Meditation is a mind-body exercise. The person performing it focuses on their breath and the sensations in his/her body. It has been practiced since prehistoric times. There are various different types of meditation. Mindfulness and transcendental meditation are two of the most popular types.
It’s popularity in the United States and the rest of North America has been growing steeply in the recent years. There are so many benefits of meditation that no one wants to miss out on them. Moreover, meditation gurus from India and its neighboring countries have done a great job of teaching this ancient technique to the western world.
In this post, I have listed 10 benefits of meditation that will help you deal with the harmful effects of stress and ease tension in your life.
1. Helps you live longer
Research has proven that meditation can slow down the process of aging and help you live a lot longer than you would live otherwise. The secret lies in the sequences of DNA known as Telomeres. They are protective caps inside the chromosomes. The length of Telomeres can tell how long a person can live.
Researchers found that people become hyper-reactive when exposed to psychological stress. They also concluded that mindfulness meditation has the ability to reduce stress and promote rational thinking; which is necessary for solving life problems. In conclusion, regular practice of meditation increases the length of telomeres and helps you live longer.
2. Increased self-awareness
To know how meditation increases self-awareness, let’s first understand the concept of Neuroplasticity. So, neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to change itself on exposure to a new experience. This involves the formation of new connections in the brain and also the creation of brand new neurons.
So, whenever you experience something drastic or mind-boggling, your brain rewires itself to adapt to the new reality. These changes can be measured with the help of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).
Thus, due to an increase in grey-matter density, the practitioner becomes aware of things about themselves he/she would not have noticed before. What I am trying to say is, meditation makes you aware of your problems, unconscious habits and negative thinking patterns that might have hindered your progress in life.
3. A stress-free life
Regular practice of mindfulness meditation alters your brain chemistry in a positive way. The changes can be noticed in only a few days. Ideally, it is good to meditate twice a day. Once in the morning and then in the evening before going to bed.
Meditation has become quintessential for people with a hectic schedule. The more stressful your day, the more willpower it will take to get yourself to meditate. So, it’s best to do it early in the morning and not miss out on the benefits of meditation.
4. Improved performance and decreased need for sleep
There is scientific evidence of meditation improving performance and decreasing the need to sleep in university students. The study was done using a psychomotor vigilance task (PVT) by the University of Kentucky, USA to validate the claims that mediation affects performance and sleep of the practitioner.
Experienced and novice meditators were tested on the PVT before and after they performed a controlled activity. They concluded that meditation provided a short-term performance improvement in novice meditators and a significant decrease in total sleep time in long term experienced meditators. Hence, regardless of experience, everyone can reap the benefits of meditation.
5. Become more creative
Every person on this planet is creative in one way or the other. But, it’s important to find what it is that you are good at. The stress and distractions created by a modern-day lifestyle can push you away from your creative core and make your life soulless and robotic. Meditation is an ancient practice which can help you rekindle your creative genius and live your life the way you were meant to live.
Research by Leiden University, Leiden, Netherlands suggests that meditation based on focused-attention (FA) and meditation based on open-monitoring (OM) mellows the mood and allows creative thinking to blossom. To further elaborate, focused-attention (FA) meditation is paying attention to one’s breath. And, open-monitoring is being aware of your thoughts and emotions while noticing the different sensations in the body. Both are a very potent form of meditation practices.
6. Have better relationships
Family and friends are the most important people in our lives. Not spending enough quality time can lead to a feeling of despair. Most workaholics prioritize their professional life over their relationships and end up being lonely or emotionally imbalanced. Lack of empathy also hurts us in our relationships with co-workers or business partners.
Cognitively-Based Compassion Training(CBCT) is an ancient meditation technique originating from Tibet. A study by Emory University suggests that practicing CBCT can make us understand others better. The participants of this study were able to read other people faces better after undergoing CBCT training. It enabled them to communicate their needs telepathically without much need to verbalize.
7. You become more compassionate and empathetic
Every one of us is born with compassion and empathy in our hearts. In fact, these are the two unique qualities that separate us from other animals. But, as we grow older, we tend to suppress these natural feeling and become more cold and calculative. To unlearn these dysfunctional thinking patterns, one needs to meditate and observe their thoughts and social behaviors.
If you identify yourself as an emotionless person, compassion training can help you become more altruistic. This study proves that it is possible to systematically cultivate compassion for others with training. Furthermore, by understanding the emotional state of others, you can also communicate with them effectively. You can meet them where they are and not where you want them to be.
8. Reduces blood pressure
Blood pressure is a major indicator of a person’s overall health. In a healthy adult, normal blood pressure should be 120/80 mmHg. Anything more than that indicates the inevitability of heart problems.
One of the benefits of meditation is that it regulates blood pressure by relaxing the mind and body. There are studies proving the effectiveness and validity of this holistic approach.
9. Reduces the risk of heart diseases
Each year, about 735,000 Americans suffer from a heart attack. Out of those, 610,000 people die. Heart disease is the cause of 1 in every 4 deaths. Yet, people don’t take their heart health seriously. Along with the consumption of unhealthy junk food, mental stress has been a huge reason behind heart disease.
Recent research suggests that meditation can help you delay or avoid the occurrence of a heart stroke or a premature death from it. Robert Schneider, lead author on the study published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes has said that techniques like mind-body meditation can have a major impact on cardiovascular functions.
10. Become a social butterfly
Emotional connection with other like-minded people is a basic human need. For millions of years, humans have evolved in tribes and communities. But, due to rapid societal changes, the modern human has found himself isolated and alienated from other human beings. Researchers are trying to figure out alternate ways to make people feel social and connected.
In this study, researchers have tested loving-kindness meditation on participants to find out whether it can help them self-generate good emotions. They concluded that loving-kindness meditation exercise does help people who feel lonely and alone. Just after a few minutes of practicing this technique, participants felt warm and social.
Meditation is by no means a magic pill to all your life problems. It is simply a good habit that you can integrate into your daily routine. I know it’s not easy to switch gears from a life of stress and anxiety to suddenly being calm. But by making it a priority, you can experience the complete benefits of meditation.
The Good Side of The COVID Crisis
I know you must be feeling skeptical about this; I mean, what can be good about anything that has to do with the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought the world to a halt?
But there are some silver linings and corners of positivity in this whole scenario. Here we will list out all the good things that have happened or are happening right now due to the crisis we are facing!
Nature is Thriving
With less human activity and reduced water traffic, the waters in the canals of Venice are becoming clearer by the day. Fleets of white swan were spotted in the waters, a rare visitor over the last several years.
In Mumbai’s Marine Drive, schools of dolphins were seen playing around, as the ports were closed, and barely any water traffic and pollution were there to keep them away. Unusual sightings of dolphins have also been reported from the ports of Cagliari, Sardinia. Devoid of ships, as seen on a typical busy day, the marine lives thrive and have relief in the peaceful, calm, human-less waters!
Herds of deer were seen roaming around in Japan’s streets. With no crowds or traffic, the animals were seen having a gala time exploring the usually busy and bustling city streets.
More than 70,000 Olive Ridley sea turtles were seen nesting on an empty beach in Odisha, located along the eastern coast of India. These beaches, usually abuzz with human activity in the tourist seasons, were deserted because of the nation-wide lockdown in place, and thus left at peace for these turtles. While in Brazil, 97 Hawksbill sea turtles, a critically endangered species, hatched on a deserted beach. Moreover, a similar occurrence has been reported in Florida, where a high number of Leatherback turtles have surfaced on the shores.
In Canada, orcas have been spotted swimming further into regions where they were not seen venturing before. In fact, dolphins, seals, and other marine animals have been spotted in areas where they have not been seen for decades!
In Llandudno, North Wales, usually shy mountain goats came down from the higher altitudes and were seen freely roaming the streets of the town. Meanwhile, wild boars were seen exploring Barcelona’s city streets, an incredible sight in the bustling and one of the busiest parts of Spain.
In San Francisco, packs of coyotes were sighted roaming on the streets, whereas in Nara Japan, Sika deer were seen exploring empty streets and subway stations.
In South Africa, wild penguins were spotted roaming the streets, and in Argentina, sea lions were seen chilling out near storefronts!
With less number of vehicles, shutting down of factories and industries, the air has become cleaner in unprecedented ways. Recently, residents in Jalandhar, India, were able to see the Himalayas’ Dhauladhar range from their houses due to cleaner air.
Moreover, Delhi, the country’s capital and one of the most polluted metros on Earth, recorded good air quality index levels for the first time in several years. Other big cities like New York, São Paulo, London, Bogota, and others have also recorded better air quality due to lower pollution levels.
In Italy, air pollution levels have dropped by 40%, whereas China has also seen a dramatic drop in its pollution levels. According to NASA, the nitrogen dioxide levels in busy cities of China have dropped by 10-30%. The current crisis is also leading to the largest ever decline in annual carbon emission levels. This has led to some reversal of greenhouse effects caused by human activities in recent years.
Adults and children are all locked inside homes due to the forceful timeout created by the virus. Although it leads to occasional struggles, overall, it has given people a chance to reconnect better with their families.
We have been consumed so much by our busy lives and technology craving habits, that our family ties and socialization had taken a back seat over the years. The pandemic has given all of us the time to connect with our friends, families, and dear ones.
From doing household chores to bringing down forgotten board games, families are bonding in all kinds of wonderful ways.
For the first time in life, we as a generation are facing a common enemy. Everyone around the globe has never been united like this with such a singular yet massive cause.
The love, support, and prayers for each other across communities have brought a remarkable sense of unity and keeps reminding everyone in the crisis that we are in this together!
Now is the time when you can finally focus on yourself. From learning new skills to completing courses, reading, writing, or simply enjoying me-time, or indulging in your long-forgotten hobbies, the quarantine can be your long path of self-discovery!
This crisis has brought out some of the best of people into the frontline. From doctors and nurses striving daily, there have been thousands of volunteers worldwide who are helping vulnerable people with food, money, sanitization, and other necessities.
Many people have come forward to feed and care for strays and animals going without food after being abandoned by their humans or running out of their daily source of meals due to closed shops, fewer people, and empty roads.
It is a tough time where everything seems uncertain. But you have to search for positivity and keep your hopes up. Believe that there is a light even in the darkest corners.
Keep adding more such good things happening around the world, in nature, and amongst people. Look at the silver lining, keep hoping, stay positive, and spread that positivity all around you every day. Finally let me finish off with a wonderful quote that Buddha said,
“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so let us all be thankful.”
7 Simple Ways Traveling Can Help Improve Mental Wellness
7 Simple Ways Traveling Can Help Improve Mental Wellness
Do you feel as if you are stuck in a rut?
From family to work issues, daily chores, illnesses, maintaining your home, and a hundred different concerns, the daily grind could sometimes take a toll on your well-being.
Having a change of scenery or taking a vacation can already do wonders for your mental health. In fact, it has been scientifically proven that traveling provides several benefits to your mental health.
Taking a trip could change your life for the better. In this post, we will talk about the seven simple ways of how traveling can improve your mental health:
1. You’ll discover more about yourself
Traveling helps you re-assess and re-invent your life. It helps you boost your thinking in a way that you never thought of.
Overcoming the challenges that come with traveling brings about a feeling of independence and a sense of control in your life. For instance, choosing which luggage brands to purchase from.
Going out of your comfort zone helps you build resilience, which allows you to learn how to cope with different situations.
Moreover, traveling and achieving these goals can make the day-to-day stuff back home easier to handle. Spending the time to fend for yourself while traveling, like bargaining in a local market or catching public transportation in a foreign country, could also lead to positive personal outcomes that build up your confidence.
Not to mention that it improves your overall life satisfaction.
2. It helps you increase creativity
According to Adam Galinsky from Colombia Business School, a key to increasing your creativity is to immerse and engage yourself in the local culture.
This open-mindedness helps you embrace various situations and could even influence your outlook in life. Moreover, because creativity is directly linked to neuroplasticity (or the brain’s ability to form new neural connections) it means that our brains are often sensitive to change.
New environments and experiences could influence creativity. Having your own creative outlet is one of the best ways to practice mindfulness. Also, the more you’re able to put this into good use, the better.
Immersing yourself in unfamiliar sights and sounds when traveling boosts your creativity.
3. You’ll be familiarized about other cultures
Traveling allows you to navigate, communicate with others, and to learn about different cultures.
Whether you are asking for directions in a foreign country while bringing your luggage, meeting new people and new friends, or immersing yourself in new cultural experiences, you will learn more about the world as you try to get around.
4. Makes you mentally resilient
Traveling and living somewhere exciting yet intimidating at the same time could toughen you up mentally and emotionally.
When you face challenges in an unfamiliar environment, it forces you to learn and adapt to something that is beyond your comfort zone. This helps you be more flexible on things and emotionally strong.
Delayed or canceled flights, and last minutes plans? Traveling helps you deal with bigger issues in life, with more patience and grace.
5. It gives you a change of scenery
If you have been struggling to find motivation at work lately or just ended a tough relationship, hitting the pause button and going somewhere is one of the best ways to restore yourself.
Although staying in a familiar place could bring a sense of comfort to others, it could also make you physically and mentally trapped.
Changing your daily routine and going somewhere will help stimulate your mind, improve your overall happiness levels, and could make you feel as if you are doing something worthwhile with your time.
6. It disconnects you from daily stress
As mentioned previously, many people travel because they want to break away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Traveling helps you rejuvenate, destress, and recharge. That way, when you’re back from your holiday, you can put forward more great ideas and lots of enthusiasm.
Traveling also helps you take off your mind from stressful situations, leading to more cortisol levels, and making you feel more calm and content. It also helps you focus on the present moment.
Having a list of fun and exciting activities can add novelty and change in the form of new sights, sounds, and experiences.
7. Traveling increases happiness
Booking accommodation, finding the perfect travel destination, and packing your bags are proven to make you happy.
In fact, a study conducted by Cornell University found out that the process of planning and anticipating a trip increases happiness levels more than the process of obtaining new material possessions such as a new car or clothes.
The time to relax and do what you want on your trip significantly reduces your stress and increases your overall happiness as well.
So there you have it. After you have read about the wonderful things traveling does to your mental health, it is time to do your research and plan your next trip!
4 Benefits of Doing Yoga Regularly
Yoga is an excellent place to start a healthy lifestyle if your life has been quite a bit sedentary for some time. Even with health conditions like arthritis or osteoporosis, you can safely practice Yoga. With multiple types and forms of Yoga to choose from, you have the freedom to practice whatever suits you. Regular Yoga can help you become more robust and flexible by making it easier for you to do other exercises like dancing, walking, or swimming.
Moreover, it is also a great way to stay energetic and flexible. Your general alertness increases, and there is also a profound positive impact on mental health with Yoga.
With regular practice, you will gradually notice overall well-being and a deep sense of inner peace. Yoga frees you of all the worry, stress, anxiety that bogs you down and lets you proceed towards a more holistic and spiritually fulfilling self-development.
Let’s take a look at four of the obvious benefits that come from practicing Yoga.
- Improves poor blood circulation
- Reduces high blood pressure
- Reduces oxidative stress
- Reduces body-wide inflammation, contributing to healthier hearts
- Improves mobility in people with lower back pain
- Reduces risk for injury
- Allows better coping with arthritis
- Can slow down the advent of osteoporosis
- Improves the condition of people with limited mobility
- Reduces headaches
- Helps you to have better control over tension or stress
- Reduces anxiety levels and depression
- Can help you get better sleep, improves insomnia
- Relaxes your body
- Increases overall mental and physical stability
- Improves breathing patterns
- Increases lung capacity
- Improves lung output and pulse rates
- Helps people with asthma, to control definitive symptoms
Yoga is an excellent way to heal your body, both physically and mentally. It allows you to have the perfect blend of de-stressing and exercise in a simple yet effective way.
A healthy body makes a healthy mind. Regular Yoga can help you achieve health and fitness. Moreover, daily practice brings in more discipline to your everyday life. Especially during these testing times of the COVID-19 pandemic, when we are all trapped in our homes, a regular fitness regime that is easy to follow is especially necessary.
The best part is that Yoga is trendy, and you can always find guidelines for the correct postures. With many materials and videos available online, you can start your fulfilling Yoga journey any moment you wish. So what’s stopping you today?
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