Research shows that regular meditation is one of the best practices you can do for your physical, mental and emotional health. Many of us may already know meditation is good for us, but we may find ourselves putting meditation off for tomorrow, or the next day, or after the holidays or ‘someday’ when life isn’t so stressful and busy. However, when we are feeling stressed is when we need to take a breather the most. To help build your motivation to shift from a human doing to a human being for a short time during your day, here is some eye-opening information on just how beneficial meditation is for us in case you need more convincing.
Meditation fights depression.
According to well-known meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg, research shows that as little as 9 minutes of meditation per day positively impacts our brain centers for mental health. When we are depressed, our body and mind enter a chronic stress state, which is a form of survival mode. This survival mode impacts key centers of our brain. As a result, this survival mode creates an enlargement of the amygdala and de-activates the pre-frontal cortex. The more activated our amygdala is, the more reactive we are to our emotions, and the less activated this part of the brain is, the more emotionally resilient we feel. The pre-frontal cortex, which is responsible for executive function, clarity, decision making and impulse control, becomes more activated with meditation, and as a result, we feel more grounded or centered, and less frazzled. Meditation helps to gently and effectively pull us out of the survival mode depression elicits and into a more peaceful and self-compassionate state of mind.
Meditation improves our physical health.
Regular meditation (10-15-minutes daily) helps to lower our blood pressure, relax the digestive system, decrease pain sensitivity, and improve our overall immunity. In addition, meditation helps to lower the levels of adrenaline and cortisol that are released when we are in constant distress. Basically, meditation is a great tool for improving our overall physical health and sense of well-being.
How to Meditate
- Pick a time of day that you know will be undistracted and that you can be consistent with your practice. For many, this is usually right after getting out of bed, or during lunch time, or sometime in the evening.
- If you are new to meditation, you might want to try a guided meditation first, such as a Body Scan Meditation or Loving Kindness Meditation. If you prefer quiet, or meditation music, there are many free apps that provide meditation music and a timer, such as Simply Being or Breathe.
- Get in a comfortable position and start with 10 minutes of focusing on your breath (or your chosen guided meditation). When you find yourself thinking, the act of noticing your mind wandered from your breath, and then gently bringing your awareness back to your breath IS the meditation practice. Thinking does not mean you are failing at meditation! Meditation is not about having a quiet mind, it’s about noticing when we leave and gently guiding our awareness back to the breath, and to do this over and over as needed. The ability to quiet the noise in our minds comes with practice, but even long-term meditators experience an ebb and flow with this process.
Try meditating daily for a couple weeks and notice the difference in how much calmer, more grounded, less reactive and stressed, and overall better you will probably feel.