If being healthy throughout your life is one of your goals, you may want to add meditation to your wellness routine. In a nutshell, meditation is focusing your attention on a single point of reference such as the breath, bodily sensations, a mental mantra or the silence in between thoughts. This simple activity, done daily, can start to give you benefits in as little as 2 weeks. Check out some of the myriad gems meditation has to offer:
Stronger immune system
Lower blood pressure
Reduced risk of heart disease
One of meditation’s main benefits is that it improves focus and attention. This isn’t too surprising because the meditation practice involves focusing on a mantra, activity or concept or removing focus away from things like noises and thoughts.
Research has also discovered that meditation creates structural changes in the brain. People who have meditated for an average of 20 years had more grey matter volume throughout the brain than non-meditators. Grey matter is involved in muscle control, sensory perception, memory, emotions, speech, decision-making and self-control. Goodies you’d want to hold on to as you age, right?
Peace of mind
Meditation also decreases activity in the brain’s “default mode network”, responsible for mind-wandering, ruminating and worrying. And because of new connections created in the brain, when the mind does wander, meditators snap out of it quicker.
A study at Harvard found that just 8 weeks of mindfulness meditation increased cortical thickness in areas of the brain responsible for learning, memory, emotion regulation and self-referential processing. There were also decreases in brain cell volume in the amygdala, an area responsible for fear, anxiety and stress.
Related to meditation is Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MSBR), developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn. This 8-week course seeks to reduce a person’s physical and mental stress. Mindfulness involves being fully present in the moment without any judgment. MSBR participants still see results years after taking the initial 8-week course.
There are many ways to meditate and different kinds of meditations. If you prefer to do it in a group setting, you can try guided meditations or take a MSBR course, either online or at a wellness facility. Or you can start real simply on your own.
Go to a quiet area in your home
Sit comfortably and close your eyes
Relax your whole body and focus on your breath or the silence in-between your thoughts
Gently release any thoughts or noises as they come up
Start meditating for 5 minutes each day and gradually work up to 31 minutes a day
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