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The Benefits of Meditation

October 7, 2020
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If you’ve ever Googled being stressed, tired, over-worked or overwhelmed, it’s very likely that more than few of the results would have brought up the words ‘meditation’ or ‘mindfulness’.

And it’s not just Google. Meditation and mindfulness seem to pop up all over the place! You talk to a friend about how stressed you are with your kids, they suggest you try a bit of mindfulness. You speak to a family member about not being able to sleep at night, they mention how much meditation has helped them. You watch a new weight loss TV program and someone brings up ‘mindful eating’ – meditation is EVERYWHERE! It may seem like it’s a buzz word thrown around as a panacea for all of life’s woes but there's a very good reason for this: meditation works!

Meditation Helps to Reduce Anxiety

Many studies have shown how much mindfulness and meditation can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and panic disorder in individuals with anxiety. Even going back to 1992 (meditation wasn’t quite thrown around in conversation so much, even 30 years ago), this study showed that out of 22 subjects, treatment using meditation techniques significantly reduced anxiety and depression scores for 20 of those subjects. This group included 10 subjects with ‘panic disorder with agoraphobia’, 8 had generalised anxiety disorder and 17 subjects had more than one psychiatric diagnosis including issues like having had a ‘major depressive episode’. These are impressive results and even from one small study, truly show the benefits of meditation.

Meditation Aids Focus

So many of us struggle with concentration in modern times. With constant notifications and sounds going off on all forms of technology and schedules full of a million and one things to do, it’s incredibly hard to just think about one thing at one time. However, that is exactly what meditation and mindfulness help teach us to do. The more you practice focussing on the breath or on guided meditations, the better you get at it and the easier it becomes. This then carries over to other tasks because your brain has learnt how to slow down and keep its focus. Brains can be trained and learn new ways to behave and not only does this help us focus but it also helps the mind relax. Brains aren’t fond of multi-tasking and find it quite stressful. Learning to focus on one thing at one time (and let’s face it, most of us don’t multi-task very effectively), really helps.

Meditation Can Help with Pain Management

Many people suffer chronic pain due to illness or injury and this can affect them in their day to day life. It can have an effect on every aspect of life and certainly provides some extra challenges.

Meditation won’t remove all pain but a recent study of over 6000 participants found that meditation could really help reduce the pain in people who had chronic or acute pain or pain following surgery.

Mindfulness Can Improve Your Relationships

It’s no surprise that generally being more aware and being more focused when interacting with your significant other, or other loved ones will improve your relationship with them and make them feel more cherished. That being said, that’s not the only area that mindfulness can improve relationships.

A study from 2016 has shown that in a group of 88 couples, the more mindful couples were quicker to calm down after fights. Let's face it, we could all use slightly more peaceful relationships with our partners!

Meditation Can Improve Memory Loss

Meditation can actually help bring more blood through to the brain. A study was done on 15 people aged over 50, who all had memory issues.

After 8 weeks of meditation (Kirtan Kriya meditation) it was found that blood flow was increased to the frontal and parietal lobes (both responsible for memory) and following tests that looked at memory, attention and cognition, all areas had improved.

Are Meditation and Mindfulness the Same Thing?

Yes. No. Kind of! Mindfulness is actually a form of meditation. There are many different ways you can meditate and mindfulness is simply a way of doing that. At a very base level mindfulness is the act of focussing on the thing you’re doing as you’re doing that. You can be actively mindful, for example, you can mindfully eat food or mow the lawn.

Alternatively, you can mindfully breathe and just watch your breath come and go and keep your whole focus on it as it does that. Mindfully doing an activity, the act of really focussing on it, whatever it is, really helps the mind to slow down and brings you into the present moment.

How Do You Meditate?

There are many ways to meditate and there’s not a right or wrong way because often different ways will work for different people. As mentioned, mindfulness is a great way to practice meditation. Simply stay really present in the activity you’re doing and that’s a type of meditation. The next level of this is called entering the state of ‘flow’. Many artists, musicians, chefs and other people enter this state when doing something that they’re highly skilled at – but you can do it too! If there’s a hobby that you really enjoy: something as simple as gardening, painting or cooking and you don’t notice the time passing as you do it, then that’s a form of meditation – do more of it!

Other ways to meditate:

Use mantra: simply repeat a word or phrase again and again and keep your whole focus on that for a set amount of time. It can be as simple as repeating ‘I am calm’ but there are lots of ideas for mantras online. Try it for 5 minutes and see how you feel.

Try visualisation: Guided visualisations are like little stories for the brain to follow where you imagine what’s being said to you – there are lots on YouTube so you can simply do a search for them on there.

Rotations of consciousness/Guided body relaxations: This is where you mentally scan your body, part by part and imagine each individual part relaxing. It’s quite easy to do yourself but you can also find these on YouTube.

There are many other ways to meditate and there will be one that works for you but it does take practice. Commit to trying it every day for 21 days (the approximate time it takes to build a habit) and see how you feel after that 21 days. You won’t necessarily be ‘good’ at meditation straight away (because the mind likes to wander) but you will improve with practice. We often run meditation classes and yoga with meditation classes, so take a look at our timetable for the latest offerings or call us on: 01323 732024 for more information.

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