The Benefits of Meditating

By on May 27, 2014

Last summer my mom went away on a yoga retreat and returned with some sage advice that I have carried with me since. Faced with emotional hardship, her instructors taught her that the practice of meditation was a very effective way of taking negative thoughts and emotions and, as they eloquently imparted, “dropping them like a hot coal.” The Buddhist adages of positivity and emotional acceptance as taught through meditation are well known spiritual practices but often we forget that we are all able of taking a page from this book and injecting a little good will into our own lives. In today’s busy world we are constantly inundated with distraction, stimulation and to some extent anxiety. Often we utilize modern ways to deal with this kind of modern stress, we hit the gym, put our phones down for a few hours or spend a little quality time among close friends and family, but there is a lot to be said for the work of good old fashioned meditation.

Meditation has been around for thousands of years, and that’s because it really works. If there’s one thing many of us have learned from our doctors, it’s that stress and sadness can take a serious toll on our physical health. The original impetus behind the practice is the search for an internal energy, a means of relaxation and a realization of forgiveness, love and compassion – among numerous other things we could all stand to embrace a little more often.

The most popular form of meditation practiced secularly is that of mindfulness. It originated in the Buddhist tradition, and it is practiced worldwide, casually and through the discipline of psychology, as an effective way to manage anxiety and emotional instability.

The benefits of mindfulness are numerous. For one, meditation not only reduces the feeling of stress – it also has the ability to reduce the presence of the stress hormone cortisol. After spending three months at a retreat that taught the practice of mindfulness, test participants all exhibited a marked decrease in stress hormone levels. Similarly, tests have shown that mindfulness can also decrease grey matter in our amygdalae, the part of the brain largely associated with stress.

In addition, studies have found that meditation has the power to help us become more self-aware. Tenets of mindfulness include attention and non-judgment, which are powerful tools for understanding our personalities, strengths and weaknesses, and can in turn help us make better or more educated life choices.

Mindfulness is also a powerful tool for helping us cope with distracting emotional distress. It helps us manage pain and depression by allowing the brain to focus and compartmentalize hardship, by awarding us greater control over our cortical alpha rhythms, the brain operation associated with sensory focus.

A study published in the Journal of Psychological Science also revealed that practicing mindfulness can also improve performance in memory based tasks and learning, meaning that if you’re a student, adding it to your daily routine can also improve your grades!

Adding meditation to your routine can also help you achieve weight loss goals by helping you achieve better self-control and by banishing the negative emotions that encourage poor eating habits. Its also been proven to help you sleep better, a physical advantage that appears on most weight loss goal related check lists.

Perhaps the best thing about mindfulness and meditation is that it is a cost free and exceptionally simple practice. All you need is 15 minutes of your time, a quiet space and an open mind and all of the benefits outlined above can be yours.


Mary Anderson

About Mary Anderson

Mary is a history student, freelance writer and avid culture junkie. Three years ago she moved from the nation’s capital and began a love affair with Toronto that has only grown in strength since. In her spare time she can be found trying to complete her bucket list items of trying a Caesar in every bar in the city or crafting the perfect breakfast taco. Follow her on Instagram: @_mollieanderson

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