Meditation: a lot of people swear by it, and a lot of people shudder at the mention of the word. What comes to mind when you think of meditation? 1hr of sitting cross-legged in silence; 2 minutes of watching your breath; a walk in nature with no distractions; or an uncomfortable and forced stillness?
Most people think of meditation as a form of physical relaxation and ‘zen’. However, the latest studies are showing that actual changes in the brains structure may be why people experience improvements and benefits beyond just the token relaxation.
A recent study concluded that meditation actually CHANGES the gray-matter in your brain. The 8 week study conducted by Harvard researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital specifically noted that the gray-matter in the hippocampus of the brain, the area responsible for learning and memory capacity, increased in density, as well as other parts of the brain involved in self-awareness, introspection and compassion. Participants incorporated 30 minutes of audio-guided meditation per day, and practiced non-judgemental awareness of sensations, feelings and state of mind.
A classic reason for resistance to meditation can be peoples’ struggle with ‘emptying their mind’ and ‘clearing their thoughts’. Our brains are busy these days, I get it. For some, that even sounds impossible. But the misconception about meditation is that it requires the empty mind, the 1hr of your day, and that unless you do it a certain way, you won’t reap the same benefits.
The beauty of meditation is that there is no right or wrong. Consider it more as a state of being rather than of doing. One can be engaged in ‘meditation’ on a walk, for 2 minutes in your car before your next appointment or meeting, or as you drift off to sleep at night.
A handy method is the 5:5:5:5 (you can substitute any number in there but 5 is a good place to start)…. Inhale for 5, hold the breath for 5, exhale for 5, hold the empty for 5, and then repeat.
Guided meditation is also a great option; I love using an app called Insight Timer. It’s an endless library of guided meditations, with different lengths of times, styles and voices.
Any more questions, let us know. Happy meditating.
Check out this article on Joy and why we need more of it.