Examining the Science Behind Meditation

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Many people start the practice of meditation because they’re looking for ways to reduce stress. As they continue on their journey, they begin discovering that there are some numerous other health benefits that help to improve health, happiness, and even social activities. The science behind meditation is strong, so here are some of the top benefits that science has noticed over years of study.

#1. It decreases pain. In a study where participants were given just 4 days of meditation training, pain and unpleasantness was decreased by 57%. The intensity of the pain that was felt was 40% lower than normal. For the average person, this means being able to take control of that joint pain which comes along when the weather changes or those chronic injuries that cause pain every day. There is evidence that meditation can help with emotional pain as well.

#2. It increases the amount of the brain’s gray matter. Meditation has been known to alter the way the brain looks at various areas of life, but did you know that it can also increase the size of the gray matter you have? In a study that evaluated the minds 44 people who practiced meditation on a long-term basis, they found more than just physiological or psychological control being exhibited. Those who meditate regularly had larger volumes of material in their right hippocampus.

#3. It improves your memory. In a study that measured verbal fluency, working memory, and visual coding, people who had not meditated before were given just four sessions of meditation or guided assistance and then assessed from their measured baseline. Just 4 days of meditation were found to improve executive functioning, help people be able to enhance their ability to stay focused, and even improve spatial processing of the mind.

#4. It decreases inflammation at the cellular level. Did you know that stress could be the cause of your body’s inflammation? Science has shown that when people are experiencing stress, they have cellular inflammation at the neurological level that can create a large host of problems. By instituting a regular course of meditation over the course of 8 weeks, those who focused on mindfulness at least once per day were able to reduce the amount of inflammation that was in their bodies. This leads to a number of additional benefits, from emotional stability to better sleep at night.

#5. It increases compassion. It is widely known that when people are exposed to negative situations on a consistent basis, they will typically become immune to them. Sometimes this causes people to look out for themselves first and not bother having empathy for others. With the practice of meditation, however, there is evidence that with one daily session is enough to alter altruism and change the neural responses that occur when there is visual evidence of suffering.

The science behind meditation is profound. The benefits of meditation are clear. There’s only one question that remains: are you ready to start meditating today?

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Holiday Gratitude

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Millions of mothers have been teaching some fundamental truths to their children for generations. Things like being content in what you already have and seeking to help out others who need it are much better ways to spend the holidays then partaking in a Black Friday quest to fight off four other people for the last toy on a shelf, right? Scientists have now confirmed what moms have already known: the key to making a happy holiday even happier is an attitude of gratitude.

Why Is Gratitude Such a Powerful Action?

Some might call gratitude an attitude or a perspective, but it really is a verb. The action of gratitude means that a person is actively involved in their personal contentment. Instead of wanting more or comparing themselves to others who have more things, joy comes from what is available around that person. In other words, one could say that gratitude comes from an attitude of giving thanks in all things.

It isn’t always easy to be thankful. Telling someone who is mourning because they lost a loved one 5 years ago during the holidays that they should be thankful is insensitive. Being thankful when there is not enough food to eat tends to get lost in hunger pains. People need to find their thankfulness on their own.

It isn’t your job to make sure that others are thankful. It is your job to pursue your own thankfulness and joy. That’s where gratitude tends to get lost. We all tend to get concerned when others don’t seem as grateful as we see ourselves as being.

How Can We Find More Gratitude?

Finding gratitude is important because a number of health benefits can be achieved. People who are content and grateful have lower blood pressure, lower levels of overall stress, and even lower overall levels of risk for cardiovascular disease development.

The problem that many people face is in finding how to become more grateful for their life circumstances. Times are still tough for families, even though the Great Recession ended in 2009 for most countries. Wages are static. Debt levels are fairly high. Homes are being lost. That’s why starting a journal that emphasizes gratitude can become an important tool to use.

Journaling at least one item that has caused you to be grateful over the course of the day can begin to change your perspective of things. It forces people to look at items throughout the day that they are grateful for having, experiencing, or knowing about. Soon the simple things of life tend to stand out more, like the heat from a working fireplace, the warmth of a sweater, or the joy of friends coming over to play games.

We can all accomplish more with just a little more gratitude. If you are looking to make happier holidays happen this year, then make gratitude the emphasis of your efforts and you will find great success.

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Here’s How You Can Meditate On Your Most Impatient of Days

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Did you know that only 1 out of every 10 Americans has meditated at least once in the last 12 months? It’s a practice that is pretty easy to ignore or forget about because of the busy lifestyles that so many people lead today. Who wants to take 20 minutes to sit on the floor and explore a quiet world when there is money to be made, movies to be watched, or video games to be played?

What we often don’t realize about the modern lifestyle is that we are distracting ourselves from what really matters. By watching movies or playing video games, we’re not coping with inner feelings that can be rather difficult at times. Those frustrating moments with the boss or a customer who treats you like a second-rate citizen: those difficult emotions need to be explored and understood so they can stop causing stress.

Meditation might seem like it is for those who have great patience, but it benefits the impatient people of this world more than anyone else. Here’s how you can get started right now.

#1. Schedule 10 minutes for yourself. Meditation doesn’t require hours of searching for inner peace. Just 10 minutes of deep breathing in a quiet room without the distractions of modern life can bring profound changes to your day. That’s right – you’ve got to say no to Facebook and your phone for a little while.

#2. Pick your favorite spot. You don’t have to sit on a hardwood floor in a cross-legged position in order to meditate. You can sack out on your sofa in quietness, close your eyes, and allow yourself to get comfortable. Our favorite spots are a natural relaxation point as it is, so your mind will automatically be inclined to want to start meditating.

#3. Follow the mental highway.  An impatient mind is a mind that will begin to create lists, start plausible scenarios to examine, and begin to worry about what to make for dinner all at the same time when quiet comes along. Take a few moments and recognize where all this busyness originates and try to keep your mind on the task at hand – namely meditation. As you practice this, you’re also increasing your skill of concentration.

#4. Find a focus point. It can be very difficult to stay in the present when you first start to meditate. Picking a point of focus and then staying there can help you achieve a higher level of mindfulness that can only come from meditation. Even counting your breath or the ticks of the clock in the room can help you stay focused on the here and now.

#5. Allow yourself to be frustrated. Being impatient means you live in a perpetual state of frustration as it is, so meditation is not going to be any different. Allow yourself to be imperfect and encourage yourself to keep trying. You will plan a grocery list when you start meditating some days. You might focus on your boss and the 10 best ways to throttle that person when you see them. It’s natural.

When you make meditation part of your regular routine, even if just for 10 minutes, life tends to get a little easier, one step at a time. Start today and you might just be surprised at how quickly impatience can turn into mindfulness.

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Could Regular Meditation Slow Down the Aging Process?

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Entropy is a normal component of life. As processes are used, they begin to wear down, slow down, or age. From a cellular standpoint, entropy occurs because the protective caps of the cells, called telomeres, begin to shorten as they wear down. When the telomeres become too short, the cells malfunction and can no longer divide.

People have an enzyme that helps to slow down this process, much like enamel helps to slow down or even prevent tooth decay. Called “telomerase,” it protects the protective caps on the cells. If you have a lot of stress in your life, then there is a corresponding amount of lower telomerase in your body. The result is that up to 10 years of your life could be lost because stress has reduced the cellular protections your body needs.

Less Stress Means More Telomerase

It’s a logical progression: if there is less telomerase in people who have stress, then there will be more telomerase who have lower levels of stress. Research from Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn into this phenomenon proved that regular meditation actually slows down the aging process. When stress isn’t as present in a person’s life, their telomeres are better protected. This creates improved cognitive abilities, better overall health, and a longer potential for life.

Dr. Blackburn believes that if people had more knowledge about the essential functions of telomeres, they would be more willing to embrace meditation as part of their daily routine. Although environmental and situational factors still could create variations in the results, studies that Dr. Blackburn have conducted show that meditation does indeed have the power to change a life and slow down the aging process.

You Don’t Need To Meditate For Long Periods of Time

In a small pilot study that occurred in Northern Colorado over the course of 3 months, it was discovered that just 12 weeks of regular meditation could increase the amount of telomerase activity in the body by up to 30%. Another study that was conducted at UCLA showed that just 12 minutes of meditation per day for just 8 weeks showed a 43% increase in telomerase activity compared to those who chose not to mediate at all.

Listening to relaxing music or doing something you enjoy doesn’t count as meditation, according to the research of Dr. Blackburn. It has to be some form of meditation. It could come from chanting, mindfulness, or just regular traditional methods, but it needs to be conscious meditation.

If you can spare 12 minutes out of your day, then you could extend your life by up to 10 years. That one amazing fact is enough to inspire many toward the practice of regular meditation. If you haven’t gotten into a routine of meditating daily as of yet, then keep working at it. Don’t allow distractions to get in the way because the rewards, as Dr. Blackburn have shown, are well worth the effort.

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You Can Still Practice Mindfulness Even If You Are Busy

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Mindfulness is a term that is being used very frequently these days. It is a skill that allows a person to be more aware of their present circumstances. Instead of allowing a day to sail on by, a person practicing mindfulness will look at the perfection of each moment as it comes, no matter what their circumstances might be.

Why practice mindfulness even when busyness is the rule of the day? What mindfulness does is create a more rational mind. By being able to set emotions aside, a person practicing mindfulness is able to be more rational with every choice that needs to be made. Instead of having choices that are dominated by joy or fear or our flight-or-fight reflexes, a decision can be made using logic and reason.

How Can You Begin To Practice Mindfulness?

Here is one simple fact that we often choose to ignore: being busy is a choice. In many ways, the level of busyness that we have during the day is a badge of honor that we wear proudly. Because we are so busy, we take joy in the fact that we are unable to do the things that we actually love. It is a lot like an addiction. Just like you can be a workaholic, you can be a busy-a-holic. Mindfulness seeks to change that.

All you need to do to get started is to set aside 60 seconds. Take that one-minute and meditate during it. It can be as simple as sitting at your desk, closing your eyes, and taking three or four deep breaths. In those few seconds, your mind will begin to practice mindfulness. A natural side effect of these micro meditation periods is that you will feel less stress, feel less overwhelmed, and feel like you have more time to accomplish the things that need to get done during the day.

Sometimes Mindfulness Requires Action To Succeed

It is common for a mind to allow thoughts to wander. Sometimes we call this daydreaming. When you’re in the middle of an important business meeting, having your thoughts stray can be a bad thing. You might suddenly miss what was just said. You might “space out” for several minutes. This is wasted time that could be used for mindfulness.

Finding the perfection in any given moment means actively seeking out what is perfect. Sometimes perfection can be found in the words that we are hearing from someone else. Sometimes you can go beyond the words that are being said and find perfection in the ideas that are behind the words. Instead of spacing out for daydreaming, try focusing your concentration in the next business meeting you have on every individual word. By not allowing your mind to wander, you are being more mindful. You are training your brain to be in the present moment, right here and right now.

If you have 60 seconds, then you have time to start reprogramming your mind to accept mindfulness. Don’t accept the excuse of being busy anymore. When mindfulness is in your corner, you have an amazing opportunity every day to achieve great things. All you must do is decide to take advantage of those opportunities.

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How to Make Meditation a Part of Your Life

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It’s no secret that meditation has many benefits that can help you with all aspects of your life. Meditation is a powerful tool you can use to get clarity in your life, peace in your heart, and wisdom in your soul. That’s why it is important to include meditation in your daily activities. Let’s talk about some of the ways that you can include meditation into your daily schedule.

A lot of people have the misconception that they must dedicate hours a day in order to get the maximum benefit out of meditation. This is simply not true. One of the things you’re going to want to do when you’re first starting out with meditation is to pace yourself. You don’t need to spend hours meditating, in fact its best that you ease into it because you can burn yourself out if you try to spend too much time meditating. It’s best to keep it short and start out with 5-minute sessions to begin with. Just like lifting weights, you’re going to want to start out slow and work your way up. The quality of your meditation always is better than the quantity of time you spend in meditation.

It’s very important that you set a schedule you’ll be able to stick to. By writing a schedule for your meditation, you commit to that appointment. You also say to yourself that you value your own well-being enough to take time during the day for yourself. Put 5 or 10 minutes aside each day to have your meditation session. You don’t have to have your meditation session at the exact same time every day, but it’s best that you try to keep it generally at the same time of day. This will condition your mind to go into a meditative state at the same time each day. As long as you’re making an effort to meditate once a day, at around the same time you are cultivating more stillness into your life.

We all need a sacred space that we can escape to and connect with our own higher power. It helps recharge our energy and keeps us balanced. Creating your own sacred space lets you express your very human need for ongoing spiritual nourishment. You can meditate anywhere you feel like such as your bedroom, garden, beach, etc. However you will increase the effectiveness of your meditation if you meditate at the same location every time. It will condition your mind to immediately go to a meditative state or to move there faster. A meditation space reminds us of our intention to practice stillness. By creating a sacred space that encourages you to cultivate and nurture a devoted practice, you are one step closer to making meditation a part of your life.

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7 Proven Methods To Improve Your Concentration

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If you feel like you’ve lost your focus, then finding a way to improve your concentration is necessary. You’ve got to be able to find a way to get your mind off of many things and put it onto just one thing instead. It all begins when you make a decision on what it is that you need to stay focused upon. Become part of what you need to focus on, make it part of you, and you’ll be ready to use these additional proven methods.

#1. Copy what others are doing. People can find concentration in a number of different ways. Some people can’t concentrate unless the television is on. Others need headphones that are blasting out music. A quiet room helps others. The environment helps to bring a stillness to that person. Their breathing slows down. Their mind is active and their body is relaxed, but the distractions are in the background, not the foreground.

#2. Don’t switch your attention. Changing your focus from one task to another could rob you of 15 total minutes of productivity for each change you make. If you stop what you’re doing to check your email, then that’s up to 15 minutes that you can’t get back.

#3. Be calm. Your thinking power must be directed at the task at hand. Emotions will directly affect that thinking power. As you become angry, you actually lose the ability to think clearly as a direct result. The peak of your anger is also the lowest point of concentration that you will have in life.

#4. Stay in control. There is only a limited supply of energy that you have in any given day. You can give your physical body fuel, but your mind can only process so much data. Once you reach your quota, you’re going to shut down. Control your energy output and you’ll be able to handle more input.

#5. Get outside and enjoy the fresh air. Many people have to sit to complete tasks today. Our society has become based on information, which means sitting in front of a computer or a screen. Get up out of that chair, take a walk outside, and you’ll feel energized. If you have an active career, such as a construction laborer, then the opposite applies. Shut yourself down during your break, allow your mind to rest, and you’ll be just as recharged.

#6. Observe. You need to know what your body does when your concentration levels begin to fall to recognize how to react. Note how your breathing might change, what your emotional state might be, or other physical symptoms you experience when your concentration is going away. Then adapt, stay in control, and you’ll stay focused.

#7. Increase the amount of time you meditate. If you aren’t meditating on a daily basis, then consider starting today. If you are already meditating, try adding an extra 5 minutes to your routine. You’ll be able to enhance your concentration, even if you’re just focusing on meditation techniques one at a time. Here’s the best part: when you focus on one element of meditation at a time, you’re actually increasing your concentration!

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How Could 3 Days of Mindfulness Change Your Life?

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The benefits of mindfulness meditation have long been promoted, but it has been thought that it can take an extensive amount of time for these benefits to kick in. According research from Carnegie Mellon University, however, it may take just 25 minutes of mindfulness meditation for three consecutive days to alleviate psychological stress. By paying attention to one’s breathing and the condition of one’s surroundings, it has been found to be moderately effective to battle pain, anxiety, and even depression.

It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect Meditation

One of the most common obstacles that people face in meditating is that they feel like they need to be perfect in order to get the benefits. That simply isn’t true! You don’t have to be able to clear your mind of every thought or preconceived notion that comes your way. The mind is designed to think, file thoughts away, and strategize. It’s actually more unnatural to try to force a mind to be completely empty than it is to let it naturally process the surrounding environment.

The goal with mindfulness meditation simply needs to be finding a better focus. Hearing sounds and then processing them doesn’t mean that you’re doing it wrong. It simply means that you’re meditating in your own way. There are some things you can do, however, to facilitate an improved meditation experience:

  • Find comfort. If your mind can focus on your environment and breathing rather than the fact that your leg is going numb, then you can have a better experience. Make a specific spot your meditation spot, find a comfortable position, and then settle in for the next 25 minutes.
  • Observe. The more you are aware of your surrounding environment, then the better your meditation session is going to be. It’s the sensations of mindfulness that make it such a powerful phenomenon.

Why Is Focused Breathing So Important?

Deep breaths will automatically relax the human body. Patterns of breathing can relieve pain. That’s why pregnant mothers are taught specific breathing patterns during childbirth preparation classes. By allowing yourself to create a focused pattern of breathing that lets you control your body movements, you can free yourself of all the things that can hold you back over the course of a day. Regrets, worries, sadness, and even anger can dissipate in as little as 5 minutes of controlled breathing.

Most importantly, however, mindfulness meditation means being still. One cannot experience their environment until they allow the environment to interact with them. Being busy all the time means that we are forcing ourselves to ignore the moments of perfection that surrounds us every day. By spending just 25 minutes for 3 days in a row exploring these moments, all of your stress can be gone.

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Purposefulness Through Mindfulness: 6 Ways To Achieve Better Meditation

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As research as shown that 3 days of purposeful mindfulness meditation can eliminate most, if not all of the stress that someone is feeling, it is important to know how to achieve this. Being purposeful means more than just scheduling an appointment to meditate in your calendar every day. It’s a concentric effort that brings all of your senses to bear.

It all begins with a better approach to paying attention to things all day. Perfection can be found in many things if we’re willing to look for it. Even the flavor of our toothpaste has a certain perfection to it, but only if we’re willing to notice it through mindfulness.

1. Take a Break. You must be willing to allow yourself to take a break from your own world every now and then. We all create barriers to the real world in our haste to get through any given day. Mindfulness allows us to take these barriers down so that we can take a break from our fantasy worlds that we construct to cope with life’s stresses.

2. Weave It In. Mindfulness can be a lifestyle approach if you’re willing to adopt it. Every touch, every taste, and even every emotion has a deeper quality to it if we’re willing to take notice of it.

3. Categorize It. The mind is used to having to calculate billions of things at once. Think about it. Your brain is causing your heart to beat, your lungs to breath, and your eyes help it to understand these very words. It’s used to creating categories to file experiences and thoughts into, so allow it to do so. What does your shirt feel like right now? How comfortable is your chair? Do your shoes need to come off?

4. Accept the Emotion. When the mind tries to relax, it tends to think of something that creates an internal trigger. These triggers then force a response that creates sadness, anger, or regret. We so often keep busy simply because we want to avoid these difficult emotions. By focusing on mindfulness, we can stop running, forgive ourselves, and then begin to move on.

5. Be Neutral. Mindfulness meditation stops the instant we begin judging ourselves on the quality of our thoughts. We must be able to take a neutral approach to the various states of mind that we have. If we do not, then we’ll create new barriers to mindfulness that will never allow us to eliminate stress. Why? Stress is created with the formation of every barrier.

6. Let It Go. What mindfulness meditation does better than anything else is forgiveness. It gives the mind a medium that allows it to let go of things that it may have held onto for years. We are not defined by our past, but we so often live in our memories and allow them to drive us. It’s now that matters. It’s whom we will be in the future that matters. That’s what mindfulness allows us to focus upon.

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Meditation Will Change Your Life and Here’s Why

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The reasons why you might choose to meditate are your own. Everyone can benefit from the daily practice of meditation. No matter what techniques you prefer or how much time you decide to spend meditating, you will change your life in profound ways if you start to meditate.

It Organizes the Hard Drive of Life

You know how the files on your computer’s hard drive can get fragmented from time to time? This happens because some files get deleted, others get displaced, and the end result is a computer that starts to run more slowly. The same thing happens to your mind! Meditation is like the defragmentation program for the brain. It helps to organize your mind so that it can be more productive and function like it should.

Just like a computer will start to speed up once it gets organized again, the mind will become more focused and have greater clarity when it is in a more quiet state. You can be more creative, think more clearly, and stay at a task for a longer period of time. Because your mind is more focused, it takes less energy to get all of the work done! In return, you feel energized even after a long day or you get more work done during the same amount of time. It’s all because of meditation!

You Have Finite Energy For Each Day

Why do you feel drained after a long day of work? It is because you have spent energy pushing away the negative components of life that are near you. You’ve spent energy worried about what the future may hold. By meditating, you’re able to remove these negative influences using less energy and you spend less time worrying about things outside of your control because your body’s hard drive is balanced and fine-tuned to accept new information.

So often we focus on just the physical benefits of meditation, and maybe rightly so because more energy and focus and creativity are good things. The mental balance and clarity that meditation brings, however, truly changes your life because you can put things into a greater perspective. Instead of being focused on the tasks that are at hand at this very second, you can have a vision toward the future.

The choice is up to you. You can meet each challenge with positive ambition and a minimal amount of energy or you can push the negative away as you always have. Through meditation, the balanced approach gives you better processing power, more flexibility, and ultimately a more positive and consistent result.

That’s why meditation will change your life. Start the process today and you won’t believe how quickly you can get your mind organized!

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