Science is slowly, but surely, proving that meditation really does deserve recognition for treating some ailments and is truly beneficial for all individuals who pursue this calming practice. There are many different methods of meditation for one to choose from, be it focusing on a mantra or a candle flame or just letting the mind wander. The key is finding one that “feels right” for you, so if the first method you try feels weird, try other methods until you find the right one.
Studies have proven that meditation lowers stress levels. “In an eight-week study, a meditation style called “mindfulness meditation” reduced the inflammation response caused by stress.”
Mindful meditation can improve sleep patterns and help you to relax by getting you to slow down and focus on thoughts without stressing about them. “You come to the profound understanding that thoughts and feelings (including negative ones) are transient. They come and they go, and ultimately, you have a choice about whether to act on them or not.” Coming to this understanding helps you to decide if the stress is really worth your time. Generally speaking, most people will realize that there are better things to focus on. Recognizing that you have a choice in your thoughts is a very comforting concept. When you feel that you do not have control, this can be a major factor causing stress. Stress hormones running through your body can wreak all sorts of havoc on your system. Your immune system feeds on your positive or negative thoughts and when you have negative thoughts, it causes stress. “Stress leads to inflammation, a state linked to heart disease, arthritis, asthma and skin conditions such as psoriasis, say researchers at Emory University in the U.S. Relaxation can help prevent and treat such symptoms by switching off the stress response.”
When stress is decreased, blood pressure and anxiety levels drop. Meditation helps to relieve stress. It helps you to clear your mind of negative ideations and problems that you cannot control and gives you the choice to focus on positive things. When you focus on the positive things in your life, your brain reacts by releasing feel good hormones which, in turn, lower your blood pressure. “Habitual meditation helps reduce anxiety and anxiety related mental health issues like social anxiety, phobias and obsessive-compulsive behaviours.”
When you focus on more optimistic ideations, you tend to gain a better outlook on life as well. Another aspect of meditation that is being studied more closely is its ability to boost the immune system. “Meditation stimulates immune system brain-function regions. …they make the immune system function more effectively.” When your immune system is functioning better, you are better able to produce antibodies that help fight off disease and sickness. “…authors found that mindfulness meditation: Reduced markers of inflammation, high levels of which are often correlated with decreased immune functioning and disease. Increased number of CD-4 cells, which are the immune system’s helper cells that are involved in sending signals to other cells telling them to destroy infections.”
There are many health problems that affect the immune system that could benefit from this line of research, from HIV and asthma to immunodeficiency’s and eczema. If you are feeling isolated or if you notice that you are very grouchy around people, meditation may help improve this area of your life, as well as helping you gain a better overall outlook. “…even just a few minutes of loving-kindness meditation increased feelings of social connection and positivity toward novel individuals, on both explicit and implicit levels. These results suggest that this easily implemented technique may help to increase positive social emotions and decrease social isolation.”
Meeting new people becomes less stressful because you have a more optimistic view of people in general, you focus more on a positive outcome of a first encounter and you also have a more receptive mindset when encountering new individuals. With a more positive mindset, you become more approachable from another person’s standpoint. With this type of meditation, you develop a deeper emotional concept of compassion and you are better able to sympathize with others as well.
Spirituality is another facet of meditation that is important to some. If you are a spiritual or religious person, meditation can bring you peace or clarity in some cases. “Mindfulness is the key element of the spiritual experience in a number of different religions. …When we practice mindfulness…, we’re more able to open our mind to make sense of new experiences. The findings shed light on the link between meditation and spiritual experiences,…”
When actively performing meditation, we increase our self-awareness and become able to accept things larger than ourselves. “Nurses Ruth Beckmann Murray and Judith Proctor Zenter write that “the spiritual dimension tries to be in harmony with the universe, and strives for answers about the infinite,…”
Spiritual meditation puts you in a state of “higher” awareness that some consider to be “transcendental”. The term “spirituality” has a fluid definition in that anyone you ask has a different answer; it is a personal experience. Some say it has to do with being in contact with a higher power while others may see it as being one with nature.
Practicing meditation is a personal choice that could make a world of difference in your life. It can lower stress, boost your immune system, improve focus, help with time-management skills and help you to be more accepting of yourself and others. Taking twenty- to thirty-minute “time-outs” to relax and unwind through means of meditation is something that should seriously be considered. Adding this practice to your everyday life can improve your overall outlook as well as improve your personal relationships. Try a few different methods over the next few weeks and see what fits for you.