People throughout the world have practiced meditation for centuries, and it’s quickly becoming one of the most popular pastimes in the modern world. It’s one of the most effective ways to find inner peace, relax and cope with stress.
In AsapScience’s The Scientific Power of Meditation, Mitchell Moffit and Gregory Brown thoroughly explain meditation yields a number of benefits, including the ability to fight (not cure) diseases, increase empathy, and even lead to physical changes in the brain.
Do you think meditation is transcendental fluff? It’s not. It’s science.
Meditation all starts in the brain with an increase in neural activity in regions directly correlated with decreased anxiety and depression, along with increased pain tolerance. The default mode network, in particular, is activated when the mind is at rest and not focusing on the outside world. This has been found to improve memory, self-awareness, and goal setting.
This is when the silent but active brain begins to undergo physical changes. A 2011 study published in the journal Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging found it takes up to two months to get a better brain. Participants who were involved in a meditation program for eight weeks had gray matter that was denser in areas associated with learning, memory, processing, and emotion regulation. The amygdala, which deals with stress, blood pressure, and fear, actually showed a decrease in gray matter.
Can you spare two minutes a day to make yourself happier and less stressed? Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits blog points out how starting with a tiny habit is the first step to consistently achieving it. So, start by sitting in a relaxed position and try to clear your mind. (It’s harder than it sounds. Don’t be frustrated if you have a difficult time emptying your thoughts. It takes practice.)
Try these beginner meditation tips from Gaiam, a leading lifestyle brand with a mission to make yoga, fitness, and well-being accessible to all.
- Sit or lie comfortably. You may even want to invest in a meditation chair.
- Close your eyes.
- Make no effort to control the breath; simply breathe naturally.
- Focus your attention on the breath and on how the body moves with each inhalation and exhalation. Notice the movement of your body as you breathe. Observe your chest, shoulders, rib cage, and belly. Simply focus your attention on your breath without controlling its pace or intensity. If your mind wanders, return your focus back to your breath.
Maintain this meditation practice for two to three minutes to start, and then try it for longer periods.
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