Wednesday October 30, 2019
What is Meditation?
Meditation can be defined as deep reflection and disconnecting from current activities. Meditation is also an umbrella term for ways to achieve a relaxed state of being.
Benefits of Meditation
The benefits of meditation have been well documented for thousands of years.
Did you know? When meditating, the body actually undergoes a structural change. MRI scans have shown a complete change in the brain during meditation. During meditation, beta waves (state where information is being processed) decreases, and replaced by alpha waves (associated with brain coherence). In addition, the frontal and parietal lobes (reasoning, planning, and processing sensory information part of the brain), slow down causing a relaxation response in the body.
- Lowers blood pressure. Experts believe that meditation reduces the body’s responsiveness to cortisol (stress hormone). According to a study reported in the British Medical Journal, patients who practiced meditation experienced lower blood pressure than those in the control group. (click here for more on reducing cortisol levels)
- Decrease in stress. A study with 18 volunteers completed an eight-week meditation program. Volunteers who had continued practicing regular meditation enjoyed lower anxiety levels. A larger study involving 2,466 participants who also practiced meditation strategies also enjoyed reduce anxiety levels.
- Improves the immune system. A different study at Ohio State University monitored the effect of meditation on elderly patients. The study concluded that mindfulness and relaxation exercises practiced over a period of one month helped boost patients’ lymphocytes (cells that improve the immune system).
- Improved sleep. Meditation practice helps the body learn to relax and trains the mind to settle the attention on an object such as the breath and allow other thoughts and negative emotions to dissipate.
Everyday Types of meditation
There are many types of meditation and relaxation techniques that have meditation components. All share the same goal of achieving inner peace.
Types of meditation:
Controlled breathing There are many types of breath mediations and you’ll have to experiment to find one that you love. This technique is great for beginners since because breathing is a natural function. The purpose of this type of meditation is to slow your breathing and relax your shoulder and neck muscles.
How to do it:
Breathe in slowly all the way into your belly for 5 counts. Then breathe out slowly for 5 counts (you can choose a higher or lower count based on your body capacity). Placing one hand one your belly and one on your chest is helpful while learning how to breathe into your belly. You want to feel your hand on your belly rise and fall and your shoulders relaxed. Focus all your attention on breathing. Listen to your body as you inhale and exhale through your nose. When your attention wanders, gently return your focus to your breathing. (This type is my personal favorite type of meditation before bed after a stressful day).
Did you know? Harvard Medical School suggests that focusing on a phrase such as “breathe - I am calm, breathe out releasing tension” beats counting sheep when it’s time to sleep.
Repeat a mantra This type of meditation is great for self-esteem, setting up your mind for a big day at work, or simply promoting positive self-talk.
How to do it:
Mantra meditation. In this type of meditation, you silently repeat a calming word, thought or phrase to prevent distracting thoughts. Repeat the mantra while getting ready for work, or walking in the park. Mantras can be repeated practically anywhere for any reason. You can create your own mantra, or click here for ideas.
Walk and meditate On the subject of walking, combining a walk with meditation is an efficient and healthy way to relax.
How to do it:
Simply walk and observe your surroundings. Similar to the breathing technique, use this time to soak in nature using as many senses as possible (smells, sights, sounds and textures). The walk and meditate method can be used anywhere you're walking and can be combined with the mantra method above.
Read and reflect For those who love to read, this type of meditation is for you! Many people have reported this type of meditation helps in remembering what was read and experience satisfaction and relaxation.
How to do it:
Choose a favorite poem or sacred text, song, or proverb. After reading the passage, take a few moments to quietly reflect on their meaning. What is the author trying to say? How can I apply this positive passage in my life?
Focus your love and gratitude Focusing your attention is one of the most important elements of meditation. Focusing on what you love and are thankful for is a great way for beginners to try meditation.
How to do it:
Focus your attention on a happy thought or someone you love, allowing feelings of love, compassion and gratitude to expand into your thoughts and heart. You can also close your eyes and use your imagination or reflect on past experiences that were the best times of your life.
Remember: It's common for your mind to wander during meditation. If you're meditating to calm your mind and your attention wanders, slowly return your thoughts back to the original subject.
Experiment, and discover what types of meditation works best for you. Remember, there's no right way or wrong way to meditate. The purpose of meditation is to help reduce your stress and increase overall health! Meditation can have beautiful impacts on your life, the key is consistency. So we suggest committing to a short time each day (something that’s so short, like 5 minutes that you can’t make an excuse not to do it) and increasing the length over time once you’ve developed the habit. May meditation bless your life as much as it has ours and so many others.