What are the benefits of meditation?
Physical health benefits of meditation
- Meditation literally grows your brain… both in volume and thickness. This doesn’t just make you smarter; it increases your memory, attention, self-awareness and self-control alongside a whole list of other desirable qualities.
- Meditation increases blood flow to your brain… the brain can’t function without a strong steady flow of blood to it. The stronger and steadier the flow, the better the brain functions.
- Meditation reduces cortisol production, a stress-induced hormone that suppresses the immune system and can make you feel anxious nervous and unsettled for no real reason (other than having too much cortisol in your system).
- Meditation reduces blood pressure and heart rate, which alleviates unnecessary pressure on your heart and arteries.
- Meditation increases neuroplasticity. This is the brains ability to organise itself, adapt to demands and enables you to become more efficient in the learning process.
- Meditation increases the production of good neurotransmitters including serotonin and dopamine, both of which play a huge role in controlling our moods. It’s understood that low levels of serotonin cause depression.
- Meditation triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, which enables us to rest and recover from stress.
- Meditation boosts the immune system. As we reduce our stress, the immune system is boosted and so is our general wellbeing.
- Meditation causes muscle relaxation. Muscle tension is generally caused by stress and when left unchecked can cause all kinds of problems such as vertebrae displacement, spinal issues and lack of mobility in the body.
- Meditation slows the ageing process. Meditation significantly increases melatonin and DHEA and decreases cortisol, which has a significant impact on slowing the ageing process down.
Psychological benefits of meditation
- Meditation reduces stress related conditions such as anxiety and depression. When we meditate, the brain and nervous system undergo radical changes that cause the reduction and prevention of these conditions.
- Meditation increases stress resilience. When we are able to switch off the sympathetic nervous system (responsible for the fight or flight response) and trigger the parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for the relaxation response) on a regular basis, we are training our bodies to rapidly recover from the impact of stress. Over time the brain learns how to stablise the autonomic nervous system in everyday life without having to switch into the fight or flight response when faced with challenges or demands.
- Meditation increases positive emotions. There are a few reasons why this happens. The simplest reason is the reduction of stress. When we reduce the stress in our system we return to our natural state of feeling calm, connected to ourselves and confident in meeting the challenges of life. When we experience this it feels good and it shows!
- Meditation increases focus and present moment awareness. When we meditate, we stimulate the pre-frontal cortex. This is the front part of the brain that is responsible for concentration, focus and problem solving among many other important functions.
- Meditation increases emotional stability and intelligence. When we meditate regularly, and reduce our stress levels, our hormones balance out and we feel less reactive, less defensive and effortlessly balanced more of the time.
- Meditation increases your capacity to learn. By stimulating the pre-frontal cortex, we are also awakening the brains learning centre. More brain volume = more brain power.
- Meditation increases empathy and compassion. These 2 are such games changers in our world and scientific studies reveal that our ability to be compassionate and empathetic is really a brain game. Regular meditation rewires the brain and increases our ability to be able to consider the feelings and needs of others and how we could be of service.
- Meditation increases a sense of connection to your self and others. The more you meditate the more you become aware of who you are. When we allow the mind to go beyond those everyday levels of thinking we may get stuck in and experience deeper more expansive states of ourselves, this experience begins to inform us of our deep subtler nature. After a short while, we experience a more quiet, calmer and dynamic sense of who we are. Our relationships become deeper and more meaningful based on the simple principle, ‘the more you know your self the more you can know another’.
- Meditation increases your sense of purpose and meaning. The more you meditate the more you become aware of what you like and don’t like, what you are passionate about and what you aren’t. Regular meditation gives rise to clarity about what is important in life and a sense of confidence to make choices that enliven your passions and dissolve distractions. Life takes on greater meaning and you feel a deeper sense of purpose and satisfaction.
- Meditation improves sociability. Taking time out for yourself is really important but for us to live a full rich life, we need meaningful connections with others. Nervousness, anxiety and feeling down or disorientated can play a big role in not wanting to hang out with people. Meditation increases our ability to get out there and connect with others as a result of feeling more connected to ourselves and clearer and more confident about what is happening inside us.
Meditation Tips For Beginners
When you’re first learning how to meditate, it’s important to view it as a skill that you strengthen over time. I am still learning and often struggle so when you’re just getting started, it can sometimes help to use these meditation tips to enhance your practice…
- Keep an eye on your posture, ensuring your back is straight. This will help you focus, and infuse the practice with positivity.
- Try meditating first thing in the morning (I like to do it preferably before anyone starts speaking to me lol). This sets a wonderful tone for the rest of your waking hours and also takes advantage of the receptive state of your mind before the rush of the day begins.
- If you can’t relax into your meditation, try counting your breaths for a while. This will calm your thoughts, guiding the brain into a more focused state.
- Let thoughts drift by, rather than trying to stop them. It is natural to get distracted; the important thing is to gently refocus your mind as soon as you noticed that it has wandered.
- Meditate in silence if at all possible, in a quiet room. If there are background noises, try listening to some quiet instrumental music.
- Commit to meditating for at least a month. This will allow you to acquire the basic skills, and begin to see the real benefits it can bring.
Meditation For Beginners: So Lets break that down and here is my how to Meditate In 5 Steps
Meditation Step 1: Search For A Tranquil Environment
For successful meditation, you will require a quiet environment in which to practice.
Background noise, such as the television and radio, will cause distraction and disrupt your train of thought. Instead consider peaceful, tranquil and meditation friendly audio and music.
It’s also best to choose a fairly cool or warm area to meditate. Being too cold or too hot won’t allow you to concentrate, so make sure you’re in a suitable area where you won’t be disturbed.
Meditation Step 2: Sit Comfortably
To meditate, you’ll need to find a comfortable position in which to sit for ten to fifteen minutes. You don’t need to adopt a specific position if you are going to find it hard to adapt. Generally, the regular position for meditation is with crossed legs and hands on your lap. However, if you struggle with this at first, find a position you are comfortable with. Just ensure that you are not slouching.
Meditation Step 3: Breathe
Focusing on your breathing is an important process in meditation. However, you want it to be natural.
Start by closing your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Let it begin with shallow breaths, and just continue to breathe for a few minutes. Your intake of breath will become deeper as you progress. Take your time to breathe slowly as there is no need to force it.
Meditation Step 4: Focus On Your Thoughts
Through deep breathing, you should feel more at ease. Once that happens, turn your focus to the actual process of breathing. Be conscious of each breath that you inhale and each that you exhale. It may take a while for your mind to fully focus on your breathing. Don’t worry if you struggle with your train of thought. It’s perfectly ok for your mind to wander onto other subjects. Simply let it drift and gently try to bring your attention back to your breathing.
It may be difficult to concentrate, whether you’re a beginner at meditation or not, however, as you start to continually practice, your attention should gradually improve. If you find it easier, then use numbers to ‘count’ your breathing. So, for instance, count one to inhale and two to exhale, and continue to repeat these numbers as you breathe in and out. This can be an effective way to get into the mindset of learning to meditate.
Meditation Step 5: Open Your Eyes
When you are ready to end your meditation, open your eyes. You should be in a calm and serene state.