A look inside some of the many magical benefits of meditation.
It’s safe to say that a majority of us have been affected at some point in our lives by anxiety, depression, mood swings, or just about any other negative emotion or reaction we can conjure up. I mean, life can’t be smiles and roses all the time, right? We can learn though, how to better handle those not-so-awesome moments that come up from time to time.
Studies are continuing to show that meditation possesses some powerful benefits for those of us that struggle with remaining calm or can’t seem to capture and then hold on to that positive outlook that we so desperately seek out.
Mayoclinic.org sums up the emotional health benefits for us in one concise list.
The emotional benefits of meditation can include:
- Gaining a new perspective on stressful situations
- Building skills to manage your stress
- Increasing self-awareness
- Focusing on the present
- Reducing negative emotions
- Increasing imagination and creativity
- Increasing patience and tolerance
Yes, yes to all of that.
It is pretty well-known that practicing meditation can significantly change the way we react to stress and negativity. A lesser known fact however, is that meditation also has the power to improve physical health and wellbeing as well.
When I began my research on the art of meditating I was taken back and overwhelmed by the countless “how-to” websites and apps available for download, the vast number of books, e-books, and audio books available for purchase.
I had actually become more stressed out about learning how to meditate than I was before I decided that I wanted to try and achieve mindfulness, imagine that.
I was about ready to give up on the whole idea altogether when I reminded myself that I wasn’t trying to learn the art because it is now mainstream and all the cool kids are doing it. The act of meditation is incredibly personal, it is not going to look the same for every individual and you sort of just have to start.
I did find one super helpful resource that validated all of my jumbled thoughts on meditation, (jumbled thoughts are what we are trying to get rid of here, remember.)
I am a big advocate for all things old-fashioned, so I ordered myself the actual, physical paperback version, (I love the way holding a book feels and that energizing scent of brand new pages.) Mark Van Buren’s Your life IS Meditation, helped me in areas of my life I didn’t even know were off-balance.
This book my friends, might have saved my journey to mindfulness.
The entire premise basically reiterates that fact that your meditation can be whatever you need it to be in that moment. Not only does it point you in the direction toward connecting with your true inner self, but it teaches you how to turn any moment of your day into a mindfulness exercise. For those of you who happen to be more tech-savvy than myself, it is also available on the kindle app.
Meditation can mitigate symptoms of anxiety, depression and mood disorders. It has the proven ability to increase a person’s reaction time when faced with a stressful situation by training the brain to remain calm when met with any degree of pressure.
In other words, we can avoid exploding into a fiery ball of emotion the second we become uncomfortable. More scientifically, meditation has been attributed to the successful decrease of the human stress hormone, cortisol.
I say, sign me up.
I thought I should add, for any of you skeptics out there, meditation is not some sort of sorcery and you don’t need to be a yoga guru sitting on a pillow with a boho pattern, cross-legged and repeating the classic chant, “Ohm.” If that is how you choose to meditate however, that’s great, because like I said, meditation is highly personal.
I personally tend to take most things throughout my day and turn them into a routine. I have the kind of personality that craves schedules and structure. Before long, I had done the same thing with practicing meditation.
I cannot pass up a good journal full of blank pages ready to be filled with all the thoughts. So, I found one that I loved (like this one,) with a calming cover and positive quotes on the pages and before I meditate, I empty out the good, the bad, and the ugly from my entire day.
I also find it helpful to use some soft, restful music in the background. I like to pretend I’m at a luxurious spa some days. It tends to help drown out any other interruptive sounds from other parts of the house, because I am definitely not at the spa.
My dog doesn’t understand the concept of mindfulness and I think he believes that my favorite eco-friendly yoga mat is just another surface that he can claim as the perfect nap spot.
I turn on my oil diffuser (My favorite essential oil blend for relaxation is eucalyptus peppermint with tea tree oil from Maple Holistics,) and I also love to plug in my pink Himalayan salt lamp; I am on my way to inner peace. But, as you’ll see in Van Buren’s book, we don’t often have time in our busy lives to make this sort of routine work.
Sometimes we do have to improvise and that is why I found it so helpful to learn how to integrate mindfulness practices into every day moments.
I honestly feel as though meditation has opened up doors for me that had been locked with missing keys for much of my life. I used to identify as a pessimist, Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh was actually my spirit animal.
Meditating daily has turned my cynical and negative world view into positivity and light-filled hopefulness.
Sorry, Eeyore. You’re on your own now.
So how about those physical health benefits I mentioned earlier? If you are someone who suffers from chronic illness, or aches and pains (like my pesky sciatic nerve that acts up any time it rains,) you might want to consider meditation. There is a strong possibility you’ll experience an improvement in symptoms.
According to mindworks.org, there are several ways that meditating can improve our overall health. Meditation can remedy sleep problems, lower blood pressure, relieve IBS symptoms and even help to build better immunity.
The staff at the Mayo Clinic say, “Meditation is an umbrella term for the many ways to a relaxed state of being.” Some more recent research also points to meditation helping to lower blood pressure, alleviate tension headaches and migraines, as well as managing symptoms of asthma, heart disease and sleep problems.
Basically, meditating can be all-powerful when it comes to a variety of illnesses, especially those that can be significantly worsened by stress.
Here are some of the many different types of meditation to try:
- Guided meditation. Commonly known as guided imagery, when using this method, you will be guided to form mental images of places or situations you find calming.
You will use many senses as possible, such as smells, sights, sounds and textures. You can be led through this process by a guide or teacher, (the best way to do this I think, is through an app or from an audio book in the comfort of your own home, or whatever space you find the most relaxing.)
- Mantra meditation. In this type of meditation, you silently repeat a calming word, thought or phrase to prevent distracting thoughts. (Like the chant “Ohm” most commonly associated with this sort of thing that I mentioned before.) The beauty of this one is, you can pick the word or phrase that takes you to a calm space.
- Mindfulness meditation. This form of meditation focuses on having an increased awareness and acceptance of living in the present moment.
“In mindfulness meditation, you broaden your conscious awareness. You focus on what you experience during meditation, such as the flow of your breath. You can observe your thoughts and emotions, but let them pass without judgment.”
This one happens to be my personal fav. I’ve always struggled with keeping myself grounded and just living in the present, so this way of meditating has actually been about to change the way I think, and stopped me from constantly feeling like my fast-forward button was being pressed.
- Yoga. “You perform a series of postures and controlled breathing exercises to promote a more flexible body and a calm mind. As you move through poses that require balance and concentration, you’re encouraged to focus less on your busy day and more on the moment.”
When I first began practicing yoga, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, or what the hundreds of different poses actually meant. Again, me and my unconditional love for that special “crack” of opening a new book, I went on a hunt for one that would help improve my knowledge and hone my skills.
There are countless other ways to help mediation become your new best friend, but the above are some of the most tried and true.
Hopefully my ranting and chanting about meditation, (see what I did there?) has sparked your very own journey to inner peace. It might just be the best thing that you ever do for yourself.
A few mindful moments a day could end up providing a lifetime of less stress and more relaxation.