“Meditating” is still fairly misunderstood. From the outside, it totally looks like someone is just sitting still. Thinking about who-knows-what, trying not to slouch over, hoping to find inner-peace or whatever. Yes, stillness is usually involved (doesn’t have to be! you meditate while walking) but that doesn’t mean that NOTHING is happening. In fact, active meditation is very… well, active. As neuroscience evolves, we are now able to see, quantify, and measure what is happening inside the brain and inside the body during meditation. Techniques that have been practiced for hundreds of years are now being ‘proven’ to have lasting health benefits. And guess what! Meditating can make you happier! :) Read on for 5 benefits of meditation. (There are many more!)
1. Your Happiness. The more you learn to be ‘in the present moment’ the easier it is to feel content with what you have. The easier it is to remember that the only reasonable response to life is gratitude. The easier it is to be happy, and to cherish that happiness. Read Sharon Salzberg’s “Real Happiness” for a detailed look at this phenomenon.
2. Your Attention and Focus. The first way we learn to meditate is through dharana, or single-pointed concentration. Our brain is always working over-time, and we are accustomed to jumping around from thought to thought. Meditation, even for 3 minutes, teaches us to be sensitive to the continuity of awareness. Read Learn to Meditate: Your Way for some ideas on how to learn concentration.
3. Your Immune System. You got it. Meditation can actually make you healthier! Studies have found that people who meditate can enhance their own immune system by decreasing stress responses. In addition, people who meditate have increased antibodies, which are integral to the immune system response to outside agents. Lastly, activating the parts of the brain which act as command centers for the immune system. Check out ecoinstitute for more articles.
4. Your Brain. A recent Harvard University study found that the brains of people who meditated actually showed changes in the brain area (called the amygdala) which plays an important role in the management of anxiety and stress symptoms. The study also found that meditation can increase the gray matter within the brain… that’s a good thing because your brain areas associated with self-awareness, introspection and compassion are strengthened! Read more here.
5. Your Spiritual Well-Being. Contemplative practices like prayer and meditation have long been an integral piece for developing a spiritual inner stillness. It is in this moment of stillness that we can best commune with our sense of self, of Divinity, of creation as Divine. Be well. Read Tich Naht Hanh’s “You are Here.”
New to Meditation? Great! Check out this article: “Learn to Meditate, Your Way” to learn more.