Although it has been around for centuries, it isn’t until the last twenty years or so that meditation has found its way into the mainstream in many different areas of the world. It’s highly recognized for its ability to dramatically change a person’s life, both physically and mentally, so if you’ve never tried this peace inducing art, you’re missing out on a chance to take yourself to new levels of life satisfaction.
What is meditation?
Meditation can be defined by either act or result. What this means is that the physical act of meditation is when you sit silently by yourself and do simple breathing exercises to alter your level of consciousness. Using a results-based definition however, meditation is clearing your head of everything in it so that it is open to greater insights and new experiences.
There are many different forms of meditation from which to choose. There are meditations based on religion, such as Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism, and there are ones based solely on mindfulness. All work slightly differently, but those who perform any of them regularly enjoy the many advantages as a result of their silent sessions.
What are the benefits?
There are so many benefits to meditation that it’s not hard to see how this one simple act can change your life dramatically. When you practice meditation on a regular basis, you’ll enjoy great health and wellness advantages such as these:
- Greater clarity and personal insight
- Increased problem-solving skills and ability to be creative
- Improved memory and higher learning capacity
- Boosted motivation
- Higher quality sleep
- Decreased mood swings and lessened feelings of depression
- Alleviated addictive tendencies, such as with drugs, alcohol and gambling
- Reduced fear, anxiety and stress
- Higher sense of peace, comfort and tranquility
- Renewed energy levels and greater life excitement
- Strengthened immune system, reduced severity of headaches and alleviation of painful symptoms associated with chronic diseases and illnesses
How does it achieve all these positive side effects?
Meditation does a number of things to you physically. First, it changes your brainwaves. Depending on the level of meditation you are able to reach, you essentially alter your level of consciousness which dictates your ability to learn, problem-solve, remember key pieces of information and be insightful.
Meditation also changes your brain and body chemicals by doing the following:
- Boosts your endorphins which help you feel better
- Increases your levels of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), resulting in a stronger immune system
- Raises your body’s production of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and serotonin which even out your moods
- Helps you create more melatonin which improves your quality of sleep
- Improves your body’s production of Human Growth Hormone which helps fight normal aging conditions, such as decreasing bone density and weakening muscle structure
- Reduces your cortisol levels so you have fewer blood sugar and inflammation type issues.
There are also mental benefits to meditating on a regular basis. Those who take regular periods of time out of their daily schedule to spend some time alone report that they’re happier, feel less stressed and are more capable of dealing with life’s hurdles and obstacles. They have a higher level of peace and calm and are overall more satisfied with life as a whole.
How do you do it?
Meditation can be done a number of ways. If you’re a beginner and want to begin to experience it’s many great benefits, perhaps the best way is to start with a rather simple breathing exercise.
First, find someplace nice and quiet to sit comfortably. You’ll want to choose a location that is as free from distractions as possible. Turn off the television and radio and find an activity for the children that will keep them quiet for a short period of time. To benefit fully from this experience, you don’t want any interruptions.
Although it’s common to think you have to sit in a certain pose, really any pose will do as long as you’re comfortable and able to concentrate. So, whether you’re sitting in a chair or with your legs crossed on the floor, you’ll be able to receive the benefits of meditative practices.
When you’re ready to begin, close your eyes and focus solely on your breathing. Pay attention to the air as it enters your nose, glides down your windpipe and fills your lungs. Feel it as it leaves your body taking the exact opposite route and exits through your mouth back into the open air.
Keep your focus and attention on nothing more than the air as it comes in and goes out of your body. If you’re new to the meditative process, it’s not uncommon to have your mind wander. So, if you notice that you’re starting to think about things, simply direct your attention back to your breathing.
Admittedly, meditation can take some getting used to. Most of us spend our entire waking moments running around trying to get things done or distracting ourselves via the phone, internet, television and radio. We learn to look at silence as the enemy; something that needs to be avoided at all costs.
However, if you just take a few minutes each day to do some simple breathing exercises such as the one above, you’ll find a greater calmness and serenity than you’ve ever before experienced. You find that it takes more to bother you and less to satisfy you and make you happy.
Meditation can truly change your life if you commit to doing it on a regular basis. It changes your body on every level – from physically to mentally to spiritually. It can give you the tune-up you need, or a complete overhaul if you feel that it’s necessary.
Don’t wait to start enjoying these great benefits. Start meditating today so that you can enjoy the changes tomorrow.