A 2011 study by the University of Sydney revealed that on average, people who had practiced meditation for more than 2 years had 10% better mental health and had a better sense of happiness and well-being than those who didn’t.
A whopping 90% of illnesses are caused or affected by stress, something that can be managed by practicing the art of meditation. Meditation increases serotonin which is linked to happiness and self esteem, as well as dopamine, an anti depressant.
It also increases melatonin which helps you to get a better sleep at night, strengthens your immunity and helps to fight off cancer.
“Meditation increases serotonin which is linked to happiness and self esteem, as well as dopamine, an anti depressant.”
In short, meditation is mind training. It works by working, refining and developing the mind. The mind and the body are interrelated, and the mind has a significant effect on the body. Celebrities including Miranda Kerr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Hudson and Gisele Bundchen swear by it.
“The purpose of meditation is for the health and growth of individuals and the environment” says Dr Paula Watkins, a clinical Psychologist at The Happiness Institute, who specialises in teaching meditation.
“It has been proven to give the body a deep level of rest and when your body relaxes, your heart rate and blood pressure decreases, your liver and gall bladder settle down and your large and small intestines and kidneys relax. Resting helps to heal our body and just 20 minutes of meditation are equivalent to several hours of a deep sleep.
The initial benefits of meditation can be experienced within the first session and three months of a regular meditation produces changes in the brain, where parts becomes more active. So how exactly does this work? Dr Watkins explains:
“Meditation acts directly on the brain and nervous system. It begins by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system (the opposite of our fight and flight response). Regular meditation also results in actual brain changes particularly in the frontal cortex – the ‘CEO’ of our brain.
Changes include increased blood flow and greater tissue density. This means improved cognitive functioning – memory, attention and focus – as well as greater body awareness, self awareness and regulation of emotion”.
“Resting helps to heal our body and just 20 minutes of meditation are equivalent to several hours of a deep sleep.”
Many people struggle with meditation due to the misconception that there is one specific “state” they need to be in order to meditate correctly, this is not true. It is a common misunderstanding that you need to completely “switch off” all of your thoughts.
However Dr Watkins explains that thoughts are not the problem, it is getting caught up in them that is the issue. She explains that we need to see thoughts for what they are and let them pass through, “Thoughts are a basic function and it is impossible to stop them completely. The challenge lies with learning how not to be so reactive to the thoughts and understanding that we are not chasing after a through free mind”.
Another common misconception is that there is a correct “technique”, Dr Watkins reassures that there is no correct or incorrect technique when It comes to meditating and don’t be afraid of trying different techniques, take time to figure out what you are drawn to and what fits your personality.
Take away the a anxiety and fear and keep in mind that meditation is a slow process, Dr Watkins uses the analogy of running, “if you have heard about the benefits of running and you decide to take it up, you wouldn’t start with 20 minute jogs per day. You ease into it starting with 3 minutes and working your way up in small increments”
“There is no correct or incorrect technique when it comes to meditating. Don’t be afraid to try different techniques.”
Lionell Pack, a 32 year old software developer has recently taken up meditating; having self-taught himself through e-books and online guides “it’s been an on-again off-again practice that I’m really trying to make a consistent part of my life.
I’ve been meditating for about six months, with weeks where I’ve barely missed a day, and other weeks where I haven’t meditated at all […] Even though I’ve been irregular about it, I’ve found that over the past few months, it’s noticeably lifted my mood, improved my concentration, and helped me to deal with stressful situations more philosophically”
When practicing meditation the majority of people are looking for peace of mind, freedom from negative emotions, and a deeper connection to themselves and to the world.According to Carolyn Gowan, meditation expert and author of stillyourmind.com.au, “Meditation is a gift you give yourself to manifest and attract everything you want”.
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