If you are new to meditation, or have never meditated before, here are some reasons on how incorporating meditation practice into your regimen can alter your brain’s physiology, and significantly improve your quality of life.
Finding your inner ommm can feel like a difficult task when you are constantly roused by a cacophony of noise: the sound of whipping traffic, the radio, the television, the beep beep of your cellphone, endless notifications, and so on and so fourth. In today’s day and age, it’s really no surprise that the statistical average attention span in 2015 is approximately 8.25 seconds—that’s almost five seconds less than in the year 2000. Did I grab your attention? If so, continue reading (congratulations you have officially exceeded 8 seconds).
Despite this being the golden age of technology, which has sparked an increase in technological usage and dependence, meditation has still managed to promulgate over the last few decades as more and more Americans are turning down the volume and tuning within. The National Center of Complementary and Integrative Health estimated, “18 million American Adults practiced meditation regularly.” Logistically speaking, this number could still be higher; however, there’s no denying that Eastern philosophies have had a significant impact on Western culture (something that is seen through ‘eclectic’ fashion trends, the prevalence of yoga studios, and Buddhist café artwork). And perhaps this impact is one that’s needed more than ever in today’s world.
Though meditation did in fact stem from Buddhist and Hindu philosophies, the meditative process itself can also be viewed through a non-sectarian lens. Emerging scientific studies have proven that this practice can be exercised by anyone, religious or non-religious, who wishes to improve cognitive ability and overall well-being. This means that meditation is a self-help technique proven to enhance one’s quality of life, in the same way that visualization and journaling might be used as therapeutic, life-coping tools.
According to a recent Harvard study conducted on the neurological effects of meditation, meditation practice can actually alter the structure of the brain:
“several neuroscientists have shown that some of the brain regions activated during meditation are actually different in people who meditate regularly.”
Harvard Neuroscientist, Sara Lazar, and German Researcher, Britta Holzel, found that meditation practice is “associated with changes of specific brain areas that are essential for attention, learning, and the regulation of emotion.” Most of these areas are functions guided by the pre-frontal cortex region of the brain, which is scientifically proven to increase in gray matter through meditation.
If more people were to hone their focus and constructively deal with the influx of stressful emotions, people’s lives would be much more rich and fulfilling. Meditation helps facilitate healthy, mental habits associated with mental fitness and fortitude. Consider meditation practice a workout of the mind.
The Modern Meditation Challenge:
Retreating for at least 15-30 minutes a day might be an effective way of recharging an overly stimulated mind, which Buddhists commonly refer to as the ‘monkey mind’. Monkey-mindset is something we are all prone to; it’s like having a rambunctious, childish chimp running rampant, as wild thoughts intrusively enter and rattle the brain.
During meditation the objective is to avoid entertaining the monkey (who is in constant motion), and to consciously cradle the restless critter— acknowledge untamed thoughts and put them to rest. According to Neuroscientists, Lazar and Holzel, they found that, “structural brain changes were seen after only eight weeks of meditation practice.” This means if you commit to two months of regular meditation, you can significantly increase your mental fitness.
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