If you have problems with anxiety, stress or inability to concentrate on a present task, you might want to learn meditation. Or perhaps you experience recurring or prolonged pain somewhere in and around your body. Meditation may go a long way to relieve symptoms of pain and discomfort around the body. Though this does not eliminate the need for medical treatment, it is nevertheless worth the try.
Meditation (and mindfulness) in its several forms has been in practice for thousands of years across the Oriental world. It is widely used as a potent enhancer of healing in traditional Asian medicine, and to heighten religious or spiritual experience. Meditation is a common practice among the Buddhists, Taohists, and Hindus. Even Christians and Islamic Sufi adherents have practiced and mastered the art of meditation for a fairly long time. In Christianity, prayer, contemplation and meditating upon the Scriptures are quite common forms of meditation.
More so is the discovery of the relaxing and stress-relieving benefits of meditation, in addition to reducing physical pain. The modern society is keen on these particular uses of meditation. On its own, meditation may not be able to cure illness. But it can serve as a great booster of healing in addition to effective, conventional medical treatment.
Furthermore, there is no best form of meditation. Nor is there any restriction to where you can practice your meditation exercise. You may meditate while lying down, sitting, standing or even taking a walk. For an experienced practitioner, meditation can be done right within places and circumstances where noise and distractions occur to achieve some calmness. However, it is usually recommended (especially for beginners) to choose a quiet environment.
The Practice of Meditation & Mindfulness: An Overview
According to the Cleveland Clinic web page which describes meditation, “Meditation is a practice that involves focusing or clearing your mind using a combination of mental and physical techniques“. In another related discourse, Dr. Deborah Serani, professor at Adelphi University in New York further explains that “Meditation is a cognitive technique that improves a person’s mind, body, and soul. Psychological aspects, like insight, attention, reflection, and self-regulation are deepened.”
Mindfulness is simply the practice of living in and focusing on the moment; a consciousness or awareness of your present experience. Even as meditation may be further seen as training your attention to achieve calmness and positive thinking, mindfulness is actually a form of meditation as we shall soon see. Practicing mindfulness does not aim to hinder thoughts and feelings; but rather accept them in a calm way.
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The practice of meditation and mindfulness is seen to have far-reaching positive effects on both mental and physical health. In certain quarters, researchers insist that there is inadequate scientific evidence to back the use of meditation for healing. However, experience and dedicated studies over the years have shown how meditation contributes to a heightened overall well-being if you do it regularly.
Modern scientific research tools have in fact helped to reveal how meditation enhances mental, emotional and physical health. Such diagnostic and imaging methods included functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans, and electroencephalography (EEG). They were successfully used to observe the efficacy of meditation in several trials over the last couple of decades.
The Benefits of Meditation
We shall examine the common benefits of practicing meditation below.
Enhanced Memory: Meditation may very well increase your mental focus, clear the mind and sharpen your memory. It can significantly slow down dementia and memory loss in aged people.
Greater Attention Span: Meditation and mindfulness helps you to stay focused for longer. This will further boost one’s memory capacity.
Reduces Stress Levels: Stress-related conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be significantly reduced through meditation. In general, meditation is a coping strategy to lower stress to the minimum.
About 200 studies involving group therapy classes were conducted on workers by APA (American Psychological Association) relating to MBSR (mindfulness-based stress Reduction). And it was discovered that meditation exercises helped people to overcome depression, work-related stress, addiction, smoking and physical pain.
Less anxiety (and uncontrollable emotions): Meditation exercises if done regularly, can reduce phobias/fears, anxiety and abnormal emotional and mental disorders (such as obsessive-compulsive behaviors).
Improves Heart Health and Lowers Blood Pressure: Regular meditation can reduce blood pressure over time, and support a healthy heart.
Controls Your Weight: Mindfulness meditation can help you lose or manage your weight and sustain good eating habits. It is far easier to regulate your weight with this method than to undertake so-called “lifestyle changes”.
Better Quality of Sleep: Mindfulness meditation has long been noted to reduce sleep disorders, and help people fall asleep much faster. It also boosts daytime energy levels in those suffering fatigue. Certain meditation experiments were conducted on older adults 65 years and above (as reported by JAMA Internal Medicine). An increase in the production of both serotonin and melatonin, important hormones that enhance sleep, was observed. Additionally, there was a reduction in blood pressure and heart rate in the patients.
Reduced Pain: Meditation can lessen pain, including chronic cases. As such it can be easily combined with conventional healthcare to quicken recovery from painful health conditions.
Enhanced Willpower and Decision-making: Meditation can help people to cultivate the conscious discipline needed to pull away from unhealthy addictions and habits – such as smoking, drinking, or drug abuse.
Greater Compassion: Meditation is a self-mastery technique that can help people to have greater compassion for themselves and others. Balanced and positive feelings and thoughts can be cultivated through meditating.
Types of Meditation
Mindfulness Meditation: This is the practice of focusing on the present time. You train yourself to be more conscious or aware of events in the present moment without interfering with them. It could be observing sensations in your body, the rhythms of your breathing, your thoughts and feelings in a calm way. No attempt to redirect or manipulate them.
Mantra Meditation: This form of meditation requires you to choose a relaxing word or phrase (or thought) and repeat it to yourself, again and again.
Guided Meditation: Sometimes called visualization or guided imagery, it is a common form of meditation. This method requires you to form a mental image of a place or object that brings peace to you, and focus on it. You also visualize yourself ‘feeling’ that place or object with all your senses.
Transcendental Meditation: This is a deeper form of mantra meditation. You repeat a meaningful and personal ‘charged word’ (or mantra), a phrase or sound to yourself in a particular way. It may require choosing a convenient physical position, or just allow your body to assume a deeply relaxing position in an effortless way. The mind accordingly settles into a peaceful state.
Tai Chi: This is a set of slow-motion gestures, a form of slow Chinese martial arts exercise. You combine these self-paced slow movements with controlled, deep breathing.
Qi Gong: Somewhat an extension of the Tai Chi, this method combines controlled breathing, physical movements, and other meditation and relaxation techniques together. It is used in Chinese herbal medicine to restore and maintain balance to the body and mind.
Yoga: Yoga combines specific postures of the body with controlled breathing. Those specific body positions require you to maintain balance and focus. They further develop the body to be more flexible and to calm the mind.
MEDITATION WORKS! For all the above reasons and benefits, do not hesitate to indulge in mindfulness meditation to rejuvenate your body and mind in a stressful world. It is a cheap therapy that works.
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