Meditation

a woman meditatingMeditation is a practice that has been used for thousands of years. The primary aim of meditation is to achieve a state of pure awareness where the mind is completely calm and devoid of thought. Thus, a true meditative state is one of thoughtless awareness. However, for many people, it can take lots of practice to arrive at this state.

With that being said, meditation does not have to be difficult or cumbersome, but rather, an enjoyable activity that absolutely anyone can bring into their daily lives to improve their physical, mental and emotional well-being.

It is also not necessary for a person to meditate for hours on end to achieve the benefits. In fact, this is often not possible unless a person has many years experience with meditation. Just 10 minutes a day can bring about some really great benefits over time with consistency.

As a person becomes more accustomed to meditating, they may wish to increase the time sessions of their practice. However, many people get optimal benefits from around 15-30 minutes of meditation practice per day.

Why Meditation?

Many people suffer from various mental afflictions such as internal fears and worries, anxieties, stresses and sorrows, which all impact significantly on their daily lives. However, by engaging in a regular meditation practice, one can take responsibility for their own state of mind and begin transforming it for the better. Therefore, meditation is a practice to change one’s state of mind in order to free themselves from mental suffering.

Through regular meditation, a person can also develop an enhanced level of concentration, a greater degree of mental clarity, improve emotional positivity and gain a calm perspective on life and the world in which they live.

Is Meditation A Religious Practice?

Buddhist monks meditatingNo, meditation is not a religious practice. However, many religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism and Taoism to name but a few, do incorporate the use of meditation into their religious practices.

There are various reasons why some religions choose to use meditation. For example, in Buddhism, meditation is used as a tool to enhance self-awareness, self-discovery and to bring the person into the present moment where they are no longer dwelling on the unchangeable circumstances of the past or worrying about possible future events. Therefore, becoming present in this manner is a fundamental concept of Buddhism.

In Hinduism, meditation is used as a means to know God or by way of getting closer to God. Hindu’s believe that meditation can be used as a vehicle to deepen their spiritual understanding and connect with Brahman.

A Brief History Of Meditation

There is evidence that the practice of meditation has been used throughout history, dating all the way back to the prehistoric era.

The most ancient texts of meditation come from the Hindu tradition and are around 3,500 years old. Several hundred years later, meditative practices began to appear in other parts of the world, particularly China and Japan.

The earliest discovery of meditative practices was found in wall art dating back to around 5,000 B.C. The wall art depicted figures sitting on the ground with their legs crossed and their hands resting directly on their knees. From this, it is theorised that people of prehistoric times may well have practised meditation or naturally found themselves slipping into an altered state of consciousness when staring into the flames of their campfire after hunting.

Meditation has since become incredibly popular among both East and Western cultures. In fact, NIH studies show that 8% (around 18 million) of U.S adults actively used meditation techniques of some form in 2012 (National Health Interview Survey).

Uses and Benefits Of Meditation

Although there are several different methods for meditation, the practice can also bring about numerous benefits for the practitioner.

Most commonly, people often become aware of a deeper sense of relaxation and a calmness of mind. With a little more practice one can also experience a heightened sense of concentration, more mental clarity, an improved ability to communicate with others and even experience various rejuvenating effects on the body.

The benefits of this activity can be noticed both on a physical level as well as at the mental level with significant improvements in one’s state of mind.

Below, we will discuss in depth some of the most prominent benefits of practising meditation.

Benefits Of Meditation On Physical Health

Improvements In Immune System Function

a man meditatingWhen one meditates, you will notice improvements in overall immune system function as a result of the physical state that it can place one in. Not only can it help to increase overall blood circulation through the body, but it also can also help reduce inflammation. This, in turn, helps to allow more nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to access cells and provide optimal health benefits.

Increased Serotonin

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is produced in the brain and helps us to relax and feel good. Serotonin is also obtainable from certain foods.

Healthy serotonin levels are critical for healthy brain function and a positive mental outlook. People who are lacking in serotonin often present symptoms of depression, anxiety, impatience and irritability, fatigue, negative thoughts and poor mental functioning.

As serotonin is closely linked to our mood and behavior, by incorporating meditation into your routine, you should be able to notice improvements in your overall mood and behavior as a result of a regular meditation practice.

Decrease In Pain

As noted above, meditation has the ability to help increase blood circulation throughout the body. Therefore, cells and muscles will be able to receive the nutrients they need to rebuild and repair.

By helping to support sufficient nourishment, meditation can help in your body’s ability to restore itself, with significant improvements in pain management and the reduction of pain.

Increased Energy

One of the biggest physical benefits that you are likely to notice when you practice meditation is having more energy. Because meditation will allow your body to rejuvenate at a much faster rate, you should have more energy to work with than you ever had prior.

Meditation also encourages correct breathing techniques, which in turn help to oxygenate cells and improve energy levels.

Benefits Of Meditation On Mental Health

As you would expect, meditation has also been found to provide several benefits for one’s mental health also. Below are some of the primary benefits on mental health that people commonly experience.

Decrease In Anxiety

As noted above, meditation has the ability to increase serotonin in the brain. Because of this, it can help to reduce anxiety and any anxious thoughts that a person may be having.

In time and with practice, it may be possible for a person to eliminate anxiety from their life completely. A lot of people utilize this form of activity to help curb anxiety, mental restlessness, excessive worrying and even depression.

Improved Positivity And Mental Well-Being

rocks balancingMany people report an increased sense of well-being, greater positivity and a sense of contentment and happiness from regular meditation. This may partly be due again to the support of serotonin production that can come from meditation.

Furthermore, through self-realisation, the art of meditation can help a person to become familiar with how to achieve true happiness in their life. Thus, the practice can help a person to live a more balanced and happy life with an increased positive mental attitude.

Better Ability To Focus

Another common benefit that you are likely to experience from practising any form of meditation is an increased ability to focus. This is largely going to be a positive side effect of most meditation practices. However, there are specific meditation techniques that one may practice particularly for this purpose.

One goal of meditation is to clear the mind from thought. Therefore, it will allow a person to have a much better propensity to focus on one particular task or activity at any given time.

A meditation practice will also enable you to decrease the clutter that can get into your mind when you are attempting to focus on a task as you will learn how to best clear the mind from thought.

This video discusses more benefits of regular meditation.

Overall, meditation has several forms and many unique benefits. While the overall philosophy of Eastern and Western meditation techniques may differ, the benefits achievable through meditation remain consistent.