Our society features many characteristics of the Type A personality - fast-paced, competitive, time-crunched (with a constant sense of urgency), highly active, and aggressive. We are encouraged to always be productive, on the go, always push ourselves to the limit, even if we are sick, tired, or constitutionally not designed to function in such a way. In order to survive, many people rely on stimulants such as coffee, refined foods, energy drinks, cigarettes, and medications. This may give you a temporary energy boost, but it is like borrowing money that you do not have - later on you will feel even more tired than before. We can only borrow so much before crashing and arriving at full on adrenal exhaustion. While proper sleep and nutrition are absolutely essential in order to balance things out a bit and edge towards the side of health and vitality, meditation can also be a beautiful, grounding, rejuvenating part of our day that helps us to not only survive, but truly thrive in a world that can sometimes feel overwhelmingly hectic and stressful. Even people who are not super stressed can benefit greatly from integrating some meditation into their day. Here are some of these wonderful benefits:
- Stress Reduction - meditation lowers oxygen consumption, decreases respiratory rate, increases blood flow, slows the heart rate, normalizes blood pressure, decreases muscle tension and headaches, reduces anxiety, leads to a deeper level of relaxation, activates theta brain waves, lowers levels of cortisol (stress hormone)
- Brain Function - increases serotonin (the 'happy' neurotransmitter), detachment from thoughts, stillness of mind, improvement in concentration, increased creativity (arising spontaneously in the moment when the mind is quiet), deeper understanding of self and purpose
- Physical Health Benefits - helps relieve pain associated with certain illnesses, helps in chronic conditions like allergies and arthritis, enhances the immune system, helps with overall healing
Neuroscientists have also found that meditators actually shift their brain activity from the stress-prone right frontal cortex to the calmer left frontal cortex, and that there is also less activity in the amygdala (where the brain processes fear).
Meditation is free and anybody can do it. The easiest way to start is to find a quiet, comfortable space and to simply focus on your breathing for a few minutes. I also like to do a body scan at least once a day - this is when you either sit or lie down and gradually concentrate on different parts of the body, allowing them to relax and letting any tension melt away. I start at my feet and move upwards. This exercise is also great for getting back in touch with the body. Raising our awareness of the body and reconnecting with it is essential to overall health :)
I could go on and on about this topic as it is especially fascinating :) Meditation is so special - not only does it provide physiological health benefits, but it can also lead to great personal and spiritual growth. Mind, body, and spirit can all be integrated into this practice. Meditation can also mean something different to every single individual because it means going inward. However, it is also very unifying because it reconnects us to wholeness and grounds us in the earth. Even when the world seems overwhelming, meditation provides a centered place that is like your own rock - no matter what, it will always help bring you calmness, peace, and the power to accomplish anything you put your mind to!