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.
5 Things that Can Make Your Anxiety Worse
Anxiety has become so common among people that common cold doesn’t seem that common anymore. Feelings of worry, nervousness, or unease about things are very easy to be found. Human emotions have become more suppressed with the want of succeeding in life, we have lost touch with our true selves.
We have become obsessed with uncertain outcomes that give us a feeling of anxiety. The strong desire or concern to do something or for something to happen that is not even in our control is what takes over our rational thinking most of the times. We aren’t helping it with our habits either.
Our lifestyles have become so cumbersome that things that worsen our anxieties have become more acceptable. We don’t even realize what some of the innocent-seeming habits we possess can be the cause of our anxiety. Let’s discuss some of those today.
1. Irregular Sleep
Everyone is after busy lives these days, having no time to rest has become the new hip. People brag about how little sleep they get. It is sort of becoming a competition where we top the other person by telling them how little sleep we are getting. Having no sleep pattern messes up our body, this is something that we will eventually realize.
Working hard is misconstructed as late nights and early mornings, meaning no rest whatsoever. Another reason that people have difficulty falling asleep is spending time on social media with fear of missing out (FOMO) lingering over our shoulders – this has been seen to be a reason for anxiety in many people.
“The minute anyone’s getting anxious I say, ‘You must eat and you must sleep.’ They’re the two vital elements for a healthy life.”
Worrying about our work, life, and whatnot already makes it difficult to fall asleep for people with anxiety, now, add to that spending hours scrolling through various apps that cause more anxiety – the result is irregular sleep.
Irregular sleep doesn’t only impact our physical health negatively, but our mental and emotional health is affected as well – anxiety being one of them.
2. Stress and Conflict
Stress has become a great part of everyone’s life. There are a lot of things that have started taking over people’s will to spend time for themselves, even when free there is something to think about. Personal and professional are not the only worries for people now, economical, political, environmental, etc. all take precedence because of people becoming more aware.
“It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at the inessentials.”
It is a good thing, obviously, but we don’t know how to stop or when to stop. Knowing the line when we take our thinking to the level of it becoming harmful to us is becoming more difficult. Not only that people have been becoming less patient because of always being in a rush to be somewhere, but this has also disrupted communication among people.
Between what is said and not meant, and what is meant and not said – conflicts are rising – important things are often lost and actual thoughts forgotten. The fear of saying something other than what you want to, of offending someone, of uncountable other things – stops people from even trying to put their ideas across.
“Peace is not the absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.”
On the other hand, the ease of putting your thoughts out there easily through social media has also made people speak (or type) without thinking. Lack of communication can cause a lot of problems not only in your personal life but your professional life as well – so many people have lost jobs because of one wrong tweet they sent out without thinking. All of these things, make your anxiety worse.
Be mindful of what you put out and be mindful of what you let yourself invest your energy in.
3. Watching and/or Reading a Lot of Negative News and/or Stories
All of us have our fair share of problems. This makes starting our day with optimism difficult. Clearing our mind of negativity or negative thoughts is something everyone is seeking right now. You need a positive attitude to take on your day with vigour.
News usually doesn’t bring you happy things. Reading or watching News first thing in the morning isn’t a good idea because it somehow will set the tone for the day. There’s not much you can do about a lot of sad things that will be shown. You need to learn to not let it affect your day.
Some people fall into the rabbit-hole of reading or watching one sad story after another – may it be in the form of novels, articles, videos, audiobooks, etc. – this can often lead to us not feeling good about a lot of things. Anxiety reaches the roof as you go on reading. After you close the book or whatever it is that is bringing you the negativity, you can feel your anxiety levels rising.
“Quit sharing bad news and gossip you aren’t a garbage truck.”
If you are someone who doesn’t know when to stop when reading or watching what is wrong with the world or people or horrific situations, you might want to look for ways to not let yourself continue with the habit. It is detrimental to your mental health – it increases your anxiety which also happens because you become more paranoid.
4. Too Much Social Media
There is such a thing as “too much social media.” We have become so used to checking our phones every few minutes that if we don’t have our phones we immediately start feeling FOMO (Fear of missing out) which leads to anxiety. Following other people who flaunt their wealth will often make people feel dissatisfied from their own life.
“Social media is addictive precisely because it gives us something which the real world lacks: it gives us immediacy, direction, and value as an individual.”
People with insecurities can easily get their insecurities triggered which again leads to anxiety. This is why social media detox is becoming a thing. Social media detox allows people to gain perspective on their relationship with social networks. It also gives them a chance to deal with the anxiety caused by social media addiction.
5. Saying Yes to Too Many Things
You will often see “saying yes to things” in people’s goals list. The other extreme is a problem as well. Some people do not know how to say “no” which leads to them taking on more than they can deal with – overfilling their plates, biting more than they can chew – you can call it whatever you want, but it makes people more anxious.
Learning to say “no” is a skill all of us need to learn. Not saying “yes” might make us lose opportunities, but not saying “no” becomes detrimental to our health. Saying “yes” to everything also brings things we don’t want. Add saying “no” to negativity in your list so that you can learn to put yourself first.
“Learning to “just say no” to emotional reactions isn’t repression. Saying no means not engaging the frustration, anger, judgment, or blame. Without engagement, you won’t have anything to repress.”
When you understand that you are who you should be putting first, it becomes easier to accept or deny things. You don’t end up taking a lot more than you can do, and that helps you not be overwhelmed by things you need to do, which leads to our work not being associated with the feeling of anxiety.
We need to make lifestyle changes to make our life more meaningful and less stressful. You have to focus on things that bring more positivity in your life and help you achieve a state of mental peace. Habits that you form should help you become a better person, they shouldn’t be the cause of problems.
Learn to identify what causes you anxiety or even increases it a bit, and find a solution to either get it out of your life or at least find a way to deal with it better.
Practicing Shinrin-Yoku (Forest Therapy) to Become More Healthy and Productive
Have you heard of the new lifestyle practice called Shinrin-Yoku? Translated into English as ‘forest bathing’ or ‘forest therapy’, Shinrin-Yoku was invented in Japan in the early 1980s. The practice was proposed by the government as a means to help people relax their minds and improve mental health.
Though the name includes the term bathing, Shinrin-Yoku mostly involves walking in a forested area. That’s it. There’s no specific intention required for the walk. All you have to do is to keep walking slowly while taking into the senses the environment around you, like the sights, smells and sounds.
Benefits Of Shinrin-Yoku
Forest bathing is said to offer a number of benefits ranging from reduced blood pressure to increased attention span in children with ADHD. Below, we look at five such benefits of Shinrin-Yoku.
Decreased Blood Pressure
If you have issues with varying blood pressure, then a little forest bathing is what you need. It has been discovered that just looking at trees for a few moments has a positive effect on a person’s health, helping them calm down and lower blood pressure.
In addition, the two stress-related hormones, adrenaline, and cortisol, are observed to reduce from such activities. Frequent trips to forested areas also minimize a person’s state of confusion, depression, and anxiety.
Boost Immune System
As protection from insects, plants emit a chemical called phytoncides, which has antifungal and antibacterial properties. In a densely forested region, the environment will be permeated by these. As such, if you pass through such a space or spend a good deal of time there, you will inhale these chemicals.
As a reaction, the body will start producing a certain kind of white blood cells, called the Natural killer (NK) cells, which has the ability to kill viruses and cancer infected cells in your body. It is estimated that just 2 nights of Shinrin-Yoku is sufficient for about 30 days of increased NK activity in the body.
If you are recovering from an illness, then a short walk in a forested region can definitely do some good. People in a hospital usually suffer from multiple emotional issues including fear, stress, anxiety, and so on.
This can slow down the recovery process. Just having a green view of the outside is sufficient enough to cause fewer postsurgical complications, while lowering the reliance on painkillers. And if you are capable of going out to a nearby park, then all the better.
Children With ADHD
Another group that can significantly benefit from Shinrin-Yoku are children who suffer from issues like ADHD and similar problems. Usually, such children have very low attention spans and are unable to learn anything properly.
However, spending time amidst natural greenery has been seen to mitigate such issues to a good extent. As such, forest bathing should definitely be on your to-do list if you have a child with ADHD.
Have you ever felt stuck in life, unable to ignite creativity? If yes, forest bathing is highly recommended. This activity is said to free up mind, and open it up to newer possibilities. As such, you might suddenly get a spark of inspiration right in the middle of a trail.
Plus, the reduced stress levels also help in clearing the mind from unwanted thoughts, allowing creative ideas to come forth more easily, as well as negative thoughts to flow out.
Many research reports have come out that validate the benefits offered by Shinrin-Yoku. A 2010 study conducted in the Chiba Prefecture in Japan enlisted a few test subjects, asking them to walk 20 minutes in a forest park.
The researchers found that the subjects had experienced lower stress levels when they were in the forest. In addition, their hemoglobin count was also lower. The forest mainly consisted of Oak trees.
Another study published in 2011 looked at the effects of forest bathing on the human body. They compared the results of walking in a city and walking in a forest and found that the latter helped reduce blood pressure to a good extent.
In addition, dopamine levels were also observed to have decreased from forest bathing.
Tips To Keep In Mind When Doing Shinrin-Yoku
There are no strict rules for practicing Shinrin-Yoku. After all, the only thing you have to do is to enter a forest and walk through it. However, if you follow the tips below, then you will definitely have a better experience.
- Remember that this is not a hike. You don’t have to walk fast towards some goal. There is no goal. Just relax and walk anywhere you want. Use all your senses while walking through the forest, whether it is sight, smell, touch, or hearing.
- Do not take your smartphone, camera, or any other such devices with you for the walk. Leave all gadgets behind. Since the goal of the walk is to concentrate on yourself and the environment, these devices act as an unnecessary distraction.
- If you are going in a group, keep conversations to a minimum. Better still, don’t talk at all. At least for the few minutes, you spend for the walk, remain silent and learn to savor the silence. And then after you’re done with the walk, you can consider talking to the other members of the group.
- If you find a location to sit for a few minutes, then go for it. Close your eyes and meditate with deep breaths. Similarly, if something gets your attention, stop and watch it closely until you are satisfied with it. Remember – there is no hurry.
- Take your most comfortable shoes for the Shinrin-Yoku. It should not be too light that pebbles and other rocks discomfort your feet. Nor should it have too thick a base that the entire shoe feels heavy.
So, if you have been feeling mentally stressed out lately, try to take some time off from work and head over to the nearest forest for a few hours. Walkthrough the trees, absorbing the fresh air, feeling everything around you, and you will definitely feel refreshed and more energetic.
If you are not sure whether you can do the Shinrin-Yoku properly by yourself, consider getting in contact with a forest bathing guide, and they will definitely help you get the best experience from the walk.
25 Motivational Health Quotes to Inspire You
While health should be our priority, it sadly isn’t for most of us. Under the umbrella of working hard, everything related to not caring for ourselves becomes okay. Skipping breakfast because we are running late or not exercising because we are working becomes valid. We always think that we will start working on ourselves after we finish achieving our dream. It doesn’t work like that. Like our dreams and skills are a work in progress, so is our body and health.
For your body to continue working, it is important to work on it. If you don’t invest in your body, you won’t get the returns for long. If you don’t have health, anything else you have, loses its luster and it becomes difficult to enjoy things that you worked hard to achieve. No matter how busy you are, you need to make yourself a priority and work on yourself.
Here are some motivational quotes that show you how important your health is. These are from people that most of us look up to and people who have achieved great things. You can have everything in life, but if you don’t have good health, you have nothing.
1.“It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.”
2. “A fit, healthy body—that is the best fashion statement” -Jess C Scott
3. “To keep the body in good health is a duty, otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” -Buddha
4. “Three things in life – your health, your mission, and the people you love. That’s it.” -Naval Ravikant
5. “Those who think they have no time for healthy eating will sooner or later have to find time for illness.” -Edward Stanley
6. “You can’t enjoy wealth if you’re not in good health.”
7. “Keep your vitality. A life without health is like a river without water.” -Maxime Lagacé
8. “Your health is what you make of it. Everything you do and think either adds to the vitality, energy and spirit you possess or takes away from it.” -Ann Wigmore
9. “If you’re too busy to workout, your priorities need to change. I can’t think of too many things more important than your health.” -Rolsey
10. “I believe that the greatest gift you can give your family and the world is a healthy you.” -Joyce Meyer
11. “Moderation. Small helpings. Sample a little bit of everything. These are the secrets of happiness and good health.”
12. “It is exercise alone that supports the spirits, and keeps the mind in vigor.” -Marcus Tullius Cicero
13. “Our health is something we often take for granted. But, there are some things in life that should never be taken for granted. Take care of yourself.” -Catherine Pulsifer
14. “Keeping your body healthy is an expression of gratitude to the whole cosmos – the trees, the clouds, everything.” -Thich Nhat Hanh
15. “Life is like a tree and its root is consciousness. Therefore, once we tend the root, the tree as a whole will be healthy.” -Deepak Chopra
16. “I have chosen to be happy because it is good for my health.”
17. “Your body will be around a lot longer than that expensive handbag. Invest in yourself.” -Anonymous
18. “When a man is ill his very goodness is sickly.” -Friedrich Nietzsche
19. “There is one consolation in being sick; and that is the possibility that you may recover to a better state than you were ever in before.” -Henry David Thoreau
20. “The body loves routine. Try to eat, sleep, and so on at the same times every day in order for the body to function at its optimum efficiency. The body loves consistency.” -Theresa Hearn Haynes
21. “Our bodies are our gardens – our wills are our gardeners.”
22. “When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. When diet is correct, medicine is of no need.” -Ayurvedic Proverb
23. “The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d rather not.” -Mark Twain
24. “Sufficient sleep, exercise, healthy food, friendship, and peace of mind are necessities, not luxuries.” -Mark Halperin
25. “Leave all the afternoon for exercise and recreation, which are as necessary as reading. I will rather say more necessary because health is worth more than learning.” -Thomas Jefferson
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