Monday, January 18, 2016

5 Amazing Benefits of Meditation

Have you tried meditation? I’ve practiced meditation on and off for the past 10 years— and by that I mean I’d meditate for 10 minutes here, 5 minutes there, randomly after a yoga class, spontaneously during a stressful time...but never on a consistent basis. Moving into a new year, I’m attempting to make it a part of my permanent routine. And after a solid week of meditating each morning, I’m already feeling the benefits and am excited to keep it going.

Meditation increases happiness, improves your ability to communicate and focus, boosts creativity and reduces anxiety and stress. We take care of our bodies, we should take care of our minds and well-being too, right? The hardest part, at least for me, was finding the time. I committed to waking up a little earlier everyday (30 minutes) to be able to meditate for 10 minutes each morning and get in a couple of stretches before starting the day. And let me just say, it’s been very rewarding.

This incredibly helpful and well-designed (and free) app, Headspace, has been imperative to my foray into meditation. I highly recommend it. It guides you through a daily, 10 minute meditation. Check out the benefits, download the app and give it a shot— you’ve got nothing to loose and so much to gain!

1) Meditation Reduces Anxiety, Worry, and Stress

"In 2011, Sara Lazar and her team at Harvard found that mindfulness meditation can actually change the structure of the brain: Eight weeks of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) was found to increase cortical thickness in the hippocampus, which governs learning and memory, and in certain areas of the brain that play roles in emotion regulation and self-referential processing. There were also decreases in brain cell volume in the amygdala, which is responsible for fear, anxiety, and stress – and these changes matched the participants’ self-reports of their stress levels, indicating that meditation not only changes the brain, but it changes our subjective perception and feelings as well." - (Forbes)

2) Meditation Increases Happiness

Studies show that meditation increases brain signaling in the left side of the prefrontal cortex, responsible for positive emotions, while decreasing activity in the right side, responsible for negative emotions. It also decreases the brain network responsible for mind-wandering and self-referential thoughts. Mind-wandering (worrying, over-thinking, thinking about things that have already happened, etc.) is associated with being less happy.
(Sources: Forbes, Huffington Post)

3) Meditation Boosts Creativity 

"Research has found meditation to promote ‘divergent thinking’ a type of thinking that allows many new ideas to be generated." -(Headspace)

4) Meditation Reduces Blood Pressure, Heart Attack and Stroke

"More people die of heart diseases in the world than any other illness.
In a study published in late 2012, a group of over 200 high-risk individuals was asked to either take a health education class promoting better diet and exercise or take a class on Transcendental Meditation. During the next 5 years researchers accompanying the participants found that those who took the meditation class had a 48% reduction in their overall risk of heart attack, stroke and death.
They noted that meditation “significantly reduced risk for mortality, myocardial infarction, and stroke in coronary heart disease patients. These changes were associated with lower blood pressure and psychosocial stress factors.”
-(Live and Dare)

5) Meditation Promotes Self-Acceptance and Reduces Social Anxiety

"Research has also shown that mindfulness meditation, in contrast to attending to the breath only, can reduce anxiety – and that these changes seem to be mediated through the brain regions associated with those self-referential (“me-centered”) thoughts. Mindfulness meditation has also been shown to help people with social anxiety disorder: a Stanford University team found that MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction, a sub-genre of meditation) brought about changes in brain regions involved in attention, as well as relief from symptoms of social anxiety." The other benefits of meditation, including increased self-awareness and acceptance, also contribute to improved overall well-being.

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