5 Benefits of Meditation

It happens to everyone occasionally: Tension builds inside when things aren’t going as expected. The “to-do” list items that keep the mind churning. The nagging anxiety that you just can’t shake.

Some stress and anxiety levels are normal but experiencing this regularly can negatively affect your health. The good news is that meditation can help.

 

What is meditation?

Meditation is a mind-body practice of mindfulness and self-awareness. During meditation, your attention is focused on breathing. Drawing long, deep breaths in and out allows the body to relax and calmly observe stressful or other present thoughts.

The time needed for meditation is flexible. Research shows that 10 minutes a day can positively affect many aspects of your health including these five:

1. Stress reduction

When faced with a difficult or challenging situation, our bodies create cortisol, the hormone responsible for regulating stress. While some cortisol is good, sustained elevated levels of cortisol can negatively affect the cardiovascular and immune systems. Meditation calms the mind and regulates emotions, helping reduce this stress in the body and lowering the risk of negative side effects.

2. Anxiety management

Do worries and fears have you on edge? Studies have shown that people with anxiety who regularly practice meditation experience less anxiety and observe positive, long-term impacts on their mental health.

3. Improves memory

Did you know that meditation can improve your brain structure? Specifically, the area related to memory. Studies have shown that the practice of meditation builds up the “gray matter” of the hippocampus—the part of the brain responsible for memory and regulating emotions. As a result, meditation can improve your ability to store and recall memories.

4. Improves sleep

Want to fall asleep faster and have better sleep quality? Multiple research studies suggest that meditation can improve a person’s ability to sleep and the quality of sleep. Meditation reduces cortisol, the “stress hormone”, and increases melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles. Studies have shown that regular meditation also helps with insomnia and daytime fatigue.

5. Lowers blood pressure

Studies have shown that people with mild hypertension can benefit from mindfulness-based meditation. Research showed drops in both systolic blood pressure (the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats) and diastolic blood pressure (the pressure measured between your heartbeats when your heart is relaxing) for participants who meditated.

How to get started:

      • Set aside a block of 5-10 minutes per day.
      • Find a quiet spot and sit on a chair or the floor.
      • Close your eyes and relax your muscles.
      • Breathe in and out slowly.
      • You may also repeat a mantra—a word or phrase—over and over.
      • When stray thoughts come into your mind, know that is natural and focus on your breathing and mantra to help those thoughts drift away.

 

Resources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2848393/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3328970

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6557693/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3303565/

https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation-and-mindfulness-what-you-need-to-know

https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/meditation/in-depth/meditation/art-20045858

 

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