Why should we do Meditation?
Why should we do meditation? We hear it so often lately and see all these trendy studios advertising Meditation Classes... but should we really go and try?
Here is a little insight how Meditation could be useful for us.
Lets imagine that you had a tough day at work... even if you love your job - there will always be stressful moments. Stress is not always a conscious state. Sometimes we do not have the time to realize that our body is actually energy deprived. We only feel drained and tired at the end of the day.
We can take a relaxing bath and down a glass of wine or 2, or 3....or a bottle but that will only make us feel worse the day after.
But lets imagine that we had this little moment of realization that maybe for once... we should actually do something good for ourselves and sign up for a Meditation Class...twice a week.
If you are struggling with weigh loss, experiencing mood swings, feeling more anxious than before, more tired than usual or maybe you are lacking a good night of sleep, feel muscle pain for no particular reason or if your libido is lower than what you are used to - it would not be a bad idea actually to have your Cortisol levels checked. There is either a lack or too much of it in your blood.
What is it though? - Cortisol is a steroid Hormone, also known as the Stress Hormone. This little fella is made in the cortex of the adrenalin glands and then released in the blood so that transports it all around the body. Cortisol is responsible for regulating a wide range of processes like metabolism and immune responses and how our body reacts to stress.
And now.... how Meditation comes into the picture here?
Herbert Benson, a Harward physician studied a form of Meditation, namely the Transcendental Meditation and the research proved that while any form of meditation is practised it activates a relaxation response which improves various health conditions raging from heart disease, diabetes and even obesity and cancer.
Basically researchers admit that Meditation lowers the Cortisol levels in the blood and should be used in combination with standard treatments.
Well - now who is not an emotional person? - Humans are emotional creatures of nature even when we are too proud to admit it - which itself is an emotional response, muahha.
The body will only respond to how we think, feel and act. Its called mind - body connection. When our emotions are running high and we don't know how to stop them, we can experience the following symptoms:
- Back pain
- Change in appetite
- Chest pain
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Dry mouth
- Extreme tiredness
- General aches and pains
- High blood pressure
- Palpitations (racing feeling in your heart)
- Sexual problem
- Shortness of breath
- Stiff neck
- Upset stomach
- Weigh loss and gain
Well, some of us can be more emotional than others. And emotions are not a bad thing... it can only be bad when we cannot control them in an important situation or in general... and we tend to overreact, over think and even harm ourselves or others.
Thankfully psychologists and scientists decided to investigate the effects of Mindfulness Meditation. After many hours of hard work on research and experiments they came to the conclusion that Meditation helps to control negative feelings not only to those who are able to control their emotions but literally anyone. How they discovered this? - They took a group of English speaking females, who never practiced Mindfulness Meditation before. Each participant had to wear an electrode cap that measured their EEG (electrical activity in the brain). They had to practice Mindfulness Meditation for 18 minutes and after that the participants were shown distribution and violent images meanwhile their brain activity was checked. The results indicated that the emotional brain was able to recover faster after the participants saw the disturbing images, meaning that meditation enabled participants to tame their negative emotions.
Basically meditating for only 20 minutes a day would improve your emotional response on a day to day basis.
Forever young... I wanna be forever young...
We all know the song of wonderful Aphaville "Forver Young". We all probably want to stay young and beautiful. And some of us do whatever their money can buy to remain and look young and beautiful, yet - does that make them feel physically young too?
I truly love how scientist measure everything because like that saying that Meditation reverses aging on a cellular level is not just a bunch of words not making any sense or something hard to believe in. Thanks to our scholar champions who now know, what the Buddhist Monks have known for probably thousands of years... based on their research that suggests that experienced Zen Meditators have longer telomeres (genetic markers of longevity) on average than people of similar age and lifestyle and also they have more compassionate, accepting outlook on life.
Scientists of the Zaragoza University compared 20 people who had been practicing Zen meditation for an hour for more than 10 years and 20 people who never meditated both of them were similar age, gender and lifestyle factors. They gave blood samples to measure the length of their telomeres (the longer your telomeres, the further away you are from death - so loner definitely "equals sign" better). The research showed that those who were practicing meditation had significantly longer telomeres after they applied a statistical technique, called regression analysis to get an idea which factors are responsible for slowing the cellular aging. The research showed that high self compassion is one of the factors that is directly responsible for longer telomeres.
And of course it would be good not to forget that aging is very much influenced by our stress levels. As it was previously explained how stress influences our body, all those factors are also responsible for keeping our body in a good shape. In other words prolongs our health and our life.
Mind the Mind.
Everything starts in our mind... All the decisions are made in the mind especially the emotional ones. The clarity of the mind is everything - it defines not only the quality of our lives but we also set our limits and believes of what we can or cannot do. Here is a scary crazy fact, our mind still continues to function even if all the rest of our vital organs are shut down. But lets get back to how Meditation effects our mind.
Again all credit goes to our scientists who are working hard everyday and in fact every day they come up with several new studies that show how Meditation has neurological benefits of enhancing connectivity between brain regions. Meditation helps to relieve our levels of anxiety and depression, improve attention, concentration and overall psychological well-being. Later studies show that experienced Meditators had more grey matter volume in their brain, which means that they have better preserved brains than the non meditators.
What is "me center"? Researchers showed that Mindfulness Meditation decreases the activity in the default mode network (DMN) - this is when we say our mind is wondering... not thinking of anything in particular. This is when all our worries, past and future related kick in. The research showed that Meditators can easily snap out of this state. Studies also showed the connection between meditation and its ability to reduce the symptoms of anxiety, depression and pain.
Here is the bottom line, when we think how can meditation - sitting with closed eyes and doing nothing - can actually effect all of the above and will that help me immediately? The answers is: Meditation is much more than that. Meditation is an active training of the mind to increase awareness. It is not a quick fix but it is a practice that with time and training will help anyone to be more happy, more stable, more healthy, live longer and increase awareness of themselves and the World around them.