If meditation benefits aren’t on your radar yet, they may soon be–and at the urging of your doctor.
Meditation has long been my stress reduction tool. When life begins to move to fast it causes tension and a lack of flow in my body. And while yoga was helpful at first, it wasn’t long before I noticed that truly settling the mind called for sitting in meditation.
Stress causes the release of cortisol, a hormone that’s a coping mechanism. Cortisol isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it’s the hormone that helped us to survive in the caveman era when we were being chased by a lions and tigers. But in our more modern existence, unless you spend your days being chased by lions and tigers, it’s likely that you’re not often in life of death situations. But even still, the release of cortisol can be artificially caused when we’re late for meeting, get pulled over for speeding, or are unable to meet a work deadline. An overproduction of cortisol from these small, routine triggers, can have an impact on our health increasing rates of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and early death.
That’s why science is taking an interest in meditation. Its unique ability to stave off stressors makes it a versatile treatment for a host of ailments from post traumatic stress disorders in soldiers, cancer survivors, and those suffering from depression. Companies like Google, General Mills, and Goldman Sachs are using the benefits of meditation on their workforce as well to improve focus and help manange stress.
“We know that it causes changes in the brain and we’ve seen people change their behavior, but we don’t necessarily have a firm grasp on the connection between those two yet. But there is definitely solid evidence that these (meditation) practices do impact the brain,” Dr. Steve Hickman, director of the University of California, San Diego, Center for Mindfulness said to the Las Vegas Review Journal.
There are a number meditation methods from which to choose like Vipassana meditation and Transcendental Meditation. Vipassana is a form of Buddhist mindfulness meditation that uses a focus on the breath to bring meditators into the present moment. By focusing on the present moment, you’re better able to let go of worries for the future and regret from the past. Transcendental Meditation is practiced two times per day for 20 minutes. The meditation uses a repeated mantra to improve focus.
“Everybody comes through the doors because they want something more out of life and that, quite often, is under the category of health in some fashion, whether it’s, ‘I want to sleep better’ or ‘I want less stress,’ whatever that category contains … but it’s also about developing the whole individual,” a meditation practitioner said to the Las Vegas Review Journal.
Perhaps the best part of meditation is that it taken be taken with you where ever you go, and for the most part, it’s free and easy to do.
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Image of a people meditating from Shuttershock