Many people know that meditation is beneficial, yet few know why. Meditation, which can be practiced in various forms, and has been used throughout history to benefit the mind, body and soul. Now there is even more evidence that taking up meditation may be the right thing for you.
“We have known for a long time that meditation can help to promote wellness,” explains Gary Kaplan, MD, founder of The Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine, located in McLean, Virginia. “Meditation can play an important role in how you feel, both physically and mentally.”
Clinical studies have demonstrated the benefits of meditation, including:
- A recent research study conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital finding that mindfulness meditation, during the short period of eight weeks, increased the amount of gray matter in regions of the brain involved in learning and memory, regulation of one’s emotions, and self-awareness.
- Other studies have shown that regular meditation helps reduce practitioners’ feelings of anxiety and fear and enhance their natural creativity and problem-solving abilities.
- Mindfulness meditation increases practitioners’ empathy for others and can allow for improved communication and relations with colleagues, family and friends.
- Studies have also shown that regular meditation, by facilitating relaxation of the body and mind, can help improve sleep, lessen the sensation of pain and lower blood pressure.
- There is also clinical evidence that meditating regularly improves depression and increases practitioners’ overall sense of well-being by providing a method of letting go of fearful and negative thoughts and decreasing emotional reactivity.
“This new study by researchers at Mass. General Hospital is very exciting because it suggests that meditation may be able to help heal the brains of people who suffer with depression, anxiety disorders, and chronic pain” adds Kaplan.
Mindfulness meditation involves entering into and holding a deep state of focused attention or relaxation. Although many practitioners like to follow a regular routine, meditation can be done anywhere. Whether you’re sitting on a bus or stuck at an interminable business meeting, it’s possible to enter into the state of alert, mindful awareness and reap the benefits of meditation without missing your bus stop or falling asleep at your meeting.
Explains Kaplan, “Meditation is not about religion or beliefs, it’s about learning how to stop ‘time-traveling.’ Unfortunately, we spend a great deal of time either thinking about the future, which tends to engender worry or anxiety, or dwelling on the past, which often brings up regrets and loss. Either way, we are less able to dedicate all of our attention and creativity on what is happening in the here and now. Meditation offers us a means of staying more in the present moment.”
“So many benefits arise from doing mediation, and it is so convenient to do, that I encourage everyone to give it a try, 20 minutes a day for four weeks, and see what happens,” advises Kaplan. “You may be surprised at just how much more focused and relaxed you feel, and like many of my patients, you may decide to make it a permanent part of your daily routine."