Meditation: Why it should be one of your New Years resolutions.
by, Synergy eTherapy Staff
It had long been generally accepted that meditation was relaxing, and in 2003 Richard Davidson, founder of The Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin, led a study that showed scientifically the how and why of its positive effects.
Since then, additional studies have been done that focus on some of the specific health benefits derived from meditation.
What’s the Research?
Better stress management—We live in stressful times. From the demands of our daily lives to the seemingly constant barrage of bad news in the headlines, it can be a lot to manage. A before-and-after study of participants in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction class who had no prior experience with meditation showed increased development of the area of the brain that manages stress.
Lower anxiety—It’s not uncommon for anxiety to appear as a side-effect of stress and some of us, with or without stress, are prone to suffering from chronic anxiety. Whatever your source of anxiety, meditation has proven to be a successful method to reduce anxiety with both immediate and lasting effects.
Improved sleep—Approximately 30% of us suffer from symptoms of insomnia. If getting a good night’s sleep is your version of the holy grail—it’s out there somewhere but seems impossible to find—then meditation might just help. With its ability to lower stress and reduce anxiety, logic follows that if you minimize those two factors, then the quality of your sleep will improve, right? Right! A scientific study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health confirmed that mindfulness-based therapy has positive benefits in the treatment of insomnia.
Improved memory and concentration—We live in the information age, which is amazing. Still, with the sheer volume and velocity of information we receive every day, our ability to focus and to remember what’s essential, suffers. A study on memory and concentration conducted by the University of California at Santa Barbara compared the effects of mindfulness training to nutrition training on undergraduate students’ performance on memory and concentration tests as well as the GRE. The results of the study showed that meditation improved their performance on memory and concentration tests as well as on the GRE, increasing the average verbal score from 460 to 520.
Lower blood pressure—The data continues to grow that showing the benefits of meditation on cardiovascular health. So much so that in 2017 the American Heart Association issued a statement supporting meditation as a supplementary treatment for cardiovascular risk reduction, citing the low cost and low risk of practicing it.
If you’re not yet convinced that you should start meditating, here are a few more reasons why you should: it’s not hard to do, it’s free, and you’ll get benefits from even small amounts.
…meditation showed increased development of the area of the brain that manages stress.
How to meditate in 3 easy steps!
One of the ironies of meditation is that for something so fundamentally simple to do, it is all too easy to find reasons not to.
If we can offer any advice, it is this: don’t over-complicate it. There are really only three things you need to do to meditate so, to help you get started, here’s a quick guide for beginners
- Find someplace comfortable to sit or lie down
- Focus on your breathing
- If you lose focus on your breath (and you probably will, trust us!) just notice and don’t judge yourself or your thoughts, gently bring your attention back to your breath
Congratulations, you just meditated!
A note about step number 3 and noticing thoughts and not judging them:
Our brains naturally want to think, so it’s very easy during meditation to lose focus on the breath. The idea here is not to fight it and not to be hard on yourself when that happens, but to simply notice your thoughts as if they were leaves floating by in a stream.
The Last Word
If you get into a meditation routine but still find yourself struggling with managing stress or anxiety, consider seeking help from a therapist. We’re here to help with just this sort of challenge.
We sincerely hope that you will give meditation a try and would love to hear about your experiences.
Happy New Year!