Originally Posted on BrainzMagazine.com:
Meditation. It is such a buzzword today. We hear it everywhere. Do you get annoyed with how often you hear about meditation? Does your therapist keep nagging you to try it, saying you could benefit? Is your spouse pressuring you to tag along to their favorite yoga class? Let’s be honest, do you truly know WHAT meditation is, or are you just critical of meditation without really knowing what it is or what it does? Sometimes when we don’t understand something, it’s easier to simply roll our eyes and move on. But, what if meditation really was exactly what you needed? Let’s take a quick look at what the hype is about, and then you can make an informed decision if it might be worth a try for you.
Let’s start with the logical basics. Meditation is a set of techniques intended to settle the mind.
Meditation is not about changing who you are. Meditation allows you to defocus your attention from what is crowding your mind and causing you stress by simply focusing on your breath. Meditation does not remove the thoughts in your mind or the problems in your life (wouldn’t that be nice!?), but rather it’s a tool to quiet the mind and quiet the thoughts. So how, then, does one benefit from meditation?
First and foremost, meditation reduces stress. In a society where everyone is go, go, go and our lives, by nature, are stressful, meditation is a wonderful way to pause for a moment and settle. By taking the time to meditate, you are allowing yourself to eliminate the stream of thoughts in your head. That constant brain activity can be incredibly overwhelming to our nervous system, and the momentary break is a proven quick and effective way to reduce the tension that overwhelms our daily lives. Truly only five minutes a day can have a positive impact. Take a moment and think about what else you would likely waste five minutes on…standing in line, scrolling social media, shopping aimlessly online? Make the five minutes impactful instead!
Meditation is also linked to reduced depression and anxiety. According to Mental Health America, depression and anxiety have hit an all-time high. Clearly, we as a society need to find ways to reduce that anxiety and depression and meditation just may be the answer. While meditation will not cure depression or anxiety overnight, it will help you manage the stress that can trigger anxiety and depression. Meditation teaches us to be more present, thus we are able to focus on the here and now and not all the ‘what-if’s’ that typically cause anxiety to go into overdrive. Researchers at Harvard found that meditation actually changes the human brain in regions that are linked to depression. Suddenly, meditation doesn’t sound so far-fetched, does it? It is quite literally a “quick fix.”
But really…how does meditation work? When we focus on being in the present moment and slow our breathing, without judgment, our body physically relaxes and tension reduces. Scientifically, our parasympathetic nervous system is activated (stress reducer) and our sympathetic nervous system is deactivated (stress increase), which has been proven to lower blood pressure and reduce cortisol levels. The best part is it’s a tool we can use wherever and whenever we need it. It is WITHIN us. Once we become comfortable in the practice of meditation, we quite literally carry a tool at all times that can lead to a shift in our stress and anxiety levels.
Think about it…even that pestering from your therapist and the pressure from your spouse would no longer bother you…you’d simply use the tools learned in meditation to clear your mind! What are your thoughts? Does it sound worth the hype? Let us know in your comments below!