Believed to be spiritual in origin, meditation has been popular in the cultures of most Asian countries like India and China. Today mediation and its varieties such as Sufism, Tantric meditation and Zen have spread far and wide, finding acceptance in every home, but especially the doctor’s office. We have come a long way from walking miles in farms and working from dusk till dawn, and eating home- grown produce. We sit at our desks for twelve hours a day, going through dozens of files and hundreds of e-mails, surviving on fatty burgers and cheesy pizzas. It is no wonder that we are stressed out, depressed and angry. So as doctors forego the pill prescription they suggest that even with all the medical breakthroughs, the only way to restore peace in our overworked brains is by meditation. Apart from being just a relaxation tool, there are several other benefits of meditation.
10. Helps combat addiction
Addiction is a sign of a weak mind, be it to anything- from smoking, drugs, alcohol to even food. Why do we get addicted to something? We smoke or drink because it makes us feel better, even if it is for a short time. Slowly, our bodies stop producing this feeling naturally and as we grow increasingly dependent on them to produce that same feeling of relief and happiness again, we cannot resist but keep using them. Meditation when done regularly over a long period of time is a natural way to cure ills, since it addresses the root cause of the problem seated deep in our minds. Not only in the biological sense, by reducing stress and anxiety but at psychological level, it helps us accept our inner self, our conscience which is aware of the damaging effects that any kind of addiction can have on the body.
9. Increases productivity and creativity
The greatest roadblock to any form of productivity and creativity is monotony, hence sitting at a desk all day working at all hours of the day and sometimes night, can seriously hamper brain functioning, and especially the ability to innovate and think fresh. Meditation is shown to activate the right side of the brain which is usually responsible for creative and artistic thinking. Creativity is all about being able to think outside the box, to be able to see what others cannot see, and you can do that only when there is clarity of thought. Meditating helps to tap into your inner energy, and get in touch with your intuition which not only helps in making faster decisions but improves your thinking process making you more productive and efficient. Multi-tasking has become an unavoidable part of our day to day jobs, hence maintaining productivity while trying to keep quality intact is not an easy task, and the only way to pay attention to multiple things at a time is by maintaining focus and concentration, which can be improved by regular meditation.
8. Improves immune system
Most doctors believe that though some diseases are caused by external agents like bacterial infections or viruses, most of the time they are psychosomatic, meaning they originate due to our mental state. Negative thoughts, stress and tension tire out our brain and manifest physically in the form of chronic pain and depression. According to the results of a recent study, meditation elicits such a kind of brain activity which is associated with feelings of positivity and its effect on immunity by an increase in electrical activity in those areas of the brain that raise the number of antibodies in the body.
7. Lowers risk of cardiovascular diseases
One of the growing lifestyle problems of the century, heart problems which used to be a problem for us in our old age, sometime around our 60’s has now begun to plague us as early as our late 20’s. With overwhelming consumption of fried, junk food, lack of exercise and sleep and stress at work, cholesterol and blood pressure have become a common threat. Oily and fatty food blocks the arteries, hence reducing the amount of oxygen supplied to the heart causing coronary artery disease. Meditation helps to reduce blood pressure and incidences of heart attacks or heart diseases according to the results of several studies. It also improves oxygen circulation in the body thus counteracting negative effects of high cholesterol.
6. Combats Depression and controls emotions
We are all to a huge extent controlled by our emotions. From anger to sadness to happiness, our behavior and emotions are unbalanced and can oscillate from one to the other due to external events and factors. Our mental health and physical health is linked intricately, and yo-yo emotions can lead to mental duress and a host of negative feelings such as low self-esteem, anxiety, low confidence, and fear and in extreme cases it can lead to depression and panic attacks. Life is going to dish out a lot of lemons and unless you can condition our mind to get grounded enough to make lemonade with it, you will undoubtedly get affected by the bad things and act in haste or poor taste. Meditation helps to clear your mind, to calm you and helps develop patience and insight. Developing these qualities helps you get better perspective about things hence keep a check on your emotions. For people with depression problems, meditation is the most natural way to cure it, since research suggests that meditation increases activity in the parasympathetic nervous system which causes your body to relax and reshape its thinking.
5. Makes you smarter and improves concentration
Brain food or solving puzzles are no longer just the key to boost mental health. Scientists associate change in brain structure to regular meditation. Research says that people who meditate appeared to have a thicker cerebral cortex and more grey matter which is associated with cognitive functions like memory, learning, concentration and decision making. In another study, results indicate that meditation helps in greater processing of information as well by a process called cortical gratification. The point of meditation is to focus on one thing by sitting still in a comfortable position and listening to your breathing. As your mind becomes clear you become aware only of your breathing, sometimes using a mantra if you find your mind wandering elsewhere. Therefore Concentration or mental focus can be greatly improved by meditation.
4. Improves sex life and cures infertility
According to a research published in the psychosomatic medicine journal in the year 2011, meditation training which enables a person to bring thoughts to the present moment helps in improving sexual experience. The results indicated that meditation helps keep the mind clear hence leading to faster arousal. Apart from that, one of the major reasons why your sex life may be in the dumps is due to stress and exhaustion after a hectic work day. Meditation helps alleviate the stress and relaxes the body and according to many researchers, it can also increase your libido. Simple meditation techniques not only help in mental focus but can help to focus your life energy and your sexual energy, and also its connection of meditation with spirituality helps to develop self-awareness to enable sexual gratification. And the effect of meditation is different for both men and women, for women it helps them to enjoy sex more while for men it helps them last longer by timing their orgasms. Stress similarly is also a growing cause of increase in infertility among couples and miscarriages, hence relieving stress via meditation can help in fertility as well as strengthen the body mentally and physically to support pregnancy.
3. Reduces chronic pain
According to a study by neuroscientists at Harvard and MIT Universities, meditation helps people to better handle distractions and reduce them by controlling “alpha rhythm” brain waves. These results offer the conclusion that this ability could help you to reduce the pain by focusing on it to reduce it. It is particularly helpful in relieving symptoms of chronic back pain, fibromyalgia by helping in pain and anxiety coping, and migraine, especially for those people whose migraine is triggered by some form of stress or anxiety. The major effect that meditation has on your psyche is that it helps you to focus your attention elsewhere, thus reducing the perception of the pain. According to scientists, results of researches indicate that meditation will cause your cortical regions of the brain, which controls pain reactions, to thicken thus reducing pain.
2. Helps in weight loss
Losing weight has always been an epic battle, with a few wins and a few losses, and as research has proved, meditation can prove to be a formidable weapon. Its effect on our body to help us control our weight is to reduce our cravings. Mindful meditation which is responsible for improving memory and concentration helps you remember important things and hence develop habits. Meditation helps to transcend your mind to the deepest level of your subconscious, which enables your mind to control your body, hence enabling you to change the root cause of your weight gain: you’re eating habits. Stress, anxiety and sometimes and overflow of emotions can also cause over bingeing and unhealthy eating patterns which lead to obesity if unchecked. You are not really hungry but the act of eating food makes you feel better and helps to cope up with the surge of negativity, hence called comfort food. Meditation has proven to reduce stress levels and help obtain a control on emotions, hence reducing the impulse to eat unhealthily and control weight gain. Apart from just normalizing your weight it helps in improving your sports abilities by developing stamina and resilience.
1. Alleviates stress and tension
With our current work timings and the stress of being in the rat race, this generation is under more stress than ever and it doesn’t help that our unhealthy food habits due to our long hours at our desk jobs also contribute to our mental stress. One of the major reasons that people are advised to meditate by doctors and even psychology is to combat stress and all stress related disorders. Deep relaxing breaths and keeping your brain devoid of all thoughts helps to melt away all the tension accumulated in your muscles as well as all the pain associated with it. Cortisol is associated with physical and emotional stress in the body which is released by the adrenal gland, and research has been able to prove that regular meditation can reduce the levels of this hormone thus reducing stress.