Have you ever been in a conversation and realized that you haven’t been really listening? Or have you ever driven home from work and don’t remember taking the usual turns and driving down the roads that you always do? Our brains are constantly jumping from subject to subject and thought to thought. We think about previous conversations and try to solve problems sometimes without us being aware what’s going through our brain. A method of Integrative Medicine that is practiced in order to reduce stress, improve concentration, and relieve anxiety is meditation. If you haven’t tried meditating and aren’t convinced of the benefits, here are some things to know.
Preserve Your Brain With Meditation
Meditation helps to preserve your brain with the consistent practice of meditation. According to a study done by UCLA, those who meditate over a long period of time can help preserve the brain’s gray matter, a tissue in your brain that contains neurons. Participants all saw a loss of gray matter; however, those who meditated consistently, saw less loss. Those who meditated also had gray matter that was better preserved.
Become Less Self-Centered
We’re all busy and stressed and before we know it, we’ve gone a whole day just focused on ourselves. Mindfulness meditation has been found to decrease mind-wandering and self-referential thoughts. When our minds wander, we tend to focus on the negatives of the past and worry about what will happen in the future. Through meditation, you can learn how to turn this off and focus on the present. And that’s where all possibility lies: in the present moment.
Relieve Anxiety and Beat Depression
Integrative Medicine is all about getting to the root of the disorder and healing pain and dysfunction at the source. When anti-depressants leave you feeling worse with difficult side effects, give meditation a try. With the right training, health coaching, and learning how to focus and train your brain to be aware, you can ease the power of depression and anxiety. Meditation can also help manage ongoing depression and pain. (In fact, when my mom had a bad car accident and was in severe pain with a head injury and resulting depression, one of her healthcare providers recommended meditation to her. She tried it and it really helped her, so much so that she’s since had a dedicated meditation practice. And she’s an extreme case at showing the wonders of ongoing meditation. Many corporate execs and business owners have also seen how meditation reduces the negative effects of stress.)
Increase Brain Volume and Manage Stress
A study was done by a team at Harvard that learned that meditation can increase the thickness of the hippocampus, which improves learning and memory and also regulates emotions and self-referential processing in certain parts of the brain. In addition, there were decreases in the volume of brain cells in the amygdala, which controls fear, anxiety, and stress. With proper meditation and stress management training, we can change the way we handle stress.
It could be safe to say that all of us struggle with concentrating at times; but if anyone struggles with ADHD, focusing is even harder. With just a few weeks of practicing meditation, you can see an improvement in concentration and reduce distracted thoughts. This study found that with mindfulness-training, participants had improved GRE reading comprehension scores. To improve your cognitive function, spend some time meditating today.
Help With Addiction
Even with brief meditation practice, it has been found that it can help smokers gain self-control. The study showed that there was an increase in activity in the anterior cingulate and prefrontal cortex, areas of the brain that relate to self-control. When trying to quit smoking, it activates networks in the brain related to craving. With the practice of meditation, you can learn to work through the craving.
If you have never practiced meditation, here are some tips to help you get started
- Start slow, with three to five-minute sessions. It doesn’t sound like a long time, but it may take you some time to feel comfortable with meditation. Focus on the sensation of breathing, the breath coming in and going out.
- Try to understand what the benefits of meditation are and how you can grow from the experience. When you find that your thoughts have moved to problem-solving, turn the focus back to breathing.
- Instead of becoming frustrated when you can’t meditate without becoming distracted, focus on learning to be aware of when your mind begins to wander. See the thoughts like passing clouds in the sky.
- Don’t limit yourself to the common meditation pose of sitting with your legs crossed and eyes closed. Take a walk and devote 10 minutes to being mindful of your body walking, the sensations of the air and what you hear and see.
- It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, enjoy your time to yourself while getting in touch with the natural rhythm of the breath in your body. Focus on your breath coming in and going out for a few minutes each day. It’s a great way to start and end your day. You’ll also find when you start to feel frustrated, angry or upset, that to take a couple minute time out to go breath and relax will reset how you respond to stressful situations.
It takes time for meditation to feel natural, so don’t be hard on yourself when it doesn’t come to you right away. Remind yourself of what you can gain from consistent meditation practice. If you’re interested in healing with holistic health and wellness, contact Bliss Wellness Center. As an Integrative Medicine specialist, we can implement meditation and mindfulness suggestions into treatments to help you heal and improve your health, naturally.