The practice of Meditation has been around for over 3000 years. Meditation has always been strongly linked with religion, mostly Hinduism, Buddhism and other Eastern religions, as well as Judaism and early Christianity. Perhaps because of its religious associations, it has been largely misunderstood as a practice.
While Meditation is certainly an integral part of certain religions, it is not a religious practice. It is not something that is only relevant to those of a spiritual bent or those interested in alternative health practices. Nor as some believe, does it require the dedication of long periods of time, or specific, ‘peaceful’ locations in which to be practiced. As a practical tool, which can be incorporated into every day life, one can set aside quite small periods of time around a busy lifestyle, needing nothing more than a comfortable, quiet spot to sit or lie down.
But what would be the benefit of doing this and would it be worth the pay off? While Meditation has always been considered to be a calming and relaxing practice, in recent years, science has backed up its health benefits with some intriguing discoveries. Not only has Meditation been scientifically proven to help calm the body, it has also been shown to have amazing effects on the mind, or more specifically, on the brain. Meditative practices have been shown to increase the density of gray matter in the brain, which is connected to the healthy functioning of the central nervous system (Holzel at al., 2011). Improvements have been noted in those who practice Meditation and suffer from depression, anxiety and physical pain (Goyal et al., 2014). Meditation has also been shown to decrease activity in the part of the brain associated with mind wandering, rumination and worry (Brewera et al., 2011). Further still, there is evidence to suggest Meditation can help those struggling with addiction (Tanga et al., 2013). It may even help to slow down brain aging (Lunders et al., 2015).
The scientific evidence therefore, overwhelmingly corroborates the belief that Meditation is extremely healing for both the body and the mind. In today's fast paced world, where we spend much of our time stressed and on the go, having an outlet that might offset the negative impact of this stress on our bodies and minds, is invaluable.
As I mentioned above, Meditation does not have to take up huge amounts of time. Nor does it require a special place or any financial outlay at all. Thanks to modern technology, there are literally thousands of free meditations available at your fingertips. YouTube has countless meditations available that range in length from 5 minutes to a few hours depending on what works for you and what you can fit in to your lifestyle. The hardest task is narrowing down the choices!
Here are some that I have found useful to get you started. However, meditation is very much a personal thing and it is all about finding what works for you so I recommend you explore those available. Why not try out a Meditation today? :
Guided Meditation- Blissful Deep Relaxation (20 minutes approx.)
Positive Change Guided Meditation (6 minutes approx.)
Fall Asleep in Under 20 Minutes (20 minutes approx.)
Guided Meditation To Manage Stress with Deepak Chopra (6 minutes approx.)
Brewera J.A. et al (2011) “Meditation experience is associated with differences in default mode network activity and connectivity”, PNAS, vol. 108, no. 50, pg. 20254-20259.
Goyal, M. et al. (2014) “Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress andWell-being: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis” JAMA Internal Medicine, Volume 174, Number 3.
Hölzel, B.K. et al. (2011) “Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density”, Psychiatry Res., vol., 191, no.1, pg. 36–43.
Lunders, E. et al. (2015) "Forever Young(er): potential age-defying effects of long-term meditation on gray matter atrophy", Front. Psychol., 21 January 2015, [Online: http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01551/full] Accessed 18/09/2017.
Tanga, Y. et al. (2013) “Brief meditation training induces smoking reduction”, PNAS, vol 110, no 34, pg 13971-13975.