Meditation has long been held as way to optimize your mind and find inner peace. But is it really the mystical key to a happier life that it’s said to be?
There are references to Meditation as far back as the 6th century BC, where it was popular in China, Nepal and India. At this time it was originally performed as an exercise to strengthen the beliefs or practises of a user’s religion.
Modern Meditation can simply be used as a tool to relax, or focus the mind by… not focusing it. This may seem illogical but the thinking is that you can organize your thinking by taking a short break from the stress of thinking.
With that in mind (see what I did there?), let’s take a look at the science behind Meditation.
A study in 2012 by The Harvard Medical School showed the effect of undergoing meditation for just 8 weeks. Measured under MRI, The amygdala (the part of the brain which handles emotion) was shown to react differently to emotionally stimulating images after the 8 weeks were through. That basically means you can rewire your brain to regulate how you react to things even when not actively meditating.
A more recent study in 2014 showed that meditation is so powerful at countering mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety that the effect is enough to rival prescribed medication. While there is no easy cure for these disorders, imagine the result of combining meditation with medication? Surely it can only be a good thing.
An even more recent study in early 2015 demonstrated that meditation can actually slow down aging in a mature brain. The subjects who had been meditating for 20 plus years had a higher volume of grey matter in their brains than their counterparts. As grey matter is the beefy part of the brain, consisting of nerve cell bodies, neurons and synapses, you can see why you’d want to preserve that.
So now we’ve seen the results, let’s go over how to actually do it.
For all the benefits it offers, meditation is surprisingly easy to perform. You could even say it’s hard to get wrong! If you’re just starting off on your road to Zen, then it’s recommended that you do about 5 minutes to start with and build from there;
Find somewhere quiet. It doesn’t have to be under a lotus blossom tree like Buddha; Just somewhere peaceful, maybe your bedroom or garden, away from technology and most distractions. It’s advised that there are some noises for example, to actively overcome through meditating. It’s a good way to gauge how you’re doing.
You can sit, or lie in whatever position you find comfortable. Close your eyes. Focus on your breathing but don’t try to change it. Now clear your mind as much as possible. If you find yourself drifting into a train of thought or worrying about something you can ‘push it away’ and return to focusing on your breathing. Most importantly, remain calm.
Once you’ve started meditation you can advance to all sorts of things from there, including mental exercises, different positions, even walking while meditating. You can usually expect to see a difference in yourself around 2 weeks after beginning.
So, why not take 5 minutes right now? Chill out and find your inner Zen. ‘Namaste.’