Benefits of Meditation
Meditation, once thought to be a spiritual practice, is now becoming an accepted method of promoting relaxation, providing relief from anxiety and stress, and improving overall health and wellness, based on science and clinical evidence. Meditation is basically a practice of becoming aware of and focusing on the present moment. Life in our modern world is non-stop hectic, distracting, loud and fast paced, leaving most people in a state of constant stress and anxiety. When the body is in a continuous cycle of “fight or flight” mode (also known as the Sympathetic Nervous System), blood pressure and heart rate are elevated, hormones become imbalanced, fascia and connective tissue tightens, causing inflammation, and digestive organs cease to function properly.
So, what if there was a simple way to reduce and even relieve the physical, emotional and mental symptoms of daily stress on the body? Hello meditation and mindfulness. Clinical evidence has shown that spending even a few minutes each day in stillness, while tuning into our breath, has a big impact on the health of the brain, which is the control center for the physiological responses of the body. For example, the amygdala, which is the brain’s “fight or flight” center, has been shown to shrink after just weeks of daily meditation. This primal region of the brain, associated with fear and emotion, is involved in the initiation of the body’s natural response to stress. As the amygdala shrinks, the pre-frontal cortex- associated with higher brain orders such as awareness, concentration and decision making- begins to thicken. Functional connectivity between these two regions of the brain (how often they are activated together) also begins to shift; the connection between the amygdala and the brain weakens, while the connection between areas associated with attention and focus become stronger. Brain imaging techniques are revealing that this ancient practice can profoundly change the way different regions of the brain communicate with each other, and even how we think, permanently. Some evidence suggests that more advanced meditation practices can even reduce the intensity of physical pain felt in the body.
If you would like to begin your own meditation and mindfulness practice but are not sure how to get started, you may want to check out one of the many free apps available online, such a Calm, Headspace, and Insight Timer. These are just a few of the available online resources for mindfulness, and each one offers a unique approach to the practice, so experiment and find what works for you.