Why You Should Give Meditation a Second Look

It doesn’t sound like fun for many people. Nor is it the kind of relaxing activity we might indulge in. Maybe, images of people in a lotus position practicing an Indian or Buddhist discipline came to mind when you saw this article’s title. You might be thinking of Yoga, which is not the same as meditation. However, the latter is part of the former. According to Wikipedia, meditation is:

“…a practice where an individual uses a technique – such as mindfulness, or focusing the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity – to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state.”

So, what’s the big deal about mediation?

Benefits of Meditation

According to research by neuroscientist Sara Lazar, people who practiced mindfulness meditation had more grey matter in their brains’ frontal cortex. This is responsible for decision-making, personality expression, and controlling social behavior. The frontal cortex also mobilizes thoughts and actions in goal pursuits.

In another study by the Dept. of Neurology of UCLA, meditation helps protect the brain from aging. So now we have two independent researchers arriving at almost the same conclusion. However, scientists believe more studies have to be made.

You’d agree it’s something to think about. I’ve been spending an hour each day solving puzzles since it’s been said that this exercises the left and right sides of our brains. But it seems that we can do more to improve our minds and general well-being.

For now, let’s focus on one type – mindfulness meditation. Here are its benefits you may not be aware of.

  • Meditation decreases activity in the area of the brain responsible for mind-wandering. This is according to a study at Yale University. A wandering mind is often an unhappy mind.
  • Meditation increases focus on the here and now.
  • Meditation is as good as antidepressants, according to Madhav Goyal of Johns Hopkins. It’s not a cure for depression, but it can help people cope with symptoms.
  • A few minutes of meditation each day can reduce anxiety and relieve stress.
  • Meditation improves memory.
  • People who meditate are less impulsive and are more in control of their emotions. This leads to healthier personal and professional relationships.
  • Meditation can lower blood pressure.

Types of Meditation

There are other kinds of meditation aside from mindfulness. We’ll just briefly go over each and maybe you’ll be interested in one should you give meditation a try.

  1. Spiritual. Connect through prayer and in silence with your God or whatever you call a higher being or power. With Religions like Hinduism and Christianity, essential oils are burned as incense.
  2. Zen Meditation. This is part of Buddhism, but the movies associate it with martial arts. Shaolin monks fighting evil is a common theme. This type can be considered spiritual too. One of the aims of Zen meditation is to experience an awakening of the mind.
  3. Body Scan. The main focus of this type is our physical bodies. The aim is to relax every part from head to toe to relieve tension. This could be done while sitting in a quiet and comfortable room.
  4. Mantra Meditation. This is another type popularized by movies or television. Monks in a mountain monastery chanting “Om” is a familiar scene depicted in many films. Chants may differ, but the goal is to be one with your environment.
  5. Compassion Meditation. It’s also known as loving-kindness. Sensing and sending love while in meditation is this type’s goal. Practitioners learn to love themselves and everyone.
  6. Transcendental Meditation. Commonly associated with out-of-body experiences, the aim is to rise above one’s being. It can also be spiritual and a mantra can be chanted.

Meditation is not for everyone. But, think of the benefits. Thankfully, there are several videos of short meditation exercises on YouTube. You should give it a try just to satisfy your curiosity. Who knows, it might work for you.

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