Benefits of Meditation

A lot of people think that meditation is specifically a religious thing where people sit silently in a room and pray together, but it doesn't have to be religious at all. Of course, some religions such as Buddhism practice meditation but the practice is open to anyone that wants to try it. Meditation is a state of being in complete calmness, but still being conscious and aware of your surroundings without letting them distract you. Instead of focusing on the things happening in the outside world, you simply let them pass by without them affecting you. But what's the point in this? Well here are some reasons why meditation can be beneficial for your health and well-being...

1. Relieve stress

This is one of the main reasons why people meditate or practice mindfulness, to relieve stress in their day to day lives. Right now, stop and think about how many times in the day you actually have alone to yourself, and of those times are you ever in a complete state of calm not thinking about anything? There is so much going on these days that it's hard for anyone to consciously take the time out to relax in this way. Here's the sciencey bit as to why it can help relieve stress; 18 studies using 846 participants over 11 years have been recorded that show when a stressful event occurs, the sympathetic nervous system known as 'fight or flight' is triggered and there is an increased production of the molecule NF-kB. This activates the genes to produces the proteins cytokines which create inflammation. As a result, there is an increased risk of inflammatory diseases, cancer and depression. However, in these studies, practising yoga and meditation has been found to decrease the production of NF-kB. All science! 

2. Improve brain function 

Another study showed that practising Hatha Yoga and meditating for 25 minutes each day could improve your cognitive ability. By just sitting and letting thoughts, actions and emotions pass by it is allowing your brain time to rest and improves your concentration greatly. Plus, it helps to reduce the processing of non-essential information, like what your best friend's neighbour had for dinner last night. 

3. Improves sleep 

Who has trouble getting to sleep at night? It happens to all of us at some point in our lives, we have a busy day coming up or something to think about and the brain races at 100mph when really all we need to do is rest. Meditating before you sleep is a way to push those thoughts aside and relax the brain, giving it the calm and space it needs to put you in a state ready for bed. Plus, if you're meditation it's less likely that you're scrolling on your phone or watching TV before you sleep which also don't help. 

4. Potential to decrease blood pressure

In a study of 996 people, they were told to practice positive silent mantras each day to help calm and relieve stress. Overall, this helped to reduce blood pressure by five points on average and was more beneficial to those who were older and already had a high blood pressure. It's a harmless and simple practice that could improve your health. 

5. Control emotions 

 Whether you get angry very easily or like a good old cry from time to time, meditation can help you to control those overwhelming emotions. A lot of exaggerated emotions are normally erratic and come without thinking, but what if before you lashed out at someone for getting the wrong order, you stop, think and breathe? Things probably wouldn't get so out of hand. Taking time out in the day to meditate allows you to reflect on these unnecessary emotions and encourages kindness and gratitude. 

So, now you know all of these amazing benefits to meditation but where do you start? One of the things I have found the best to aid me in meditation is the Stop, breath & think app. It allows you to think about how you feel physically and mentally and then chooses specific practices to help you relax and clear your mind. You can do just a few minutes to much longer periods of time so it is perfect for people on the go. Another great app is Headspace, it is another form of guided meditation that helps you to take small portions of your day to relax. If you prefer seeing someone and being part of a group, look for local meditation classes, a lot of yoga teacher also practice meditation and can offer classes. 


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