The Power of Meditation
Meditation is mostly known as a kind of spiritual ritual, and for many it still sounds mysterious and out of reach. But the benefits from it are undeniable, and research has proven the positive effects and healing power of meditation, not only for our spirit, but our mind and body, as well. And the best part – it is accessible to everyone!
First thing that often comes to mind when thinking about the benefits of meditation is how it improves our spiritual well-being – decreasing anxiety and increasing emotional balance, happiness, compassion and awareness. The greatest masters of meditation agree that meditation has the power to change the way we experience every moment of
our lives, and act and react to those experiences. That turns out to be true for people who practice meditation regularly - they report higher levels of subjective happiness and emotional well-being. But can that be proved?
Amazingly, using neuroimaging, it has been found that meditation is associated with changes in the physical structure of our brains, especially in regions involved in learning and memory, emotion regulation, self-referential processing and perspective taking.
But meditation is not just about improving the spiritual well-being; some claim it helps with a number of health problems too, such as cardiac conditions, allergies, asthma, diabetes, infertility and a lot more. How can something that’s only going on in our minds have such an impact on our physical body?
There is already evidence of different ways that meditation can influence our body and brain, but scientists are just beginning to scratch the surface. It has been found that meditation activates the so-called relaxation response. That means that during meditation, even a simple one, our body functions change significantly in comparison to our base state. Our heart rate, muscle tension, breathing and sweating, all decrease.
So, now that we know that meditation can cause real physical responses in the body, what does it mean for our health? Stress is a major factor in many medical conditions, and its impacts on our bodies are the exact opposite from the physical responses of meditation. Thus, any disorder caused or worsened by stress should be counteracted by meditation practices which elicit relaxation response. The link between stress and illness is not yet fully understood, so more research is needed to validate this hypothesis. It is also important to point out that it is scientifically hard to determine to which extent each part of the therapy process influences the outcome of the illness. Results are still unclear and meditation should not be used as a substitute for traditional medical treatments, but it sure can be of additional help.
While conclusions about the effect of meditation on physical health are still under debate, there is one aspect where meditation has been found to have depression by 50%. What is also being found about mindfulness approach is that it’s not just useful for people with depression, but for everyone’s mental health, because it teaches a way of looking at problems, observing them clearly but without trying to fix or solve them, and to see the thoughts as just thoughts, whether they are positive, negative or neutral.
There are many different types of meditation, and different ways to practice it, but even the simplest version of meditation can have positive effects. For the beginners, it is enough to just sit comfortably, relax and focus on your breathing. It is normal for thoughts to come and go, and all you have to do is be aware of them, observe and let them flow, not engage. There are many mobile apps for guided meditation which can be of great help to start exploring the wonders of meditation.
Meditation Apps (free with paid content):
Stop, Breathe & Think (MyLife Meditation)
And a video to help you get started:
Text by Hana Radovanović
Digital content: Ayşe UĞUR