It’s late and you come back tired from your job, stress knocks on your door and you can’t fall asleep. You toss and turn in bed and you don’t stop thinking, Sound familiar? Maybe it’s time to give meditation a try. There are countless benefits that meditation has for your health.
We were all in that place at some point. Routine, work, financial or family problems, relationships, the need to take a few days off, or a pandemic can push us to feel anxious or stressed. But don’t panic, meditation may be the solution.
Meditation doesn’t have to be complicated, much less an activity that only Buddhist monks practice. You don’t need a spiritual retreat, nor a rare science.
We can all practice it from the comfort of our homes. You also don’t need to spend hours meditating, a few minutes may be enough. In this article we tell you why meditating can improve your life.
What is meditation?
Meditation is an ancient wellness practice that focuses on training awareness, attention, and compassion.
In recent years, it has been found that meditation can reduce stress and anxiety, improve focus and concentration, and increase feelings of calm and relaxation.
Meditation originated both in the East and in the Ayurvedic practices of India, the medicine of China and Japan. However, it is now practiced all over the world and is gaining popularity in Western cultures.
Because there are different practices in spiritual and religious traditions, there are many ways to meditate. Some types of meditation include a body scan, visualization, and mindfulness meditation, among others.
Health Benefits of Meditation
Hundreds of studies have shown the benefits of meditation. Some of these are: decreased stress, improved concentration, decreased blood pressure, and reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression, among others.
And while there are different types of meditation, they can all offer similar physical and mental health benefits. Below we will see some of the benefits of meditation for your life.
1. Decreases stress and anxiety
A study published in the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health evaluating the response of 3,515 participants to meditation concluded that meditators improved anxiety and depression caused by stress.
2. Benefits the immune system
On the other hand, a study carried out by the NHS determined that meditating benefits the immune system. Research suggests that meditation may have benefits for your life and immune function, among other improvements.
This is because meditation creates a positive mental environment for the immune system to flourish, which helps increase antibodies.
Meditation stimulates brain function regions of the immune system. This increases activity in the prefrontal cortex, right anterior insula, and right hippocampus. These parts control positive emotions, awareness, and anxiety.
In addition, these areas of the brain act as a command center for the immune system. If stimulated, the immune system works effectively.
3. Lowers blood pressure
Meditation is an effective treatment for controlling high blood pressure and avoiding the potential side effects of some medications, according to a new meta-analysis by the University of Kentucky.
4. Increases pain tolerance
Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center looked at how meditation infers pain tolerance. The study concluded that meditation can effectively increase pain tolerance in adults.
Researchers at Wake Forest School of Medicine analyzed data obtained from a study published in 2015 that compared meditation with placebos.
The study found that some people are more aware than others, and those people feel less pain.
MRIs revealed that increased attention during the painful stimulus is associated with greater deactivation of the posterior cingulate cortex, a central neural node of pain perception.
5. Contributes to muscle relaxation
Relaxing the mind and different areas of the body by controlling breathing and calming the mind helps the muscles relax.
In fact, there is a type of meditation called “progressive muscle relaxation” that can be used exclusively to relax muscles.
6. Increase concentration
Concentration is something we all struggle with. In this technological age, we are bombarded with information and notifications constantly.
This takes the focus away from our tasks. However, there are conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) that further impair the ability to concentrate.
Without a doubt, medications and therapy are good ways to manage ADHD symptoms.
However, research shows that meditation can also be a good way to improve concentration, and mindfulness, according to a study published in Hogrefre, since it forces us to stay in the present.
7. Increases memory and creativity
When you meditate, you have to let go of everything: sounds, sights, thoughts, and feelings.
Learning to detach in this way is one of the best ways to let creativity flow.
Meditation teaches you to be flexible and detached, and to let ideas flow. And as if that were not enough, it also increases memory.
In a study published in PubMed, participants were asked to meditate for 8 weeks.
At the end of the study it was observed that cerebral blood flow increased in the meditation group in the frontal lobe and parietal lobes, both areas involved in the retrieval of memories and the ability to store new memories and remember.
8. Increase empathy with others
Meditation increases empathy with others, since meditation activates greater brain activity in the regions related to empathy that are located in an anterior region of the prefrontal cortex.
Try meditating at least once a week and this will make your empathy better.
9. Increases sleep quality
Meditation can help you sleep better. As a relaxation technique, it can calm the mind and body while improving inner peace.
If you meditate before bed, meditation can help reduce insomnia and sleep problems by promoting overall calm.
This is because calmness in the body causes us to “turn off” the parasympathetic nervous system, one of the branches of the nervous system that controls reactions and reflexes, and keeps you alert and awake.
10. Strengthens emotional balance
Meditation helps raise emotional intelligence. This is because it supports emotional self-awareness which is the basis for the development of all emotional intelligence competencies, since it allows us a way to monitor and evaluate what we do and how we think and feel.
11. Encourage positive thoughts
Perhaps the most publicized benefit of meditation is that it puts you in a good mood.
A Swedish study found that meditation is strongly linked to a positive mental state and stress reduction, promoting more positive thoughts.
12. Increase self-knowledge
Meditation increases the ability to perceive oneself in a healthier way and in the present moment.
Self-awareness is associated with decreased activation of brain regions associated withlack of self-esteem, according to the journal Biological Psychology.
How to meditate properly?
Here are the basics so you can start enjoying the benefits of meditation.
Wear comfortable, cool clothing
It is advisable to wear comfortable and lightweight clothing, made of a porous, soft and flexible material, such as cotton.
Ideally, you should find the sweet spot between loose-fitting clothing and tight clothing. Aim for a dress that fits you comfortably.
Something that is usually advised is to wear soft colored clothes such as light blue, white, or beige while meditating.
Choose a convenient time
Although the hours before sunrise are considered the best for meditation, most experts say that any time you can meditate is good.
Locate a quiet space
You can meditate anywhere: in the park, during a trip, in your room, in the living room.
Meditating sitting in a quiet, noise-free place is, perhaps, the best way to start. You can also do it lying in your bed before sleeping.
Maintain good body posture
Meditation can be done in any way: sitting, standing, lying down and even walking. Just keep in mind to maintain a neutral and comfortable position and keep your back aligned.
When the body is upright, both body and mind tend to be alert and attentive. At the same time, when we are sitting or lying down, a certain degree of relaxation occurs.
Perform warm-up exercises
It is always recommended to do basic stretching exercises before meditating, as it will help relieve some pain and relax the muscles.
Try to have an empty stomach
It is advisable to meditate before eating, since it is very likely that you will fall asleep if you meditate after eating.
If you have already eaten, wait two hours after the meal to meditate.
Take deep breaths
Mindful breathing is a very powerful meditation practice. The idea is to focus their attention on your breathing, rhythm and how you feel with each inhalation and exhalation.
Let the thoughts that arise flow
Let your thoughts flow through your mind. Like a river, they will continue to flow if you do not try to stop them, and so you will see how at some point they disappear and you have a blank mind.
Increase time progressively
Five minutes of meditation each day can make a difference. As you feel more comfortable, you can gradually increase the length of the practice.
Maintain a soft smile
Smiling during a meditation session sends a signal to the brain that you are experiencing a positive moment, then your brain will automatically associate meditation practice with something good.
Making meditation a habit
There are many ways to meditate. But the important thing is to form the habit of meditating. Commit to just 2 minutes a day, then you can do it for 5 minutes.
Choose a time and trigger for meditation. It doesn’t have to be an exact time of day, but a general time. The trigger should be something you do regularly, such as brushing your teeth, having dinner or going to bed.
Using triggers is one of the best ways to build a habit, since you are sticking a new habit that you want to acquire along with one that you are already used to carrying out.
University Professional in the area of Human Resources, Postgraduate in Occupational Health and Hygiene of the Work Environment, 14 years of experience in the area of health. Interested in topics of Psychology, Occupational Health, and General Medicine.