The mind is a complex place. Today’s society is overwhelmed with stressors that, many believe, the human mind and body were never meant to withstand. The modern workplace causes people to push themselves to a mental and physical limit that can cause depression, anxiety, and health problems.
However, there is an escape. For thousands of years, people have used meditation as a way to “switch off” and gain perspective. This eastern practice was originally utilized by those wanting to gain a better understanding of the mystical and spiritual forces in the world. Today, meditation is used all over the globe as a method of relaxation and stress reduction.
Benefits of Meditation
Meditation is a way to relieve stress and tension. It is a way to step away from the noise of daily life and calm the mind. Calming the mind leads to feelings of strength and mental rejuvenation. It is a spiritual practice that boasts health benefits for both the mind and body. Some practice meditation to gain a sense of calmness and inner peace. Others use meditation as a way to feel more control over their lives, and to reduce negative voices or emotions. After meditating, many report having a more positive attitude, and a general feeling of well-being, self-awareness, and refreshment.
In addition to inner peace and harmony with one’s self, meditation is also a way to relax the body and relieve muscle tension. Relaxation can help those experiencing anxiety and depression. Meditation has proven effective for everyone from celebrities and athletes, to business executives, those practicing yoga, or the common individual looking for greater self-awareness and relaxation. According to health and yoga.com, “studies have found a direct correlation between concentration exercises, (meditation) and the performance level of sports professionals.” Because the mind guides the body, meditation is a way to strengthen the mind for better, overall physical health.
How Does Meditation Effect the Body and Mind?
For many years, researchers and scientists have explored the effects of meditation on the mind and body. An article for NPR, written by Katie Unger notes that, “more than 1,000 peer-reviewed articles have been published on the subject of meditation. Until recently, most of them simply observed the correlations between meditating and improved mood and decreased disease symptoms.” However, researchers are working to discover the exact ways meditation influences the brain. They have found that meditation increases activity in areas of the brain used for decision making, and attention span. Researchers are beginning to conclude that meditation actually changes the inner workings of the brain, allowing people to achieve different levels of awareness. The mental and physical relaxation leads to changes in brain wave patterns. Neuroscientists hypothesize that meditation can change the way the brain is wired.
Those that practice meditation achieve what is known as an, “alpha state.” “Alpha State,” refers to the brain triggering endorphins that act as nature’s own opiate. These endorphins provide lasting good feelings that persist even after the meditation session has concluded. Endorphins also boost the immune system and help fight off infection and diseases. Meditation also helps to increase the production of serotonin; a natural chemical the brain produces that is linked to feelings of happiness. Other benefits include increased oxygenation and blood flow. Increased oxygenation helps with focus and alertness, while increased blood flow can aide those suffering from high blood pressure. Areas of the body that see increased blood flow also benefit by receiving more oxygen and nutrients. Overall, the changes seen in the brain of those that practice meditation can support the claims that meditation increases health and well-being.
When the body achieves a more relaxed state, optimum mental processing is possible. Those that meditate allow the mind to focus on the “here and now.” Meditation relieves the tension and worries of daily life and the future. Those that practice meditation only see positive results within the body and mind.
Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. (2010). “Brain Scans show Meditation changes minds, increases attention.” University of Wisconsin-Madison News.
Eliya Sydney. (2010). “How Does the Mind Benefit from Meditation?” Ezine Articles.
(2006). “Meditation…Its Benefits.” Health and Yoga.com
Marc Kaufman. (January 3, 2005). “Meditation Gives Brain a Charge, Study Finds.” The Washington Post
(September 26, 2010). “Meditation: Take a Stress Reduction Break Wherever You Are.” Mayoclinic.com
Katie Unger. (July 26, 2005). “Mindfulness for the Masses.” NPR.com