How Meditation Can Improve Your Life
The popularity of meditation is increasing as more and more people discover the incredible benefits that the practice has to offer.
Meditation is a mental practice that involves training your brain to be present, to rest in the here and now, and be fully engaged in the present moment. It’s about gaining a healthy sense of perspective and learning to observe your thoughts and feelings without judgement. While many people become discouraged from this practice because they struggle with “turning off their thoughts,” it is important to remember that turning off your thoughts or feelings isn’t what meditation is about. It is about redirecting those thoughts to the here and now as they arise.
Meditation is a skill like lifting weights or learning a new hobby. The more you practice it, the better you will become. In today’s entry, we will be going over how to meditate and some of the incredible benefits that come along with it.
How to Meditate
While there is no one-size-fits-all, perfect way of meditating, most meditations begin by sitting in a calm, quiet place, closing the eyes, and focusing on your breath to assist with calming the mind. By doing this, we are training the mind to stop becoming easily distracted and learning to become more focused on the present moment.
It is completely normal when we begin our meditation practice for our minds to jump all over the place — it is simply in our mind’s nature. Meditation is not about stopping these thoughts, but about observing them without getting caught up in our thoughts and emotions. Using our breath as an anchor is a great tool when we find ourselves getting caught up in our thoughts, as it helps us learn to tame them and develop an awareness of those emotions. Over time, the mind slowly becomes more comfortable with the idea of sitting still and allows us to take the qualities we experience from meditation — calmness, compassion, focus, and mindfulness — into the rest of our day.
When sitting in a calm, quiet room isn’t accessible to us, we can also find stillness by coming back to our breath. Hot yoga is an extremely meditative practice, as it almost forces you to focus on your breath and body. Many of our fellow yogis at Yoga Pod in Golden have found that taking our hot yoga classes helped bring a lot of calmness and mindfulness into their lives while decreasing their stress levels the more they practice. If you are interested in trying out a hot yoga class for yourself, reach out to us today!
Benefits of Meditation
Meditation has been scientifically proven to help alleviate stress and is an effective stress-management tool. Meditation helps to reprogram the brain to the extent that people who consistently meditate end up with more capacity to manage stress.
When we train our brains to become more calm, open, and less reactive, we become more capable to cope with the stressors of life — in our careers, families, relationships, finances, and even things as simple as dealing with traffic. We meditate in order to counter the stress response with a relaxation response, which leads to a decrease in blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygen circulation.
Meditation also creates a change in the amygdala — the area of our brain that governs our senses, memories, moods, and decisions. Studies have shown that the amygdala shrinks and the prefrontal cortex becomes bigger with a regular meditation practice. This means that we increase our capacity to manage stress and become more aware. In other words, meditation is helping to gradually change our brains into a state that can rationalize our reactions to stress and fear, and build a solid mental resilience.
Going hand-in-hand with decreasing stress levels, meditation is extremely beneficial for those with anxiety. Because anxiety and stress share many of the same psychological symptoms, they trigger the amygdala the same way. While stress is a heightened emotion and anxiety is a diagnosed condition, they are often used interchangeably.
Our adrenal glands start flaring when we are exposed to dangerous situations, which activates the “fight or flight response.” This becomes a disorder when the fear or worry won’t disappear, and escalates into a sense of impending doom, catastrophizing, constant ruminating, and sometimes panic. For many people, it can be all-consuming and debilitating.
When we meditate, we can familiarize ourselves with thoughts that are anxiety-inducing. We learn to see them, acknowledge them, and then let them go instead of letting them consume us.
Lengthens Attention Span
Numerous studies have shown that consistent practice of meditation can help with increasing attention span. When we practice meditation, we work on focusing our attention on our breath, and as our mind wanders, we acknowledge the thoughts, let them go, and return to our breath and the present moment. Like a muscle in your body, performing this brain exercise will help you with strengthening your focus and allow you to concentrate better the more you practice it. This increase in focus also leads to better productivity at work or school, and increased overall wellbeing.
Getting good sleep is the foundation for good health and is crucial for our mood. If you are waking up in the mornings feeling tired and foggy, it can be more difficult to remember things and can impact your ability to focus and be productive. It can also become more difficult to make healthy food choices as it throws your hormones out of whack.
Studies have shown that meditation can be an extremely beneficial tool for those who have difficulty falling and staying asleep. When you enter your bedroom at bedtime, be sure to shut down electronic devices, turn down the lights, and quiet anything that may be causing your mind to wander. If you are the type of person who enjoys white noise, turn on a fan, or consider purchasing a white noise machine. Once you have a room that is conducive to a restful night of sleep, begin your meditation practice. Before you know it, you will likely be waking up in the morning feeling refreshed and well-rested because you took those small (but important) extra steps to take care of yourself before bed.
There are many more science-based benefits of meditation, but we hope these six helped to give you an idea of the incredible things that meditation can do for you. If you would like to know more about this transformative practice, give our hot yoga studio, Yoga Pod in Golden, a call today!