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Benefits of Meditation

"Meditating" by Take Back Your Health Conference via Flickr Meditation is not new. In fact, it's been around since almost the dawn of man – there are records of prehistoric man participating in repetitive, rhythmic chants (now known as mantras) to induce a state of concentration. There's a reason, actually several reasons, why this practice has continued to thrive no matter the culture or society – its benefits are numerous and all of them directly affect the quality of your body, mind and soul.

Body

Meditation encourages you to focus on your body, something few of us do on a day to day basis. As your attention travels through each limb, you'll notice trouble spots and decide to ease them. This awareness is your most powerful tool.

Improve your immune system Studies show that people who meditate had a higher level of activity in the left-anterior of their brain – the part that regulates positive stimuli – and a higher level of antibody production. Most antibodies mean your body is better defended against illness, like colds and the flu.

Reduce stress- and tension-induced pain symptoms and illness As you focus on finding your center, your body releases the pent up tension caused by negative emotion. This has a positive, healing effect on tension headaches, ulcers, insomnia, muscle and joint problems.

Lower blood pressure Relaxation increases the compound nitric oxide your body naturally produces. This compound causes blood vessels to open up and allows for increased blood flow. Less obstruction in your vessels means less pressure is required to move the blood through your body.

Mind

Meditation is an exercise for your brain. It forces you to filter through the thoughts that distract you each day, letting them go so that you can focus on the important problems. Doing so improves:

Memory A study by Sara Lazar PhD involved an MRI of participants’ brains. Those participants who meditated daily showed an increase in grey matter in their hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning. The science behind this grey-matter increase is the increased size of our blood vessels – this allows more blood to flow to the brain and increases our brain capability.

Focus Multitasking seems like a great skill, but without the ability to truly focus on the tasks in front of you, it can lead to disastrous results. Meditation helps you focus your mind, ignoring the stray thoughts and ideas that could impede your progress on a project. After all, meditation is the practice of regulating the body and mind in order to bring mental process under your control.

Concentration Spending 25 minutes a day concentrating on your state of being may seem silly to people who are always on the go, but in reality it trains you in the near-extinct art of concentrating on one idea, one thought, one project for an extended period of time. As with any exercise, it’s hard at first, but as you continue, you will find that you can remain focused on one thing for longer and longer periods of time.

Soul

We are more than just our bodies and minds; we are also our emotions, or souls if you will. Meditation allows us to ‘exercise’ this aspect of ourselves. Just as our muscles need to be strengthened so do our emotions so that we have better control and can handle the emotional stress that life throws at us. Meditation creates:

Emotion regulation We are emotional creatures. Having a bad day? Your more inclined to negative emotions. Having a good day? Positive emotions are all you feel. Meditation hands you the keys to the emotional roller-coaster of life and allows you to choose if you want to go down, up or stay level.

Decrease in depression, anxiety and stress levels In the study by Sara Lazar PhD (link above), participants reported a decrease in stress levels, which was linked to a reduced level of grey matter in their amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for anxiety and stress. Combine that with your increased focus, the ability to decide how you want to feel and it’s no wonder stress and anxiety are less of a factor.

Include meditation to your daily schedule. Spend a few minutes prior to getting ready for work, find a quiet spot in your office at lunchtime, close yourself in your room after work or do a little bed-time yoga before you sleep. While you meditate, breath in the calming, stress reducing scents of essential oils to help you relax. You won’t regret it.

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