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.
What is Batch Cooking and How Does It Help Save Time, Energy and Money
For entrepreneurs and start-up founders putting in as many hours in their work as possible has become a normal culture. Even 9-to-5ers put in extra hours just to get the promotion sooner. Everyone has started focusing solely on moving forward in their careers and will sacrifice anything for it. It is a good thing but not when it costs everything: your health, your life, your relationships.
Let’s focus on the health aspect today. Let’s say you work non stop- no time to eat or sleep. Your body gets tired, doesn’t get proper nutrition, falls sick, and then you stop working and spend all that you have earned in getting back in shape. Is it worth it?
We work until we feel total burn out. My question to you is how logical do you think it is? Why not do what we can to take care of ourselves and not fall into the predicament that many young, ambitious people are falling into. As important it is to work toward our dreams, it is equally important to keep ourselves in shape so that we can work toward our dreams.
I get it. You don’t have time to cook meals, so you resort to takeouts or packaged fried junk. They might be quick fixes, but processed food, fried food, and everyday takeouts will take their toll on your body. One solution to that is batch cooking.
When you have no time to cook during the week, batch cooking is the best way to ensure that you have healthy food and always have something to eat. All you have to do is take some time out of your weekend to make sure you eat well for the week. Just imagine the amount of stress regarding the food you will forego and how much time and energy you will save overall.
What exactly is batch cooking?
Batch cooking means preparing or cooking larger portions of a variety of dishes that can be mixed and matched to create different meals throughout the week. Most people do it on Sundays to prepare for the week. Some people like to break it down and do this on Sundays and Wednesdays so that they can get more variety.
All you have to do each day is pull out the meal out of your refrigerator and heat it or maybe if it is something that you can just grab and go then more props to you. You will be thankful to your weekend self for taking a few hours out to save so many hours and headaches throughout the week, and your stomach will be thankful for not getting the onslaught of junk food and cheap takeaways.
How to go about batch cooking
- Plan out your meals for the entire week – Decide the meals that you want to home cook. If you are starting out, maybe plan only dinners and then see how it goes or you can go the whole mile and plan all the three meals on the weekend and prepare them. That is actually the best thing to do. It can get too much for beginners though, so start out with one meal. If you are planning for lunch then maybe you would want to focus on something that you can just grab and go because lunch hours can be short for most of us. For dinners, you can have something that can have all its prep done already, and all you have to do is put it together, it will give you the feeling of cooking a quick meal but not the time-consuming process of putting everything together.
- Make a grocery shopping list – Now that you have a plan of what you are going to be cooking, you need to list out all the ingredients that you need. Cross check it with what you have at home and then head out to stock up on the remaining things you need.
- Grocery shopping – Saturdays and Sundays are usually the busy days at the grocery stores because everyone heads out to get their shopping done so plan accordingly. If you have a farmers market nearby head over there to get fresh produce or your good old grocery stores, general stores, departmental stores will do – stock up on anything that will help you make a quick snack and also help your dish better.
- Prep – Once you are done gathering the ingredients, start prepping. This is also a great time to catch up on all the podcasts you have been meaning to listen to or the audiobook that you keep putting away. Maybe just songs or the show that you have wanted to binge watch? Wash, chop, cook, boil, bake – whatever your dish entails. Make sure to work on recipes that can be reheated (soups, veggies, lentils, beans) or can be eaten cold (salads).
- Store – Now that your dishes are prepared. Pack them in airtight containers and refrigerate them so that they are good to go throughout the week.
Batch cooking has a lot of advantages. The only disadvantage is that you have to dedicate some part of your weekend to cooking, but that is nothing when you look at the advantages. You bulk produce, so you use less energy, and bulk buying ingredients also saves money.
You have to head out to the grocery store only one time a week. You don’t have to spend tons of money on restaurants and takeouts. You don’t have to cook every day, nor do you have to worry about what to eat. You eat healthy so you can mark that off your list of things to do.
You can also work on your health goals and diets because diets require a little planning, which usually puts us off. You can do something or do nothing with the time you save every day with the meal plan in place.
You must have heard that “Modern problems require modern solutions.” This is the solution to everyone being too busy. It’s a win-win!
How To Find Motivation For Running
Running is one of the most pleasurable activities you can do. Along with making you feel super good, it also keeps your weight in check and takes care of your overall health. I hear so many stories of people whose lives changed since they started running and became a part of the running community.
However, it is not easy to put your shoes on and head out for a run each morning you wake up. It requires immense discipline and motivation for running on a consistent basis. This is why people try to find motivation for running by doing things like joining a runner’s group or wearing advanced gadgets that push them to do well.
Here are 5 things you can do to find motivation for running. I have personally tried all of these so there is no risk in considering trying them yourself.
1. Get running-specific clothes and shoes
For most people, running is not a one-time thing. Rather, it is a permanent part of their life which they want to cherish and share with others in their life. If you are planning to make running a part of your daily routine, you should consider investing in quality running clothes and shoes.
Running gear is usually not that expensive so even occasional runners can easily afford it. Running clothes are usually made from a synthetic material that dries up very quickly and is super lightweight. However, you should buy them depending on the weather conditions in the place where you stay. I have seen people running wearing a tracksuit too.
However, you should not play around with the footwear you wear during running. Ill-fitted and worn out shoes can cause serious damage to the soft tissues in your feet. Most running injuries are difficult to heal and cause permanent damage to your ankle, knee, or hip region. So, buy shoes that are specifically made for running and also don’t forget to replace them every 4-6 months if you run regularly.
2. Use a running app to track your runs
Although running is a pleasurable activity for most of us, it’s important to keep track of your runs using an app. A running app is for people who are new to running and want to measure their progress. There are more sophisticated pieces of equipment available to help you do the same thing and I will discuss them in one of the next sections.
Endomondo is my personal favorite running app and its freemium version is good enough for me. It allows me to share my running accomplishment with other runners in my area. You can also take selfies and share it mid-run. This provides others all the motivation they need for running.
3. Join a local runner’s group
Every city has a runner’s group on social media sites like Facebook and Meetup. Along with providing motivation for running, these fellow runner’s can also become your good friends. Who doesn’t like people with the same interests? Moreover, most of these groups are newbie-friendly and non-profit.
So, all you have to do is provide positive energy and motivation for running to others in the group. You also get advice and guidance from expert runners without needing to hire a running coach. However, if you are one of those people who prefer to run solo, then you could use these groups occasionally. Solo running is also great as it helps you build self-reliance and self-confidence.
4. Get some music
A Brazilian study says listening to music improves performance and recovery during running a mini-marathon. In this study, researchers studied the effect of different forms of music on 15 well-trained male long-distance runners after conducting psychological assessments before and after the athletes ran while listening to music.
They concluded that, listening to music while running activates the prefrontal cortex area, numbs the feeling of pain and accelerates recovery. This research paper is a must read for people seeking motivation for running. Music can make you feel the right kind of emotions in a quick and effortless way. By making such a small change you can improve your performance by 30-40 percent.
5. Wear a running watch
A running watch is mostly used by professional runners for whom running is a career and not just a sport. However, there is nothing stopping you from getting one of these for helping you out with running. These watches provide vital information which is key for improving your running speed, distance covered and stride length.
I have used a few running watches but, Garmin Forerunner 735XT is one of my favorite. I don’t worry about exhaustion or overtraining as it measures my heart rate and notifies me if I overstep my healthy boundaries. Moreover, I can also use it during other activities like cycling and swimming. So, it does a lot more than just provide me motivation for running.
To reiterate, running is one of the best habits that can enhance the quality of your fitness and life in general. You should definitely do everything in your means to find motivation for running. However, running also brings along with a lot of niggles and injuries. So, don’t forget to add some strength and conditioning workout to your routine.
“How does music aid 5 km of running? – NCBI.” Accessed May 31, 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25029009.
Skipping Breakfast Because You Are Busy is a Bad Idea
Time and again, I have focused upon the importance of getting up early and how it is tied to achieving success. I also wrote an entire post giving tips on how to wake up early. One of the main benefits of getting up early that is more focused on your body and health than work is that you get time to eat a proper breakfast.
One of the main issues I see with entrepreneurs – because I have had the same – is that they will eat up whatever you tell them about being more productive but when it comes to their health, they can be least bothered. I was the same. The logic that we run on is that we need to put all in now so that we can have time to ourselves later.
What we miss here is that if we fail to take care of our bodies, it will fail to take care of us. A weak body won’t help you work hard. So the smart thing to do is take care of it while you can. Many people skip breakfast, not realizing that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I have heard so many reasons that people give for skipping breakfast.
“I am not used to eating in the morning.”
“I don’t have time.”
“Having breakfast means getting late.”
“Not enough time to make a proper breakfast.”
“I will eat later/on the way.”
Most of these excuses can be chalked down to poor time management. If you don’t have time to sit and eat your breakfast then maybe wake up early. If you don’t have time to cook a proper meal, then you can meal prep the night before or on weekends. There are many articles and videos on how to meal prep for the whole week so that even if you are busy, you still are having a healthy diet.
Here are some ways to make sure that you eat a proper breakfast every morning:
1. Wake up early
Waking up early will give you much needed time to eat your breakfast in peace without having to rush out. Taking time to properly eat your food in the morning lets you have a relaxed start to your day.
2. Prepare the night before
If you have a really packed schedule in the morning and while you can make time to sit and eat but you cannot take time out to prepare something, then this is a great option. You have two options here. You can either make all the preparations the night before and then cook it in the morning. Like boiling eggs the night before, making a fruit bowl for the morning, etc.
The other way is just to cook whatever you are planning to eat and refrigerate it. All you have to do in the morning is microwave it.
3. Batch prep your meals
Now, if you can’t find time to prepare your breakfast at night or are too tired to do so. This is one of the best ways to ensure that you eat healthy the whole week. Prepare whole week worth of food on the weekends and refrigerate it. That way, all you have to do every day is either heat up a portion or eat it as it is, depending on what you made.
4. Add it to your to-do list
If you need external motivation to give you a push to eat, then add it as a task to your to-do list. I know many people who work a lot to get everything on their list complete. If that is the case with you, then go ahead and add self-care and meals in it too so that you finally do that too.
5. Download apps to keep track of your meals/Start a food journal
There are plenty of apps that have detailed entries for you to make to keep track of what you consume daily. This helps see what you intake and how much calories it adds up to. It also helps you see if you have a balanced diet or not and how to improve it. There are apps to keep track of how many glasses of water you drink too. I use MyFitnessPal to track what I eat.
You can also keep a food journal and make an entry every night before going to bed. This gives it more of a personal touch. Both of these things help you play your guilt over not taking care of your body, and you start making a conscious effort to eat good food.
6. Hang up a quick meal idea chart in your kitchen
Thinking of quick things to make isn’t exactly something you want to spend your time in the morning when you are rushing out of the door. I have already talked about some quick breakfast ideas that you can cook up in minutes or grab on the go. Having a list easily visible will save you time and energy, and you can quickly whip something up with what you have.
7. Keep your quick breakfast recipes in mind while grocery shopping
Remember to always pick up things like fruits, eggs, yogurt, milk, healthy cereals, and oats. These things are the easiest go-tos you can have when it comes to healthy breakfast and your rushing hours.
Skipping breakfast might seem like a small thing, and you might even get a feeling of you working hard because you don’t even have time to eat. Many people boast about how they don’t have time to eat. It is not something to be proud of.
Remember the good old saying that we learned in school, “Health is Wealth.” This is something that, ironically, we require a constant reminder of.
Most of the times it isn’t because you are too busy, it is because you aren’t managing your time efficiently. If you being too busy is the case, then you need to stop and take a step back. Evaluate what is important in life and cut back on some things so that you can make time for yourself.
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