In our modern world, we are constantly processing information at a rapid pace. Technology has created an environment that is filled with information and noise, and there are many ways that this information age can be both beneficial and detrimental to our health. Are you aware that day-to-day living can have a direct impact on your mental, physical, and emotional health?
1. Meditation Changes Brain Matter
At Harvard University, a group of neuroscientists shared information which shows that meditation can literally change your brain. In this research study, researchers found that eight weeks of mindfulness meditation caused changes within the gray matter of the brain. So, in addition to the relaxation and peaceful feelings that can be gained through meditation, this practice also transforms you on a physical level as well.
This research study looked at 16 people who listened to a guided meditation, which they used on a daily basis. Additionally, they were taught how to integrate mindful meditation into all of life’s daily activities, such as walking, cooking, washing dishes, eating, etc. At the end of the research study, it was determined that the participants spent an average of 27 minutes each day practicing mindfulness in their life.
To prove the physical changes, brain scans were taken before and after the research study. These brains scans were compared with a control group, who did not practice mindfulness meditation during the eight week period of time. The brain scans shows that the group of people who were practicing mindfulness meditation daily had an increase in the concentration of gray matter within certain areas of their brain. These are the areas of the brain that control things such as:
- Regulating emotions
- Memory and retention
- Taking perspective
- Sense of self
The amazing aspect of the physical changes from meditation is the fact that those physical changes can also have a direct impact on your emotional and mental state as well.
2. Meditation Decreases Stress
Many people don’t associate stress directly with physical health, but doctors have found a direct link with stress levels and serious health conditions. When stress is reduced, certain health problems may decrease. Because meditation has a direct impact on stress, it is possible to improve your physical health by using meditation to decrease your stress levels.
Health conditions that are directly impacted by stress include:
- Rapid heartbeat and/or high blood pressure
- Sleep disorders
- Digestive problems
- Tense muscles
When these types of symptoms appear, most doctors look for a medical treatment to address the individual symptoms. But, instead of treating the symptoms, it might be more effective to address the root of the problem: stress.
By using mediation to release the stress, it is possible for the symptoms to naturally go away and health will be restored.
3. Meditation Boosts Your Immune System
One notable benefit to reducing stress through meditation is the fact that your immune system is stronger when you are experiencing lower levels of stress. There is a scientific reason why this physical response occurs: hormone levels.
High levels of stress will produce the stress hormone called “cortisol,” and when cortisol is high within your body you are experiencing a “fight or flight” reaction. Meditation helps to reduce stress, which in turn helps to slow the production of cortisol… and slower cortisol production means that the immune system can function more effectively.
How to Practice Mindfulness Meditation
There are many types of meditation that can be used to improve your physical, mental, and emotional health. But, one of the simplest forms of meditation is mindfulness meditation, which can be practiced throughout your day.
Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present in the moment, and placing nonjudgmental focus on the details of your current experience. Start by sitting in a comfortable position, and then turn your focus to your breathing. Allow your breath to slow so that you are deeply breathing in a comfortable way. Don’t force the breath, instead let it flow naturally so that you can simply observe the way it the air is moving in and out of your body.
As you are focusing on your breath, you will likely experience thoughts and emotions that arise. In the beginning, you may feel as though your mind is racing through many different thoughts, and it might be difficult to stay focused on the breath. Each time a though arises, acknowledge it and let it go without judgment. Try to allow each thought and emotion to melt away as quickly as it came, so that you can keep your focus on your breathing.
Start by practicing this meditation technique for 10 – 15 minutes per day, and work to increase the length of your meditation practice over time. Consistency will allow you to experience the physical, emotional and mental benefits that you desire.