Health

What is Meditation? Physical and Mental Benefits of Meditation

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Meditation is common worldwide, but a lot of people have trouble finding the time or a reason to participate in a meditative session. However, there are tons of good reasons to do so. Meditation is great for mental and physical health in a number of ways. If you have considered therapy to improve your mental health, this article is a good read. 

What is Meditation?

Meditation is the use of several techniques that promote mindfulness, increased concentration, focus, and awareness of the self and surroundings. It has been practiced for thousands of years all over the world. 

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Furthermore, all major religions including Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam practice some form of meditation. Meditation is commonly used as a religious practice, but people also participate in meditation for non-religious reasons. There are many different types of meditation that promote mindfulness, acceptance, attention, and awareness.

How to Get Started?

Basic meditation is not too difficult to practice. It is important that you find a place that is quiet and comfortable so that you can reduce the chance of distraction or interruption. It is also best to turn off music, television, phones, and other distractions. However, some people like to have calm music playing while they meditate. This can be good if it is repetitive and not at all distracting. 

When you first get started, it is best not to push yourself towards long sessions. Instead, start with short sessions and gradually work your way towards the amount that benefits you. Even if you just start with 5-to-10-minute sessions, you may find that you benefit mentally and physically. You may also want to set a time limit so that you do not have to worry about checking the time during the session. 

You do not have to sit in the lotus position. In fact, you do not even have to sit cross-legged. As long as you are comfortable and will remain in the position when you are fully relaxed you can meditate. Also, make sure that you are not so comfortable that you will inadvertently fall asleep. 

Now, when you are comfortable and there are no distractions, focus on your breathing. Concentrate on taking deep breaths. Focus on how the breathing feels. Once you are relaxed and breathing deeply, you will want to focus on your thoughts. This does not mean that you have to try to clear your mind. Instead, you want to pay attention to the thoughts without judgment. Whenever your thoughts drift, you can center yourself by concentrating on the deep breathing again.

Stress and Anxiety

A lot of people turn to meditation in order to lower their stress levels. Research indicates that meditation can lead to a reduction in stress and anxiety. Furthermore, the positive effect that meditation has on anxiety tends to be stronger with people who suffer from higher levels of anxiety. 

Mental and physical stress cause an increase in the levels of the hormone called cortisol. This can cause negative effects. This can cause us to lose sleep and have more symptoms of anxiety. It can also increase our blood pressure and affect our productivity and ability to focus. Additionally, it causes the release of cytokines which are inflammatory chemicals in the body. 

One study shows that mindfulness meditation can reduce this inflammatory response caused by high stress levels. Research has also shown that meditation can also help those who suffer from health conditions related to stress such as irritable bowel syndrome or PTSD. 

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Mood and Emotion

Meditation may help to reduce your risk of depression and can be an effective way to supplement other treatments for depression like therapy or medication. This is likely due to a combination of factors. One factor to consider is the reduction of cytokines. Cytokines may lead to depression over time and a reduction in them may be beneficial. 

Also, studies show that meditation may be associated with lower negative thoughts and images.  Meditation may help you improve your self-image and provide a positive outlook. Some types of meditation can also help to promote a stronger understanding of the self. This can help a person grow as a person. 

Meditation can help you identify thoughts that may be harmful or negative. This can lead us to develop healthier or more constructive thought patterns. One study showed that mindfulness meditation may be linked with reduced loneliness and increased social interaction.

Additionally, some types of meditation may increase a feeling of positivity and make us more kind and forgiving. We can use meditation to gradually increase compassion towards ourselves and others. 

Cognition

Meditation may be a good way to give a boost to your brain power. Although the reason for this is not completely clear, there are some astounding benefits to cognitive ability. Research shows that meditation may actually be able to thicken parts of the brain. These parts included areas that are associated with introspection and attention. 

Another study found that just 2 months of meditation for 40 minutes a day can increase the volume of the brain in several areas that are related to learning, memory, stress, compassion, and more. 

Studies also indicate that different forms of meditation can also increase performance and attention span. The study shows that the participants had improved memory and attention as well as quicker cognitive abilities. These affects go a step further and can help to improve the memory in those who suffer from dementia.

Sleep

According to research, mindfulness meditation may help to reduce symptoms associated with insomnia and increase the ability to remain asleep. It is common for those who suffer from insomnia to have racing thoughts when trying to fall asleep. Meditation may help a person control those distracting thoughts that lead to an inability to fall asleep. Meditation can also relax the body which can contribute to better sleep. 

Physical Health

The way that we perceive pain is directly connected to the mind. As our stress levels increase, our pain may worsen. Meditation may be effective in the treatment of pain and also improve the quality of life. While those who meditate have the same causes of pain as those who do not meditate, they are better at coping with the pain. This may help them reduce their pain.

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Furthermore, mindfulness meditation may help to improve a person’s immune system. This is probably also a positive affect associated with the reduction in stress and inflammation. Stress can harm the ability to fight off infection. Therefore, a reduction in stress may be related to the improvement in immunity.  

Conclusion

Meditation can be beneficial to our mental and physical health and it is easy to incorporate it into a daily routine. To start, all you need is a quiet space, a little time, and an open mind. You can participate in meditative sessions virtually anywhere. Try to begin with 5 or 10 minutes of meditation each day and increase from there to see if you feel any better. Meditation can also be a great way to supplement therapy and to practice the things that you learn about yourself. 

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