Monday, January 13, 2014

The Importance of Meditation

Everyone is under some type of daily pressure.  With a sluggish economy and parents working more than ever, stress is at an all time high.  We have to multi-task constantly, and just because we can, doesn't mean it's good for us.  If you're feeling yourself strained and tense, consider meditation.  For centuries it has been used as a proven method to reduce stress and improve overall well-being.

What is Meditation?

Long before there were pharmacies on every corner, our ancient ancestors used meditation to relax, and as a way to get in touch with the forces that drive life.  While it still is carried out in spirituality today, it is a common practice used to reduce stress and anxiety, as well as increase focus.  The goal is to bring awareness to one area of the brain and eliminate all the hectic thoughts that flood us daily.

Types of Meditation

Meditation is personal, and can be practiced in a variety of ways.  You can do it alone, or in a group, and in any place you feel comfortable.  

Common practices include:

•    Mantra Meditation: A word that relaxes you is repeated over and over in your head until distracting thoughts are eliminated.

•    Transcendental Meditation: A mantra is used, and is repeated to a point where you arrive at your perfect state of consciousness and stillness.

•    Guided Meditation/Imagery: Instead of a word, images that you find calming are used to bring you to a relaxed state. Often a teacher will lead you through this process, and focus on other modalities like smell, sounds and texture to guide you to your place of ultimate calmness.

•    Yoga: As your whole body moves through a series of poses, you must use concentration, flexibility and balance.  With focus on your movement, your brain is able to eliminate other distracting thoughts.

•    Tai Chi: A Chinese martial art that focuses on gentle movements and postures at your own pace.

•    Qigong: Part of Chinese medicine, it uses movement, breathing and relaxation to bring your body and mind into balance. 

Benefits of Meditation

Meditation has been used for centuries because it has many health benefits in all areas of the body.

•    Less Stress and Anxiety: First, you are allowing yourself down-time alone, which is de-stressing. By focusing and relaxing, you do not produce stress hormones like cortisol. Mediation has been shown to loosen the neural connections in the brain that cause anxiety. Therefore, we strengthen our ability to look at stressful and anxious situations more rationally and not over react to them.

•    Overall Health: Meditation has been shown to reduce blood pressure, strengthen your immune system, reduce fatigue, and improve sleeping patterns.  It is often used with chronically ill patients as a way to manage pain.  Others find it useful for quitting smoking and dealing with eating disorders.

•    Increased Memory: When you develop the ability to shut out distractions, you improve your rapid memory recall.  This is valuable in all areas of your life.

•    Increased Happiness: By reducing stress and improving your health, you become a more positive thinker and an overall happier person.

Getting started 

There are many helpful videos available on Youtube or even apps for your Smartphone.  Consider joining a yoga group or one that offers guided imagery as another way to kick start your meditation.  Making it a part of your daily routine will vastly improve your life.


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