As more individuals become aware of its advantages, meditation has grown in popularity in recent years. It develops wisdom and opens the mind in addition to nourishing the body and extending life.
Many people practice meditation to lower their stress levels and improve their ability to concentrate.
Additionally, a lot of people meditate to develop other positive emotions and behaviors, such as a positive outlook, healthy sleep patterns, self-discipline, and even higher pain tolerance.
For centuries, meditation has been utilized in spiritual activities to increase wisdom and calm the mind. And now, scientists are researching its physical and mental advantages.
Meditation - A Common "Theme"
Meditation is not a process found only in the martial arts, or only in Buddhist temples in the heart of the mountains. It is a more widespread practice than some would think and integrated into many belief systems.
Yoga, Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism are just a few examples of spiritual or religious practices that incorporate meditation.
Some traditional Chinese martial arts schools employ it to cultivate internal energy, feed the mind, and bolster willpower.
Surely, you have seen many martial arts or oriental religious movies in which the monk, fighter, or another character stands cross-legged, hands on knees or palms together, eyes closed, with a serene and calm face – meditating.
One can sit normally, cross one's legs, or adopt a half- or full-lotus position for meditation.
It could take some work to get into the lotus position with the feet resting on the thighs, but with enough practice and persistence, almost anyone can do it.
Meditation is also included in many qigong or tai chi schools, which combine both slow physical movements and sitting motionless and quietly.
One such example of combining slow exercises with meditation is Falun Dafa (also known as Falun Gong), a famous qigong school based on the principles of Truthfulness, Compassion, and Tolerance that originated in China. Falun Dafa is always free of cost and has spread worldwide thanks to its health and moral benefits.
Of course, for some, prayer in the Christian religion is considered both an inner dialogue, a discussion with God, also, a type of meditation.
The Benefits Of Meditation
Studies on meditation have revealed a number of physical and mental benefits and improvements, including the healing of some conditions.
Here are some of these benefits:
1. Stress Reduction
This is one of the more frequent reasons that many people try to meditate.
The stress hormone cortisol is typically elevated in response to both physical and mental strain. The release of the pro-inflammatory molecules known as cytokines is just one of the negative effects of stress that cortisol causes.
These negative consequences might cause weariness and foggy thinking, as well as anxiety and sadness, elevated blood pressure, and disturbed sleep.
According to Humanitas University, in a recent study that lasted eight weeks, the meditation technique known as "mindfulness meditation" showed encouraging outcomes by showing those who participated in it a decreased inflammatory response.
Another 1,300-person study showed that meditation helps lower stress. Those with the highest levels of stress experienced considerably stronger impacts.
Further study has revealed that this practice can also lessen the signs of stress-related illnesses.
Therefore, meditation can somewhat lessen the symptoms of fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
2. The Enhancement Of The Brain Activity
Researchers released a study in the Proceedings of the American Academy of Sciences on November 16, 2001, which found that meditation can increase brain activity and have a major impact on the parts of the brain that control emotions and happiness, making one more receptive.
According to Vision Times, the researchers looked at a group of eight Buddhists, aged 34 to 64, who had been practicing meditation for 15 to 40 years, as well as a group of ten healthy college students, aged 20 to 22, who had never tried it but were open to learning.
Before and after the meditation sessions, the brain activity of the two volunteer groups was measured and compared.
The data showed that the long-term meditators had much higher levels of alpha and gamma wave activity during and before meditation, with the gamma wave oscillations being especially powerful, the researchers discovered by observing electrical activity on the scalp.
The frontal and parietal joint cortical regions of the brain, which are in charge of human emotions and pleasure-related areas, are what generate gamma waves in the human brain.
Also, extremely intense gamma wave activity was seen in two of the elder monks, and the findings revealed that the variations in brain activity were exclusively brought on by the amount of time spent in meditation and had nothing to do with individual differences.
According to the data, meditation has both immediate and long-term effects that increase brain activity and have a major impact on the parts of the brain that control emotions and happiness.
The results were examined by the Waisman Center's Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior of the Department of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin before being initially published in a scholarly journal.
3. The Decrease In Blood Pressure
It has been demonstrated that meditation can ease cardiac tension, improving physical wellness. Over time, having high blood pressure will force the heart to work harder so it can continue pumping blood. In the end, it can result in impaired cardiac performance.
A study with almost 10.000 individuals indicated that focusing on a silent mantra while meditating can lower blood pressure by about five points.
A silent mantra is a repeated, non-spoken word. It was discovered that older participants with pre-existing high blood pressure responded better to the trial.
Also, a review of various studies showed that different types of meditation gave similar blood pressure improvements.
By calming the nerve signals that contribute to blood vessel tension, synchronizing heartbeats, and reducing the fight-or-flight reaction that intensifies in stressful situations, meditation appears to lower blood pressure.
4. A Better Sleep
Nearly half of people will have insomnia at some point. In a study, participants were randomly assigned to one of two mindfulness-based meditation regimens. One of the groups did meditation practice; the other group did not.
Those who meditated dozed off considerably more quickly and slept for longer periods of time. People who didn't meditate didn't experience the same outcome.
Understanding and practicing meditation can enable you to divert and calm the racing thoughts that can frequently cause insomnia.
Additionally, you are put in a serene state where your body and mind are more likely to go asleep, where tension is released and your body is assisted in relaxing.
5. Develop Kindness
Certain meditation techniques can promote more pleasant thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors toward both yourself and others.
Through practice, people can learn to show others the kind of loving-kindness thoughts and sentiments that they have for them.
For example, 22 studies on this type of meditation's effectiveness revealed that it can boost people's compassion for both themselves and other people, even enemies.
Also, when you meditate you can grow your self-awareness and self-understanding. You can then develop into the best version of yourself as a result of this.
As an illustration, self-inquiry meditation explicitly tries to assist you in developing a deeper understanding of who you are and how you interact with others.
You can learn to recognize negative or self-deprecating thoughts through other forms of meditation.
The theory goes that the more conscious you are of your thought patterns, the easier it will be to change them to more positive patterns.
A certain study included 21 breast cancer patients. Overall, individuals who participated in tai chi sessions had higher self-esteem than those who attended social support sessions.
In contrast to those who were put on the waitlist for the program, 40 senior men and women who meditated in a special program reported less loneliness.
7. Reduction of Anxiety
Less stress frequently results in less anxiety. An eight-week study on mindfulness meditation, for instance, indicated that participants' anxiety levels had decreased as a result.
Additionally, they discovered that they displayed fewer signs of anxiety disorders, including social anxiety, paranoia, panic attacks, and compulsive behaviors.
In a different study, three years after completing an eight-week meditation program, 18 participants were tracked.
The findings demonstrated that the majority of the volunteers continued their practices and that, over time, their levels of anxiety decreased.
Some studies have also shown that practicing meditation helps reduce the tension and anxiety that come with working in stressful circumstances. Anxiety levels were shown to be lower in a study sample of nurses.
8. Fighting Addictions
By improving your awareness of the triggers for addictive behaviors and strengthening your self-control, meditation can help you establish healthy mental disciplines that can help you overcome dependence.
People who meditate are better able to focus their attention, regulate their emotions and impulses, understand the motivations behind their actions, and develop their willpower.
In a study that targeted 19 sobriety volunteers, it was shown that those who learned to meditate had better control over their urges and experienced less stress because of cravings.
A meta-analysis of 14 studies revealed that practicing mindfulness meditation may also help you curb your appetite. The individuals displayed a decline in emotional and binge eating.
9. Controlling the Pain
Your ability to perceive pain depends on your mental state, and pain levels might increase in stressful circumstances.
For instance, one study used MRI technology to track individuals' brain activity as they responded to painful stimuli. A four-day mindfulness meditation course had been completed by some of the participants earlier; others had not.
The brain regions that govern pain were more active in the subjects who meditated, and as a result, they also felt less pain.
Another study focused on people with terminal illnesses who started to meditate. It was discovered that meditation helped lessen suffering in the final stages of life.
Meditation In History
For example, in China, the Confucian dynasties of the Song and Ming (960–1644) gave enormous importance to meditation, and people used to include it in their daily lives.
For more than two thousand years, the Huangdi Neijing, also known as the Esoteric Scripture of the Yellow Emperor, has been regarded as the main source of doctrine for Chinese medicine, according to Vision Times.
"Stay quiet and empty, Qi (vital energy) will flow freely; when the spirit lives inside, how can disease come?" the text declares.
According to the text, diseases cannot enter the body in such a situation.
When And Where To Meditate
Some may wonder what is the best place or time of day for an effective meditation.
There are various forms of meditation, included in various qigong or tai chi schools, and religions and therefore there are more or less noticeable differences between them.
Some believe that the best time to meditate is at midnight when human activity is minimal and the sounds and noise of the day are almost non-existent.
Others find the best time is early morning when you are rested and society is just starting to get going.
But a common element of most practices and religions that use meditation is that it is best done in a quiet place, away from cars or factories, in a place where you can really quiet your mind.
Certainly, no one is stopping you from meditating in a park in the city, where there are lots of people and children playing and making noise.
It will be harder, but if you can calm your mind and thoughts in such a harsh environment, then the benefits of meditation are even greater.
Anyone can meditate, regardless of age and social status, profession, or even by people suffering from serious illnesses or various forms of disability.
The motto "a healthy body, a healthy mind" can be put into practice through meditation, considering that it has physical as well as mental and spiritual benefits for the practitioner.
Through meditation, people can channel their energy and thoughts into more positive things, correct their character and behavioral problems, and actually contribute to a more harmonious environment and a more balanced society.