Printed in Sweat Equity Magazine Dec/Jan 2018
No longer considered an esoteric practice for spiritual devotees, meditation has made its way into our homes, schools, and offices. And although the methods are as varied as the reasons why people meditate, the results are consistent. Research says it’s so! With so many people exploring the practice, scientists have set out to evaluate its benefits—and meditation is empirically demonstrating its power.
Here are the Top 3 scientifically proven reasons to meditate:
Stress can cause headaches, muscle pain, fatigue, insomnia, digestive problems, and more. Stress management is one of the most beneficial health practices we can engage in, and meditation is a proven stress-busting tool. A study published in the American Psychiatric Journal reveals that meditation reduces the density of the brain tissues associated with worry and anxiety. Whether we want to manage general daily stress or we want to heal from more serious stress-related issues, making meditation an integral component of our efforts brings lasting results.
According to Health Canada, heart disease is the second leading cause of death in Canada. When it comes to the health of the heart, it’s not all about exercise. It turns out that sitting in silence also reduces the risk of heart disease. Research published in Pub MED Central Canada concludes that meditation lowers cortisol levels and improves hypertension, leading to improved overall cardiovascular health.
One study by the US National Library of Medicine reviewed the effects of practicing a Loving Kindness meditation, where participants were asked to spend 15 to 20 minutes a day focused on increasing the feeling of warmth and kindness towards others. Results demonstrated a spike in positivity, which produced more mindfulness, a greater sense of life purpose, and a feeling of social support—all of which contributed to overall satisfaction with life.
Three tips to start up—and keep up—with your meditation practice:
1. Choose a technique and set yourself up for success.
There is an overwhelming number of approaches to meditation, and letting our inner consumer lead the way can create confusion, which can stop us before we even get started! Picking a technique, whether it be mindfulness, mantra-based, personal inquiry, or another format and committing is what will bring results. Practice brings results. In the same manner, we need to be realistic about the amount of time we intend to practice and should develop a routine that is manageable. Being overly ambitious sets us up for disappointment and frustration. We want our meditation practice to be enjoyable, not just another item on the to-do list.
2. Find a teacher
A qualified teacher can help you to clarify the technique used, potential obstacles that will arise, and simple ways to maintain your practice. Not everyone needs (or wants) to see a teacher regularly. Some people benefit from meeting monthly; for others, a few times a year is enough. Either way, working with someone who has more experience can shed light on questions or concerns we may have, enabling us to move forward.
3. Make friends with meditators.
As social beings, community plays an essential role in our personal development and growth; building relationships with meditation practitioners or inviting friends to join us in our efforts creates the energy we need to dive into the practice and enjoy it!