Meditation. Does it really do everything people say it does? Join us as we explore the truth of what happens to your body and to your life overall when you practice meditation.
What Is Meditation?
Meditation is a practice that requires mindfulness. Contrary to what some people believe, its goal is not to empty the mind of thoughts, but to experience them objectively. That is to say, you experience your thoughts, feelings, and memories as if they were leaves floating down a stream. You watch them all come and go, holding on to nothing. You pay attention only to the moment you’re living in, but it’s a deep attention, which accepts both the painful and the pleasant experiences.
In practice, some people try guided meditations, in which a 3rd party helps them to direct their focus on different aspects of the moment they’re experiencing. Others prefer to meditate with music or only silence. Famously, there are those like Buddhist monks who make meditation an entire way of living.
How Does Meditation Make You Feel?
Many people begin practicing meditation to help with anxiety and stress. This is a wonderful motivation, but it’s certainly not the only way that meditating changes you. Here’s how 5-20 minutes of daily meditation changes the way you experience life:
After 1 Week
Reduces stress and anxious feelings
Gives you a feeling of relaxation
After 2 Weeks
Meditation feels natural, and a part of your daily routine
After 40 Days
Better clarity of mind
Better dream recall
Easier to recognize symbols in your life
More positive attitude
After 1 Year
Better success in meeting goals
Less affected by ups and downs
Higher value of yourself and your time
Overall less anxiety
How Meditation Changes Your Body
For those of you who are like me, and want to see the scientific evidence behind “feelings”, I’m happy to say that researchers have been pouring more effort into studying the exact effects of meditation on human physiology. A very recent study was just released (July, 2016) which discovered how meditating for only 3 days can change your brain and body even up to 4 months down the road.
Scientists worked with 35 male and female volunteers who were divided into two groups. Group A practiced meditation for 3 days while Group B practiced a “phony” meditation, which really was just designed to distract them from stress rather than pay attention to it.
After 3 days of meditating (or “meditating”), the researchers looked at the volunteers’ brain scans. Then after 4 months, they looked at blood tests for signs of inflammation.
While both Group A and Group B reported feeling more relaxed than before the experiment, only Group A showed real physical signs that meditating made a difference. Their brain scans showed a greater connectivity between the stress response brain regions and the calm/focus response brain regions. Then, 4 months later, Group A’s blood tests revealed a significantly lower level of inflammation than Group B (even though almost no one in had meditated since the experiment!)
This is exciting news! To summarize, the practice of mindful meditation helps your brain to find new ways to deal with stress, and even a small amount of meditating works to lower the amount of inflammation in your body, which is the cause of many diseases including digestive issues, cardiovascular problems, and even cancer. Meditation has a direct effect on your mental and physical health.