matter both gray and white, which slows the natural aging of the brain .
- Increases growth hormone production and DHEA: a study found a combination of yoga and meditation increased these anti-aging hormones .
6. Optimistic Thinking: Meditation increases neural activity in the left front area of the brain. An area associated with positive thinking . Mediators feel a greater sense of purpose in life, report a positive outlook, and decreased illness symptoms .
7. Fights off depression: A study of cancer patients practicing meditation had less depression than the non-meditating control group . Meditation, increases feelings of satisfaction with life, decreases feelings of isolation, and reduces depressive symptoms . Low serotonin is associated with depression. Meditation increases serotonin production .
8. Reduces stress, anxiety, and panic attacks: There are countless studies reporting meditation decreases stress. Meditation has shown to provide lasting effects in reducing anxiety . Meditation releases neurotransmitters that regulate anxiety . Study found meditation and breathing exercises had lasting effects in reducing PTSD symptoms among Veterans . Meditation reduces the release of cortisol, our "stress hormone" .
9: Decreases feelings of loneliness: studies observed mediators were more content, felt less lonely, and had a greater sense of connectivity with society .
10. Improves sleep: We all know the importance of sleep for both physical and mental health. The body repairs itself when we are sleeping. Melatonin is a neurotransmitter that aids our sleep, reduces stress, and its a powerful antioxidant that combats aging . Meditation increases melatonin production .
11. Emotional Stability: Mediators are more emotionally stable, think positively, and are more mindful. Areas of the brain responsible for these traits grow larger in mediators .
12. Happy hormones: Meditation increases dopamine . Dopamine, technically a neurotransmitter, is related to our sense of pleasure. It's released during sex, eating, and many narcotics elevate dopamine levels in the brain causing the euphoric high. Dopamine also improves memory, focus, and cognition . Meditation also increases serotonin production, a neurotransmitter linked to feelings of happiness .
Boost Mind Power
13: Grow more gray matter: Mediators have more gray matter in ares of the brain involved in learning, memory, emotional regulation, self awareness, and perspective thinking (greater ability to understand different angles) . A study found in as little as 8 weeks newbie mediators grew more gray brain matter .
14. Grow more white matter: Meditation improves the connectivity of the brain, simply brain pathways of mediators work better. Meditation boosts the brain's ability to rapidly relay electrical signals. UCLA concluded this is due to, “white matter fibers being more numerous, more dense or more insulated throughout the brain." They also found this greatly slows the normal shrinking of the brain as we age .
15. Greater concentration: Alpha wave activity is increased among those that practice meditation . Operating at a alpha frequency improves our: concentration, relaxation, receptiveness, alertness, and creativity. You may have heard classical music can improve learning. This is because certain rhythms create an alpha brain frequency, which deepens our concentration and allows large amounts of information to be processed .
16. Improves multi-tasking and memory: A study found participants practicing meditation for 8 weeks, lowered stress, improved memory, and multi-tasking abilities versus the non-meditating control group .
17. Increases learning speed: Mediators have more theta brain wave activity. Theta assist in alertness and being able to quickly process information .
Brain Power (Literally)
Our thoughts, emotions, all have a measurable electrical frequency. There are 5 types of these energetic waves. Each frequency has its own characteristics with varying levels of consciousness, and metabolic processes . Isn't it incredible our thoughts literally have power.
Highest to lowest frequency:
1. Gamma: Highest frequency and recently discovered, little is known about it. It seems to be related to moments of profound insight.
2. Beta: the normal operating frequency when we are awake. As beta waves become faster, we can experience feelings of anxiety and stress. When operating at a beta frequency we are alert, have critical reasoning, and logical thinking.
3. Alpha: is a relaxed stated. Daydreaming is an example of alpha. Alpha is achieved during light meditation. It is creative, visual, memory, learning, and concentration. Studies have found students operating at an alpha frequency will learn and retain information quicker.
4. Theta: is achieved during REM sleep, our dreaming state. It can also be achieved during deep meditation. It is a peak into our subconscious mind. Another fascinating concept, of an internal wisdom operating behind the scenes. Theta is the seat of inspiration, insight, and great creativity.
5. Delta: this is the slowest frequency. Experienced in deep dreamless sleep. This can be achieved with a very deep meditation. Delta is the healing sleep, when our body repairs itself. Our body releases growth hormone when we are operating on delta. That’s one of the reasons deep sleep is so important, it’s the time our body regenerates, heals, and combats aging .
How to meditate
There are different styles of meditation. However, they can generally be placed into two categories directive and non-directive. A recent study found non-direct meditation, where you let your mind freely wander created the most brain activity. According to Davanger a neuroscientist, this non-directive approach, "allows for more room to process memories and emotions than during concentrated meditation" .
A simple meditation practice:
- Find a comfortable position
- Breathe calmly
- Don't try to empty your mind
- Let thoughts pass by you without engaging
Letting thoughts pass can be challenging. I came across this simple illustration to better explain; picture yourself on a river bank watching your thoughts float by. If you happen to fall into the river, climb back out and let the thought go. This takes practice, and can feel frustrating. Sometimes sitting still can makes us feel anxious, but carry on and it will become easier. It's normal to feel frustrated. You will find yourself doing well then suddenly become distracted by a thought like tonight's dinner plans, just take a breath, and exhale the thought away.
There are sounds that can help in reaching a meditative state, quicker and easier without being a skilled mediator. It's easy to find soundtracks online, through like Spotify and Amazon music, just search for meditation music. These sound waves are to help your brain operate at the wavelength your trying to achieve: alpha, theta, or delta.
I am a newbie at meditation, and I feel I enter into a meditative state easier with the help of a soundtrack. At the very least, putting in my earbuds and listening to these sounds block out distractions, like a barking dog. I initially downloaded free soundtracks from Spotify, then later purchased Equi-sync. A program designed to lead you into deeper levels of meditation. It is not necessary to spend any money, but if you are easily distracted as I am, soundtracks help.
I truly believe in the power of meditation. I started at a very stressed out time in my life, and wish I had found it sooner. Even as a beginner meditating gives me a sense of peace, perspective, and a calm energy. I challenge you to try and meditate for 15-20 mins a day for a week, and share with the rest us your results.
Try out my free course Inspiration Challenge, if you are needing a motivational boost.
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