Meditating is a scientifically proven method to reduce stress, especially if you do it consistently. There are many different styles of meditation and they’re all very effective. From transcendental meditation to kundalini yoga, find what works for you and make it a habit. You’ll enjoy more benefits if you practice consistently for extended periods of time than if you just do it here and there. There have been many studies done on meditation over the last several years that have shown tangible health benefits. We wanted to share with you our favorite ones.
Five Health Benefits of Meditation
Reduce the Physiological Effects of Stress
Stress causes our adrenal glands to release cortisol into the bloodstream. High cortisol levels in the bloodstream can lead to fatigue, irritability, headaches, anxiety, depression and weight gain. Consistent meditation triggers the relaxation response. Our blood pressure and heart rate slow down and we stop filling the blood with the stress hormone cortisol. So taking that 5-10 minutes a day to connect with the breath and focus the mind can reduce the physiological damage that high stress has on our health.
Increase Your Attention Span
Can you stand in line or sit at a red light without grabbing your phone? Can you read an entire article on a website without pausing to flip through Facebook? Our increasing reliance on technology has caused our attention span to get smaller and smaller. This makes us less able to connect with people in real life because of our inability to listen to others with a genuine level of interest. It also inhibits our ability to gain new skills and learn new things.
Meditation has been proven to lengthen the attention span. Many people say “I just can’t sit and meditate. I get fidgety and my mind won’t quiet down.” These are the moments where it’s most important to push through. You’re teaching the mind a new trick and at first it will resist. This resistance will be more intense for some than others. If this is you, give yourself feasible goals. At first, sit for five minutes. This may seem like 5 hours, but no matter what the mind tells you, stay with it until the end. After a while, five minutes will fly by, we promise! Soon you’ll be able to meditate for 20 minutes or more with ease. This will help you to focus for longer periods of time on the task at hand.
Defeat Your Addictions
Meditation increases self control and brings attention to the triggers that feed your addictions. According to a study from 2012, “Successful addiction recovery is often related to an individual’s ability to develop and use a repertoire of coping behaviors, including the ability to maintain an ongoing awareness of one’s vulnerability. These learned behaviors serve as reliable alternatives to the routine behavior patterns of individuals who are addicted, which, in the past, have led to often‐repeated destructive outcomes. The authors contend that incorporating meditation into the lifestyle of individuals recovering from addiction provides a consistent means of preparing for inevitable, addiction‐related life challenges and a coping skill that can help maintain equilibrium in living with ever‐present peril.” Coupled with guidance from an addiction specialist and in or out patient treatment, meditation can be a very effective compliment to overcoming addiction.
Improved Sleep Is One of The Best Benefits of Meditation
Sleep is a vital physiological function that is absolutely key to enjoying good health. 27% of Americans report that they struggle with falling asleep at night. 68% of Americans say that they wake up during the night and have trouble falling back to sleep. Sleep is important because it enables the body to repair and be ready for another day. Getting adequate rest may also help prevent excess weight gain, heart disease, and enable you to heal more quickly from disease and illnesses. We must restore our systems with a good sleep every night for optimum health.
One study compared two meditation programs by randomly assigning participants to one of two groups. One group practiced meditation, while the other didn’t. Participants who meditated fell asleep sooner and stayed asleep longer, compared to those who didn’t meditate. Meditation can significantly improve your ability to have a long restful night’s sleep.
Meditation Preserves The Brain
A study from UCLA found that people who meditate for an extended period of time have better preserved brains than people who don’t meditate. Participants who had been meditating for an average of 20 years had more grey matter volume throughout the brain. There is also evidence suggesting that a lifelong meditation habit thickens the brain (in a good way) and strengthens the connections between brain cells.
There is a phenomenon in the brain called ” insula gyrification.” This refers to the folding of the cortex, which may allow the brain to process information faster, promoting and enhancing neural processing. The study showed long term meditators had more gyrification in the cortex and said that “Meditators are known to be masters in introspection and awareness as well as emotional control and self-regulation, so the findings make sense that the longer someone has meditated, the higher the degree of folding in the insula.”
So there you have it folks! There are so many benefits of meditation. They are tried and true and these are just five of them that we think are pretty cool. Every Kundalini class in our library incorporates meditation. After movement series and several types of breath-work, class ends with a guided meditation.
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