Meditation has a reputation for being a fab and hard to learn. Those two assumptions have been long proven wrong. Meditation is here to stay and it is not difficult to learn. From ancient practices to modern medicine there is almost a universal agreement; meditation changes physical elements in our brains and it is much more than just a relaxation technique.
Recent studies published in the Journal of Neuroscience showed that after 3 months of intensive meditation, the brain waves in the right frontal cortex, which is where stress is located, have decrease and the activity in the left frontal cortex, which is much calmer and happier, showed a dramatic increase.
Concentration: In our fast moving world, with so many audio visual attractions around us, it is hard sometimes to stay concentrated and on task. Meditation changes brain waves and activity in the brain. In an experiment performed by Dr.Jon Kabat-Zinn, of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, 25 people were asked to learn meditation and 16 others were chosen as a control group. Brain scans were taken 3 times; before the test, after the meditation has been practiced for 8 weeks, and 3 months later. The data showed the subjects improved their attentional stability – the ability to stay focused without frequent lapses, by almost 40%.
Stress reduction: Meditation causes us to switch off from our daily worries. It gives us an opportunity to be by ourselves, without being available to others. Physical signs of stress result from the release of the hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol and maintaining high levels of it. Stress causes an increase in heart rate, perspiration, breathing rate and narrowing of the arteries. Meditation reduces the activation of the sympathetic nervous system which reduces hormone levels, which in turn dilates the blood vessels and provides stress relief.
Alleviate Irritability: When everything around us is irritating, when people don’t seem to understand what we are saying and behave in ways that cause us to think it is done to upset you – better look at ourselves. We are the ones irritated. Practicing meditation give us a few minutes of calm and quiet, a lot of oxygen to replenish tired muscles and helps us put things in perspective, thus alleviating irritability.
Control of thoughts: How often do you find that you are a victim of your own thoughts? You try to function normally, try to fall asleep, but those negative and worrisome thoughts keep you up and tense. Meditation teaches us that not only we are able to control those thoughts; we can learn how to stop them completely.
Happiness: Meditation can take you to the source of happiness – your peace of mind. It might be hard to grasp that happiness comes from within, not from the material things outside our bodies, but practicing meditation can prove it, when you can tap to this pool without needing external stimulants.
Increase creativity: when we live in our thinking mind, creativity that comes from spontaneity is diminished. To access that source of inspiration we need to quiet our mind which thinks about the past and the future not about the here and now. Remember the story about “Eureka!” attributed to the Greek scholar Archimedes? He discovered it in the bathtub.
Discovering what is really important: If you feel empty inside, looking for answers to what is life all about, you can gain perspective through meditation. When the reality is unbent by our egotistic existence, things become clearer.
Lowering blood pressure: Because of the calming effect of meditation, reduction of stress helps the cardiovascular system get more nutrition though the breathing technique used in meditation. That results in blood vessels being diluted and reduction in blood pressure.
Improve sleep: Research shows that meditation might help insomnia sufferers fall asleep and achieve a better and deeper sleep with enhancement of slow waves and the REM stage. Better sleep reduces stress and vice versa.
There are many kinds of meditation techniques you can use; those influenced by Eastern philosophies, by yoga, Hinduism or Buddhism. Or the western, secular meditation called Transcendental meditation. The benefits of meditation are real and have been proven in many scientific studies. But it requires some persistence and perseverance.
You might not feel the full benefits of meditation in the first few times you practice it. Meditation is a state of existence that is difficult to express in words, and therefore difficult to explain. It has to be experienced, and each one of us has to find the place within ourselves by ourselves. Once you feel the full effect of meditation, you will know you got there.
In our modern world that measures activity, productivity, achievements and results it is sometimes difficult to understand that 15 minutes a peace and quiet can be very instrumental in achieving all that we want to achieve.