The ancient art of meditation has been practiced for centuries. The earliest practitioners sought to better understand the nature of life and their purpose on Earth. Today, people meditate for any number of reasons, including self-exploration and stress relief.
Regardless of one’s purpose, meditation has numerous health benefits ranging far beyond relaxation. Here are three reasons why you may want to give meditation a try.
Instant mood booster
Who hasn’t experienced the stress and anxiety associated with the hustle and bustle of today’s world? With the demands of work, school, family and social life, it’s no wonder cases of depression and anxiety-related conditions are on the rise. But even a short mini-meditation session can uplift spirits.
According to research, shorter meditative sessions are as beneficial as longer sessions at combating negative moods. During a study with undergraduate college students, the students reported decreased instances of depression and anxiety as well as lower heart rates and less fatigue after three days of a meditation intervention totaling one-hour of meditative practice. So even a few minutes daily can reap long-term rewards.
Relief from aches and pains
Staring at computers, tablets and cell phones coupled with long trips in the car or hours spent sitting at a desk can wreak havoc on one’s skeletal and muscular systems. Combine these unnatural postures and positions with the stresses experienced on a daily basis and it’s no wonder more and more Americans are suffering from aches and pains.
However, research suggests that meditation can help relieve achy muscles and joints. Aside from deep breathing techniques that help transport oxygen more efficiently to muscles, the reduced anxiety experienced during a meditation session helps switch off the body’s natural stress response (and unfortunately, this natural stress response can lead to inflammation, which has negative health implications).
There’s no denying that added inflammation and stress lead to a number of chronic conditions and weaken the overall effectiveness of the immune system. But regular meditation sessions combat both stress and anxiety and also aid in building a stronger immune system. In a study published in Psychosomatic Medicine, subjects took part in either an eight-week meditaion training program or were placed in the control group that underwent no training.
Both groups were then vaccinated with the influenza vaccine. Four months after the vaccination was distributed, subjects were evaluated again. Results indicated a significant increase in antibodies in the group who underwent the meditation training as opposed to the control group. So this year, when cold and flu season comes around, you may want to spend a few minutes daily in a meditative state to keep your immune system strong.
Depending on your goals or personal preferences, there are multiple ways in which you can meditate. Here are a few to choose from, each with their own unique contributions to the practice.
- Guided: Utilizes visualization techniques and senses to recall peaceful surroundings or situations.
- Mantra: Incorporates the repetition of a calming word or thought.
- Mindfulness: Encourages an increased awareness of the present moment.
- Qi gong: Combines meditation with slow physical movements and deep breathing exercises.
- Transcendental: Incorporates components of mantra and mindfulness meditation to free yourself of stress and anxiety.
-The Alternative Daily