Meditation – Free Yourself From StressNaturely
According to a survey done by Australia Psychological Society in 2015, Australians’ levels of wellbeing have fluctuated over the last five years and in general it still remains lower than that in 2011. The study found out that among young people aged from 18 to 25, 35% of them endured a high level of distress, 26% reported to have moderate to extremely severe levels of depression symptoms. 26% is one out of four people and that’s not a small number at all. This number may have increased by a certain degree in 2020.
It is so evident now to see people around us suffering from stress, depression, mental health issues or anxiety. If someone who experiences these symptoms and does not take actions to resolve them soon enough, they may start to get involved in some bad habbits such as gambling, smoking or heavy drinking which they mistakenly think may help them to relieve their stress levels. Well, this sounds scary doesn’t it, the good news is that there are different positive ways to help you lower your stress level and the best of all is MEDITATION.
So, What is Meditation?
Meditation is simply just a way for us to be better aware of our minds. It is the act of paying attention to only one thing at a time while feeling the calmness and relaxation running through your whole body. It normally involves focusing, relaxing or pondering1. To better simplify this, you can just think of a moment that you sit on the bed with your back straight, putting your phone aside, closing your eyes and start noticing how you are inhaling and exhaling.
If you are thinking that meditation sounds a bit too simple or easy for you, well, it actually is. But, maintaining a habit of practising it for a long period of time may be a challenging task, especially if you are easily distracted from the surroundings or even distracted by your thoughts. To be honest, I sometimes fell asleep or start to wonder what to have for dinner during the meditating cycle. Believe me, it can also happen to you even when you are not a beginner!
By the way, if you have heard about meditation somewhere, you may also have seen the word ‘mindfulness’. Well, I feel the need to introduce this wonderful way of meditation to you all. It is pretty straightforward since the word speaks for itself. People who would like to start meditating would probably start by practising mindfulness. It is the state of mind when you are fully aware and awake in every moment, as well as fully engaged in whatever activities you are doing while not being driven down or overwhelmed by external factors2.
Why should we meditate?
Nowadays, it is estimated that around 200 to 500 million people are practising meditation worldwide, which shows that meditation is as popular as yoga, according to The Good Body. Considering the health benefits that it brings, I have no doubt about this massive number. To be better aware of what advantages meditation offers in our life, let’s together go through the four reasons below with me:
1. Relieve stress
Although we cannot really measure stress quantitatively, scientists do show evidence that meditation can help to reduce stress.
Normally, when the stress hormone cortisol increases, it leads to the release of inflammation-promoting chemicals called cytokines, causing some negative effects for human health such as sleep deprivation, depression, anxiety, increased blood pressure, fatigue or cloudy thinking3.
In 2013, a study was conducted to compare the effectiveness of an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction to a well-matched active control intervention, the Health Enhancement Program, on reducing psychological stress. The results showed that the mindfulness training had better effects in reducing inflammation response caused by stress.
Many celebrities and corporate CEOs heavily rely on meditation as a method to calm themselves and stay away from stress. The founder of Bridgewater Associates, Ray Dalio, wrote in his book Principles: “I came to meditation in my own life during a very stressful work period that then turned into a very stressful personal period. But it freed me from so much pain. It completely inverted my entire point of view on life. I’ve been meditating consistently….and I’ve seen an exponential impact. In terms of scale, the more you do the greater the reward. More than linear” (extracted from Forbes).
2. Build emotional health
Amazingly, meditation can affect emotional processing within your brain even when you are not practising it. Gaëlle Desbordes, a researcher from Massachusetts General Hospital, and his team discovered that people who meditated were less likely to provoke negative emotions. This leads to a positive outlook on life and an increased level of optimism4.
3. Improve memory and learning
Besides the impact of strengthening attention span, meditation can also help to improve our memory and learning. Prominent Harvard neuroscientist, Dr. Sara Lazar, proved that meditation can train hippocampus, a region in our brains for storing and retrieving information, thus boosting our memory even if we are ageing.
Besides, as meditation leads to better mental clarity, it actually improves your problem-solving abilities and allows you to have a thorough look at an issue practising.
4. Make you look younger
I have many friends who meditated for more than 5 years. One general similarity that I have witnessed from them is how young they are compared to their real ages. Again, this is something quite hard to measure and may not always be the case. However, I have a strong belief that by making us feel more relaxed and relieved, meditation can enable us to better enjoy our life. This, in turn, frees people from worries and therefore, wrinkles have no reason to appear.
Thanks to many positive impacts that meditation offers, not only individuals but also big companies can benefit from it. Apple, Google, Nike or McKinsey & Co are now including meditation workshops as part of their wellness programs to improve their employees’ health conditions.
I hope that this article has given you a brief outlook on how meaningful meditation is to our mental health. And if this sounds interesting to you, stay ahead for our next article on ‘How to start practising mindfulness as a beginner?’.