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World meditation day

Published: 15 May 2018

May 15th is world meditation day!

Used throughout the East, meditation has been a central part of Buddhism, Hinduism, and many other religions and traditions for thousands of years.  Today we’ll focus on some of the benefits of general meditation and tackle the different techniques and the best books and videos in later blogs.

You might think meditation is just a fad but there are some real benefits, backed by science, that show taking 15-20 minutes out of your day to meditate can have amazing benefits to your health and mental-wellbeing!

So, what are some of these benefits?

Improving your sleep

Sleep isn’t just necessary to keep your energy levels up, it is essential for proper brain function.  Key to this is REM sleep – the state you enter in to during deep sleep. 

Meditation has been shown through studies to solve insomnia and promote this all-important REM sleep function during sleep – making your shut-eye achieve more in less time.

Lowering stress

Mediation has been shown in studies to lower stress and its associated hormones (cortisol, adrenaline, etc) in your body.  Leading entrepreneurs, such as Steve Jobs, have advocated meditation for this very fact. 

Taking time to sit down and clear your mind helps process the issues in your life and the emotions they conjure up, while keeping a calm head and remaining focused.

Strengthening your inner body

Stress has been proven to weaken the immune system and can cause heart attacks, among many other issues.  Stress is designed to be a response to a threat, so cortisol thickens your blood to slow bleeding from cuts and heal faster.  But we stress about a lot more than physical threats, so the blood stays thickened, putting pressure on the heart.

Meditation improves blood flow, allowing your body to function more effectively while also positively impacting your cardiovascular health by lowering blood pressure and relaxing your heart. 

Slows aging

Aging happens when our DNA degrades over time – each time a cell divides, a small amount of DNA is lost in the transfer.  To facilitate this transfer, our bodies produce and use telomerase which, when it is fully functioning, limits this DNA loss.

Regular meditators have been studied and been shown to have higher levels of telomerase in their blood – meaning their cells age more slowly.  In the Shamatha Project, telomerase levels were measured in those who had finished 3 months of meditating against a control group of non-meditators; those who had meditated had around one third more telomerase than those who had not!

Improves concentration

Through meditation, you learn to calm and control your mind, among many other things.  An example of meditation technique used in yoga encourages you to focus on your breathing, using it as an anchor for whenever your mind wanders away.

This new process of thinking can apply to everyday tasks or work – centring back on your breathing and clearing your head of distractions, lowering stress, anxiety, improving focus, and maintaining concentration for longer.

Boosts cognition

A study published in 2012 by the University of California, Los Angeles, studied the brains of long-term meditators and non-meditators and found that brain folding (gyrification) in meditators was greater than in the non-meditators.

The top 2-4mm of our brain matter is where most of our cognition comes from (grey matter).  Our brains are folded so that we can pack more grey matter in a smaller space, while also shrinking the distance between different parts of the brain.  The closer the parts of the brain are to each other, the more quickly we send signals and the quicker our cognition.

So, meditation can make you smarter!

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For meditation day, why not take 15 minutes to sit down and clear your mind?  There are many types of meditation so why not take a look on YouTube for some quick inspiration.  Try to find the more highly rated videos or classes to avoid gimmicks.

We will be writing more blogs on meditation at a later date, including more about the types of meditation and the best books and classes.  For now though, why don’t you join our community support group on Facebook and join in on the discussion?