The Why and the How of Meditation

Meditation is an essential part of wellness routines for many individuals due to the myriad of benefits. Seasoned meditators experience increased concentration abilities and controlled mental states. In fact, advanced meditators are known to have high levels of concentration comparable to an athlete who gets into their “flow” state (losing all sense of time/outside distractions). Regular meditation can help one get in the habit of focusing on the task at hand, which can also help discipline one’s mind to be in the present- aka mindfulness. Additionally, it can also reduce anxiety through helping promote a clear mind coupled with a state of calm.

Meditation impacts the brain, thinking, and emotions. A study from Harvard Medical School concluded that an 8-week meditation program increased grey matter (helps information processing) in the brain in areas that influence emotional regulation, learning and memory. Another study found that mindfulness meditation decreased the volume of the Amygdala; the part of the brain that influences fear and aggression. Finally, meditative discipline helps one get into a mono-tasking mindset, which is better than the scattered thinking often associated with chronic multi-tasking.

Another benefit is that some forms of meditation encourage people to get into the habit of simply acknowledging inner thoughts without judgment. There is a “noticing” that is encouraged in some forms of meditation without the element of self-condemnation. This can help people with both self-awareness and self- acceptance.

Also, if people choose to focus on a word, quote or mantra it can be a distraction from anxious thoughts. If people choose to focus on thoughts and their breathing-this mind-body connection can be so beneficial. As people engage in and tune into relaxing breathes, they can slow heart rate, relieve muscle tension, etc. Meditation is literally a way in which one can become physically and mentally grounded.

Some forms of meditation

With the practice of mindfulness/open monitoring meditation, one simply allows thoughts to enter the mind, and notices such thoughts without judgment or labeling them as good or bad. With this technique, one is encouraged to focus on sensory and physical experiences. Meanwhile-there is often a focus on the breath.

On the contrary, focused attention meditation tends to be directed at a particular thought, quote mantra, or it could even be an object in the room. Some people may even focus on a favorite photograph, vacation or memory, while fully savoring that experience. There is also an emphasis on relaxing breaths with this method.

Finally, there is guided meditation. With this form of meditation, one could use focused attention while listening to someone’s voice. There is so much available on YouTube with imagery, stories, and sounds. One can also find meditations based on topics ranging from relaxation to increased mindfulness.

My recommendation would be to start with 5 minutes of meditation per day. Try different forms of meditation too until one resonates as we are more likely to adhere to habits that we enjoy. I also suggest patience for new meditators as it may sound easy, but quieting the mind in this fast pace world takes practice. The return on a mediation investment of 5-10 minutes per day yields the great rewards of improved concentration, optimizing your brain, and controlling your body and emotions

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