Recent times have seen the rise — or rather, the return — of many natural and alternative therapy and exercise techniques. Amongst these innovations, mindfulness and meditation have returned to the fore. I say ‘returned’ because while the West has only recently gotten into these innovations, they have always been prevalent in the cultures of East. Although it is now presented as a New Age trend due to Western media, which is our most consumed online content, meditation has always been a part of oriental cultures. Whether it is through prayer or through discipline, the East has always understood the value and inherent necessity of mindful meditation. While the views on the topic are polarized in the West, mainly due to a lack of scientific backing, is it really enough to discard a wellness technique that has prevailed for thousands of years?
Life today is irrevocably fast-paced. We are constantly worrying about our time and how productive we are being within that time. We spend most of our days on a screen, constantly connected to the outside world and always working to achieve the goals we believe will lead to happiness. Our lifestyles are high functioning, and majorly spent in travel or transition. As much as we would like to believe the opposite, we rarely make time for ourselves. This is evident in scientific studies that show a worrisome rise in mental health disorders. We are working a lot more, eating unbalanced diets, and barely sleeping well.
I would like to clarify: I am not saying that work does not feel good; I know, as much as anyone that these days productivity equals bursts of serotonin. But we often forget the effect that this lifestyle has on physical health, and in extension, on our mental health and emotional wellbeing. I am also aware that anything that takes up too much of our time begins to feel like a luxury to us, and often leads to guilt. This is why I think meditation and mindfulness are important additions to our everyday lives.
How it Works
You probably already have some idea of what meditation is, even if you have never tried it. If nothing else, you have seen it in movies or shows. I am here to tell you that there is more to it than what you might think. You do not need to buy a rug or burn some sage, or anything of the sort. Research has shown that beneficial meditation need only take a few minutes of your day. You just need to give yourself some time to reflect on things, without thinking about anything else.
Take a few minutes of the morning when you wake up, or just before you fall asleep at night, and instead of scrolling through your phone, try to quieten your mind, so that you can organize it. Although there are apps to help you get into a meditative state, I personally think you have the capacity to get yourself there without any external help. Breathing exercises help the most. Start with fast breathing and then slowly and steadily slow it down.
What it Does
Everyone’s meditative process is different, but if done correctly and faithfully, it can prove very beneficial. Meditation helps you focus your energy and your mental efforts more productively through the course of the day. Meditation has been proven by research to have some tried and tested benefits.
It helps reduce stress
We all lead inherently stressful lives. Meditation allows you to take a breather, literally. It helps you organize your thoughts and therefore give you the brain space required to come up with solutions to stressful situations.
It helps with your attention span
We’re always constantly employing all of our senses, always hyperaware of our surroundings. This means a lot of stimuli for your brain to process, and it leads to a shortened attention span. Meditation helps you in removing this constant awareness of stimuli for a few minutes so that you can focus on what is actually important. It helps you to declutter your mind and sort through your thoughts. It helps you increase your focus, both in professional life and in matters of the home.
It improves your sleep
Honestly, when was the last time you had a good night’s sleep? We sleep because we cannot function without sleeping, even though we know how important it is for a balanced life. Meditation can help with insomnia. Meditation can help you sleep better because it lets you completely empty your mind before you sleep at night, allowing for more restful dreams. We dream every night, even if we do not remember them, and dreams have a huge impact on how you feel in the morning. This is probably where “waking up on the wrong side of the bed” comes from.
It aids with emotional health
Our physical, mental and emotional health are all intrinsically entwined. You cannot be unwell in one sphere and not see its effects in the other. This is why stress can manifest physically as lower back pain or headaches. If you have an upset stomach, it can lead to bad dreams and restless sleep. Meditation helps in promoting mental health, like reducing stress, anxiety and panic, which in turn helps with your emotional wellbeing.
It helps reduce memory loss caused by ageing
Here’s a very cool fact for you: research proves that meditation helps with age-related memory loss. Studies have shown that people who have made meditation a part of their lives often age with a significant lack of memory loss. This is why doctors and therapists often encourage meditation as it helps with dementia and other memory loss ailments in our later years.
I suggest you try meditation. It doesn’t even need a specific time allocated to it, you do not need a rug, or a special spot to go meditate. I find repetitive tasks could also be very meditative; for example, the next time you are folding all those heaps of laundry, or copying notes, take some time for your mind to retreat into itself. Cleaning your room helps relax you, and feel comfortable and cozy; I cannot find a better metaphor for decluttering your mind, as opposed to de-cluttering your safe space and the place where you rest. My advice: Do not overthink it, just do it.
However, remember that while meditation can be supremely beneficial, it is not a magical cure. But it is worth looking into for all of its benefits for your physical and emotional wellbeing. It allows you the space you need to be human in this complete chaos of a world that we live in. Personally, I feel this is why meditation is so important; it allows us some control and organization of our thoughts and of our lives, especially when we feel like we often may not have that control. HH
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