Upon hearing the word meditation, the picture that usually comes to most people’s mind is someone sitting on the ground with eyes closed and legs crossed.
However, meditation is simply about being fully present with whatever is arising in the moment. Any activity can become a meditation in itself, when we can do it with our full attention, whether it is conversing with someone, driving a car or even eating. This level of attention doesn’t come naturally to us since our mind tends to wander away from the present moment into thoughts of the past, future or ponder on imaginary scenarios.
One of the most common and traditional forms of meditation, include focussing our complete attention on our breathing. Each time our mind wanders or gets distracted, we bring our attention back to the breath without judging our thoughts.
While talking about meditation, it’s first helpful to clarify certain misconceptions regarding the practice of meditation.
You don’t need to be spiritual, nor believe in any religion to meditate.
Meditation is not about being completely free of thoughts but to be present in the moment which naturally quietens down the mind.
Everyone can meditate. As with learning any other skill, it’s a matter of practice.
It is not necessary to sit on the ground with your leg crossed while meditating. Sitting on a chair is perfectly fine during meditation.
Meditation is not just for those dealing with stress or depression but is highly beneficial for everyone.
The reasons as to why one should consider meditating are endless, and thousands of books have been written on the subject. Here are just a few ways as to how meditating daily can benefit you and improve the quality of your life.
It rewires the default setting
The default setting of the mind is restless and tends to be with filled with thoughts about the past, future, worry, fear and caught up in imaginary scenarios.
Buddhists refer to the mind as “The monkey mind” because of its tendency to constantly jump from one thing to another. The mind’s restless nature constantly diverts our attention and makes it hard to focus and be present.
Having a meditation practice helps to bring increased awareness to our daily life and reduces the mind’s wandering tendency as well as the inner chatter of fearful and anxious thoughts.
In fact, practicing meditation has been shown to literally REWIRE OUR BRAIN!
MRI scans done on participants who did mindfulness meditation for 8-weeks showed that it reduced the size of the amygdala, the part of the brain which is associated with fear, anxiety and stress.
Practising meditation has also been shown to thicken the prefrontal cortex which is associated with awareness, concentration and decision making.
Meditation feels good
When I initially started meditating, I was surprised to discover just how being present in the moment without thoughts could feel good.
Practicing meditation has been shown to increase the production of hormones such as dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin in our body, all of which help to promote a feeling of well being and happiness.
Improves focus and attention span
Do you find it difficult to focus and concentrate when you need to?
A large number of studies indicate that our smartphones are negatively affecting our attention spans and ability to stay focused on tasks.
Meditation is all about paying attention to the moment, and even as little as 4 days of practicing meditation has been found to increase our attention span.
Detaching from negative and limiting thoughts
Mindfulness Meditation involves observing the contents of our mind without judgement. This helps us to be more aware of negative or limiting thoughts as it arises and limit its influence on our actions and behaviours.
The increased awareness it brings to our lives allows us to question and examine the thoughts, rather than be unconsciously identified with these stressful thoughts which may cause pain and suffering.
While meditation is no magic pill that makes all negative thoughts go away, I’ve found that practising meditation along with being more mindful during the day, is particularly helpful to snap out of negative thinking.
In the long run, it has given me the ability to detach and observe my thoughts without getting too caught up in them. This is important because nobody limits ourselves more than our own thoughts.
I also find it incredibly helpful to slow things down and calm myself when I’m feeling too restless or on days when things can get a little overwhelming.
Greater control over our responses
The increased awareness a mediation practise brings to our lives makes it easier to consciously choose our responses and make us less reactive to situations or the people around us.
This can be beneficial in many areas of our lives, especially in our relationships and interactions since it also helps us become more present with others.
Practising meditation is something that’s helped to considerably improve my relationship with everyone in my family as I had the habit of being particularly reactive around them. Now, the urge to react has substantially reduced, and I'm better able to stop myself from unconsciously reacting.
Greater self awareness
Meditation puts us more in touch with our inner mental dialogue and also brings to light many of our negative and limiting subconscious tendencies and behaviours.
A conscious determination combined with a practice of meditation is also powerful for maintaining good habits and letting go of limiting ones.
We get insights into the tricks our mind often plays on us to choose temporary pleasure over long term gains, especially in the case of maintaining habits. And this helps to prevent us from acting against our best interests.
Even with thousands of scientific studies stating the innumerable benefits of meditation, it can be one of those things that many are hesitant to begin. This article alone on Declutter the mind lists a staggering 100 benefits of meditation backed by scientific research.
You may find it hard to picture yourself as someone who meditates and may feel that it is not your kind of thing. However, the only way to truly know that is to try it for yourself and find out.
Challenge yourself to meditate just 5 minutes each day for two weeks and begin experiencing some of the benefits of this practice for yourself.
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