The Benefits of Meditation

Meditation involves the increased state of awareness of both the mind and body. It is commonly thought of as an act of concentration, however, this is a misconception. Meditation should be an effortless attempt to become reconnected to yourself and gain a greater understanding of who you are. There are many different types of meditation one may engage in, such as transcendental, mindfulness etc., which aim at different purposes. However, all meditation styles produce similar outcomes, which I will illustrate in this article.  

Reduce Stress

When we are stressed, either mentally or physically, the body increases its production of cytokines, which is a chemical that promotes inflammation in the body. This process of inflammation can disturb our sleep, evoke episodes of depression or anxiety, cause fatigue, etc. A study which was conducted over the course of eight weeks demonstrated that “mindfulness meditation” reduced the body’s inflammatory response to stress. Mindful meditation is particularly helpful, as it allows individuals to become hyper-aware of their body. Meditation has also been proven to not only reduce physiological symptoms of stress but also reduce symptoms in conditions where stress plays a significant factor, such as fibromyalgia, PTSD, etc.

Controls anxiety

Typically, stress and anxiety come as a package deal. If someone is experiencing large amounts of stress, they will often experience feelings of anxiety as well. Therefore, when we are able to manage our stress, we are in a better position to manage our anxiety. Although there are different types of anxieties (i.e. social anxiety, phobias, etc.), meditation may be used as an effective universal coping mechanism to treat them. An eight-week study conducted on mindful meditation proved that individuals who consistently meditated were more prone to positive thinking and optimistic attitudes. This is due to the fact that the individuals became more present and aware of their body, allowing them to recognize when they were triggered by stressful, or anxiety provoking things. With their new mindset and increased awareness of themselves, they were able to deal with their anxiety more effectively.

Enhances Self-awareness

Meditation allows individuals to increase their self-awareness and ultimately promote self-growth by being more in tune with their mind and body. That is, an individual may become aware of things which they were ignorant to previously. For example, after one begins meditation, they may find that they hold a significant amount of anger, or resentment toward someone which they wish to let go. They may also come to realize that there are areas of their personality that they want to work on. Meditation can, therefore, be viewed as a form of introspection, which enables individuals to make positive changes in their life.

It changes the structure of the brain

A study, which was done over the duration of eight weeks, showed that meditating for 30 minutes each day changed the structure of the human brain. More specifically, they found an increase in grey matter in the hippocampus, which is the area of the brain associated with memory, spatial orientation, etc. Conversely, they found a decrease in grey matter in the amygdala, which is the structure of the brain related to stress, anxiety, and fear. Therefore, meditation not only changes our perspective, or overall body state but literally changes our brain!

Meditation is an amazing practice to engage in, due to the fact that it can be done at any time and anywhere. It does not cost money and there are many helpful apps (such as “Headspace”) which can help you start your own journey.