By: RILEY PULT
Meditation is a state of reflection and relaxation for the mind and body. You are looking inward at yourself, not outward at the world around you. Despite what some people may think, meditation has nothing to do with religion, it is actually a science. While meditating, your mind should be clear so there are no distractions. Successful meditation is not something that one can achieve easily, it takes time. It is never too late to begin meditating, and it comes with many rewards.
Meditation has been proven to help people who experience depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Medications that are prescribed due to a mental illness, do not always work for the average person. Researchers at Harvard have looked at the changes in the brain of people who meditate. Gaëlle Desbordes, an instructor in radiology at Harvard Medical School and a neuroscientist at MGH’s Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, took before-and-after scans of subjects who learned to meditate over the course of two months. She scanned them while they were performing everyday tasks. The scans found changes in the subjects’ brain activation patterns from the beginning to the end of the study, the first time a change in a part of the brain called the amygdala, had been detected. While it is still undefined what elements of meditation help with illnesses, it is highly recommended that trying some sort of mediation can give you a boost when dealing with mental challenges.
Mediation is meant for you to focus on yourself, so it is no surprise that one of the benefits is self-awareness. Many people do not take time to reflect on their emotions and everything going on in their life. It is common for people to overwork themselves without even realizing it. Meditation allows you to step deeper into your body and understand the effects of people and things around you. Self-inquiry and related styles of meditation can help you “know yourself.” It is important for you to be your own best friend, and without self-awareness, it can be challenging to do so.
Attention spans seem to be getting shorter and shorter, and meditating helps build stamina and pushes the brain to focus for longer periods of time. There are many studies that prove this to be true. One showed that people who regularly practiced meditation performed better on a visual task and had a greater attention span than those without any meditation experience. Another review concluded that meditation may even reverse patterns in the brain that contribute to mind-wandering, worrying, and poor attention. A long attention span is a critical skill needed in many places such as school, sports, and workplaces.
Mediation can be a great way to relax your mind and let go of little things that keep you up at night. Around 1 in 3 people suffer from some sort of insomnia; meditation can help ease thought and redirect them. One study concluded that mindfulness meditation appears to be a viable treatment option for adults with chronic insomnia and could provide an alternative to traditional treatments for insomnia. This study saw that the people who meditated were able to sleep for a longer time and showed signs of improved insomnia severity. Meditation increases sleep quality and duration because of the ability to control intrusive thoughts that can keep you up.
Certain forms of meditation can cultivate a positive mindset. A meta-analysis of 22 studies of metta meditation demonstrated its ability to increase peoples’ compassion toward themselves and others. Metta is known as kindness meditation, increases positivity, compassion, and empathy towards others. However, before you can share these feelings with others, you must learn to treat yourself with the same emotions. Self-love is an incredibly important skill needed for any person to feel comfortable and happy within themselves, and metta meditation helps form this bond.