The word meditation is often associated with the notion of relaxation and being ‘zen’, but there is so much more to it than that. Meditation can be beneficial for your mind, soul, and body, in more ways than you’d expect!
What Is Meditation?
Meditation doesn’t have to take hours out of your day – unless you want it to! The idea of meditation is that you focus on one thing, which is often just your breathing, or it can be a focus on a concept or thought, with the intention of not allowing yourself to overthink and to get away from day-to-day stresses.
Some people suggest that the best time to meditate is in the mornings, but if you can’t do it in the morning, any time of day will be beneficial! Let’s take a deeper look at why meditation is so amazing for our minds, souls, and bodies...
The Science Behind Meditation
There is scientific proof behind why meditation is good for you! You see, when we meditate, our body’s pituitary glands release endorphins (the happy hormone). Endorphins make you feel good, and are said to improve physical pain and help to combat depression and anxiety.
Unfortunately, life is full of stress for a lot of people. Although it all feels like we’re in the same boat, it’s not an excuse to settle for feeling over-stressed - there are actual physical and mental dangers when it comes to feeling over-stressed! For example, work may be really tough at the moment, but it doesn’t mean you should let the stress of work take over your life.
Our lives require balance. The mindfulness you can gain from meditation will give you a more balanced outlook on life, and potentially improve your mental and physical wellbeing.
The Benefits of Meditation
1. You Can Start Your Day Stress-Free
There’s no denying that sometimes the stresses of life can become overwhelming. And our radios, televisions, and newspapers don’t help with that. So, instead of starting your morning listening to the news, take the time to listen to yourself.
Taking just a few minutes out of your morning routine to meditate can keep your body from releasing the stress hormone, cortisol. When you feel stressed, angry, or upset, your levels of cortisol rise, which puts your body into what’s called ‘fight or flight’. With that, your heart rate increases, and your immune system breaks down, which can lead to more serious health problems in the long run.
By beginning the day feeling more relaxed, it sets you up for a better day than if you’re feeling worried or stressed. Getting into the habit of it will inevitably improve the health of your heart and immune system, keeping you healthier for longer.
2. Gives You More Energy
There are a couple of reasons why meditation is effective at giving you more energy. The first is the sleep you gain from practicing meditation.
It’s common to suffer from sleeping disorders, such as sleep deprivation or insomnia. Reasons for this include the daily release of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, which keep you alert (even when you don’t want to be), the effect of blue light on your sleep from phones and tablets (which reduces your melanin), and the impact of afternoon caffeine, among many other factors.
Meditation teaches the brain to stop running away with thoughts when there’s silence – you’ll learn to control which way your thoughts go, and that helps you to fall asleep sooner, relieving the main symptom of insomnia.
The other way meditation may give you more energy is the practice of breathing. By breathing deeply, you’re releasing toxins while giving your body more oxygen which reaches the brain. The oxygen to your brain creates more cognitive energy, making you more alert and awake.
3. Builds Focus
The practice of meditation can improve your ability to focus, by developing your cognition. Meditation can teach you the art of focusing, and alters your brain so that when it comes to tasks that require some attention, you tend to focus better than you would have before!
The increase in energy levels will also increase your ability to focus! You may not need that morning coffee anymore if you begin to meditate. Training your brain to concentrate on one thing at a time could improve your work performance, and even your relationships – communication with loved ones requires focus.
Don’t underestimate the advantages meditation can give to your brainpower – an improvement in cognitive function could do miracles for your work life, social life, and even your memory!
4. Increases Immunity
Our immune systems are directly impacted by our levels of stress. With the reduction in stress from calming meditation, our immune systems work more effectively, keeping us free of seasonal colds and other viruses.
Stress can cause inflammation, and meditation can relax the body, which reduces inflammation. Inflammation of organs, including your skin on the outside, makes you more vulnerable to illness. Meditation allows the body’s restorative mechanisms to occur, keeping your body able to fight health threats.
5. Betters Your Mood
Some forms of meditation aim to do this, while others may simply lead to it anyway. But all forms of meditation can cause you to have more positive feelings, which benefit you and others around you.
Generating a more positive way of thinking can also reduce feelings of anxiety or depression. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and the positivity that comes with forms of meditation such as Metta, otherwise known as loving-kindness meditation[i], can make you more aware of others and their feelings, as well as your own.
6. Reduces The Signs Of Aging
One benefit of meditation that might shock you is its ability to actually slow down the signs of aging, inside and out! By keeping your immune system and heart healthier, you’ll look and feel younger for longer.
Staying free from illness, whether that be colds and flu or cardiovascular problems, helps to maintain youthful energy, as well as a younger appearance. You see, the stress hormone, cortisol causes inflammation, as mentioned above – this inflammation causes the skin’s dermal layer to lose collagen, which is what keeps skin tight and plump, rather than thin and sagging.
There are also benefits to the breathing techniques involved in meditation – deep breaths eliminate excess carbon dioxide while providing a good amount of oxygen, which stimulates the cells and tissues. Cells have to regenerate in order to rid of the dead skin cells and keep skin looking healthy - so that stimulation is important!
There is no doubt that the benefits of meditation are worth the time and effort, but actually getting into the rhythm and routine of doing it on a daily basis is the hard part. Don’t overwhelm yourself – meditation can be 5 minutes, or it can last longer if you have the time.
Always give some of your time to improving your mental wellbeing – the amount of people suffering from long term stress has increased over the years, and are neglecting their emotional and mental health. Meditation releases the hormones our bodies and brains need in order to function well and live a longer, happier life.