Words by Puravi Joshi
A few years ago, you may only have associated meditation with Buddhist Monks, this is definitely no longer the case. Today, it’s probably no exaggeration to say every adult has, at the very least, heard of meditation.
‘You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes a day, unless you’re too busy, then you should sit for an hour. – This zen proverb is one you may have seen plastered all over Instagram if you type in #meditation. A lot of the time, we’re in a constant state of trying to move on to the next thing. When we start meditation, it can feel overwhelming; simply, lots of people will say they don’t have time to be still, or they don’t know how to or they can’t. I know I’ve definitely said those things.
But meditation isn’t just a practice of sitting down and doing nothing, it is a practice that brings focussed attention and a heightened sense of awareness, the benefits are plentiful especially in the world we live in today. At the moment there is a constant feeling of uncertainty, and with that comes a lot of stress and frustration. Meditation helps us hit pause and allows us the opportunity to find a way to re-centre ourselves.
BENEFITS OF MEDITATION FOR BEGINNERS
More recently, interest into meditation and mindfulness have become increasingly popular, because of this there are now thousands of studies that show that meditation has a positive impact on both mental and physical health.
As a beginner, I know sometimes all you’re doing in meditation is simply trying to not let your mind wander, however you may notice a couple of benefits immediately!
5 Immediate Benefits of Meditation:
Meditation gives you time to rest your body and mind, this simple action of stillness and rest directly impacts your nervous system by decreasing cortisol, you might notice this by feeling lighter
If you’re feeling anxious, meditation helps you to focus on just one thing, usually the breath this will help to calm you and help you feel more relaxed
When you meditate, it decreases your blood pressure, and your heartbeat to a nice resting rate, this helps to support a healthy heart!
It can help to bring your thoughts and emotions into balance, sometimes we can let our thoughts run away with us, when we are meditating it helps bring mental clarity
Better posture, if you’ve ever been sitting in meditation and notice yourself slumping down and then sitting up tall again (I know I have), it can help bring you better body awareness
These are just some of the immediate benefits, but if we keep to a consistent practice the benefits multiply ten-fold, just 8 weeks of meditation has been found to increase the grey matter in your brain especially in the regions associated with empathy, memory, sense of self and stress, let’s take a look at some of these proven long-term benefits in more detail
5 Long Term Benefits of Meditation:
It helps to build our inner strength; I know we’ve all had moments where we’re stuck somewhere like traffic and getting annoyed because we need to be somewhere else or that feeling of wanting to escape. Meditation gives us the ability to be present in the moment and to be in difficult situations but not letting them affect you.
A healthier immune system – studies show that those that have a meditation practice produce a higher number of antibodies than those that don’t, these antibodies help us fight off diseases and keep us healthy and well.
Increased attention span – recent studies have found that meditation decreases the tendency to stop paying attention, and instead of sticking to our patterned habits our focus is sharpened.
A consistent meditation practice helps us manage our stress and increase our resilience towards it, it helps to create a balance between our parasympathetic nervous system and the autonomic system this helps us be less reactive to stressful experiences
Reduces negative and ruminative thoughts and increases happiness and well-being which will increase contentment and compassion, meditation gives us the tools needed to really tap into the happiness within us
How Does Meditation Help the Mind?
According to the American Medical Journal, stress is responsible for 60% for all human illness and disease. The Mental Health Foundation advise that 51% of adults who felt stressed reported feeling depressed, and 61% reported feeling anxious
When we experience stress and anxiety, our bodies stress response goes into ‘fight or flight mode’ basically to fight the situation head on or run away from it. Meditation is a great tool as it affects the body in the exact opposite way, instead when we meditate, we trigger our relaxation response, what this does is restore us to a much calmer, grounded state and helps to prevent any physical symptoms of that stress can induce (tension headaches, knot in stomach, feeling sick etc). Meditation when done regularly will have us changing the way we react to stress, and will allow us to recover from these situations better and more effectively.
Statistics from the World Health Organisation show that 60% of the world-wide population feel that they don’t sleep well. Meditation helps us sleep better – I mean who doesn’t want this one, if you’ve ever tried a yoga nidra class you will have heard 20 minutes of Nidra is equal to 3 hours of sleep. The American Journal of Medicine conducted a study to find the benefits of meditation on insomniacs; 100% of the participants reported improved sleep and an incredible 91% reported the reduced or no need for sleeping aids
Manifestation – meditation is a great tool for this as it is perfect for visualisation, it allows us to centre our focus without distraction, we are also able to make our manifestation into our mantras an easy one to think of is, ‘I am happy’ when you start your mantra with, I am it emphasises your intention, speaking it true instead of wishing it true.
DOES MEDITATION REALLY WORK?
Without a doubt, meditating has provided many thousands of people with a vast number of benefits, if this wasn’t the case, apps like Headspace and Calm wouldn’t be with us today. Even without the hundreds of studies done in recent times I’m a big believer of If it feels good, and if it works for us, shouldn’t we do it anyway?
HOW TO MEDITATE PROPERLY:
There’s no set in stone way to meditate, but here are some of my top tips!
make your space clean, a cluttered space gives you a cluttered mind
- make your space cosy and comfortable a place you want to sit down and relax, maybe light a candle or some incense
allow your body to relax whether it’s sitting up or laying down take a few moments to re-adjust so that we can let go of tension we are holding on to
- come back to your breath, a simple way to meditation is to just focus on your breath, when your mind starts to wander come back to your breath.
Meditation isn’t about the outcome. It’s about taking a moment to just sit for a few minutes and let things settle. It’s why we take coffee breaks and hot baths. We’re not really doing it for any other reason for a little peace and quiet. Meditation allows us to go that little bit deeper and reap so many more benefits than just 5 minutes of peace!