Meditation can take many forms. From sitting quietly and focusing on your breath to moving through different meditation practices – when your mind wanders simply bring it back.
Consistent practice of meditation is more essential than duration; five minutes daily for six sessions can more effectively reduce body stress than thirty minutes once every seven days.
Reduces Stress Hormones
No matter the source of your stress – work, relationships or family – meditation can help ease it by relaxing the “fight or flight” response that elevates blood pressure and heart rate while decreasing proinflammatory chemicals known as cytokines.
Studies have demonstrated the beneficial effects of meditation in lowering both systolic blood pressure (the first number in your blood pressure reading) and heart rate, along with markers of inflammation. A 2020 report in Psychology and Psychotherapy published these results.
Meditation appears to influence the autonomic nervous system, which regulates involuntary body functions such as heart rate and breathing. Meditation appears to directly impact hypothalamus-pituitary-thyroid-adrenal axis functions that produce and release stress hormones according to research published in July 2020 in Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism.
Improves Immune Function
Meditation may help increase your body’s capacity to fight off infection and heal itself. Stress is known to suppress immunity; research indicates that meditative practices improve immunity function by lessening its negative impact on both bodies and minds.
Scientists have recently discovered that those who regularly meditate have shown increased Natural Killer cell counts and telomerase activity – two aspects that are crucial to health and stability of our chromosomes – which has generated great curiosity as to how mindfulness-based techniques may impact immune function positively.
Meditation helps us recognize that, while it may be tempting to identify with our bodies, thoughts, emotions and possessions as who we really are, these temporally bound attributes don’t represent who we really are – our true self is pure consciousness that exists beyond space and time – with daily meditation practice we can connect to this pure consciousness and feel its qualities of happiness, love, peace wisdom and grace.
Promotes Emotional Stability
Meditation helps individuals build resilience against stressful situations. Used alongside other stress management strategies, meditation helps individuals recover quickly from challenging experiences with minimal impact on both mental and physical wellbeing.
Research indicates that being mindfully aware of one’s own thoughts and emotions provides a buffer from inner turmoil that can provoke emotional reactions, providing a calm effect which promotes both self-compassion and empathy toward others during times of conflict.
One small study demonstrated that volunteers trained in meditation demonstrated decreased activity in their ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), an area linked to emotions such as anxiety and fear, which also affects how you perceive others and interact with them.
Improves Focus and Concentration
Learning meditation doesn’t need to be hard; all it takes is consistent practice to gain comfort with it.
Meditation alters your thinking by restructuring established neural networks and improving focus. Meditation increases grey matter density in parts of the brain associated with focus, memory and self-control and may help increase working memory capacity.
One study discovered that teens who practiced meditation demonstrated greater stability in the ventral posteromedial cortex (vPMC), an area of their brain associated with spontaneous thoughts and mind wandering, than control group members. Meditation also helps people become less irritable by teaching them to accept minor disturbances while remaining focused in the present moment – something teachers are now employing in classrooms for children as a means of relieving the stress associated with school life and building resilience.
Reduces Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression
Meditation can help to lower your levels of stress hormones and promote emotional stability, while improving sleep – an integral component to good health. Regular practice can also lead to better night’s rest for improved overall wellbeing.
Researchers may never fully understand why meditation produces these effects, but they have used brain imaging techniques to observe changes in participants’ neural networks during and after meditation sessions. Their observations indicate that mindfulness reduces activity in areas associated with self-referential (“me-centered”) thinking in the brain.
Meditation can help you take a step back from negative thoughts and feelings that trigger depression, helping you recognize they’re only temporary and don’t reflect who you truly are. Meditation could improve your ability to cope with depression more successfully while helping prevent future relapses.