How Can Meditation Improve Our Mental Health?
Meditation is a mind tool that has numerous benefits for our mental health. It's a mental exercise that encourages us to focus and achieve inner-peace in the process.
It is well known that meditation can improve our physical health by deeply relaxing the body, lowering the heart-rate and blood pressure. But how exactly does it affect our minds?
In this article we wish to unpack the link between meditation and mental health. Read on to know more.
How does meditation impact mental health?
Meditation is not a new concept; it has been practised for thousands of years. In the ancient world, mediation was a symbol of morality, concentration, knowledge, and spirituality.
Meditation was usually practised for religious or spiritual purposes. Over time, people began to recognize its health benefits as well.
Meditation has become immensely popular across the world in the last fifty years or so. A few minutes of regular meditation can help us become more focused, mindful, and calm and even reduce anxiety and improve our self-esteem.
Let us look at some specific ways in which meditation impacts the human brain.
- Recently scientists have discovered that the true potential of our brain is not set at birth. We have the power to strengthen our brains as we grow. This attribute of the brain is known as ‘neuroplasticity’. And one of the best ways to improve and strengthen the neuroplasticity of the brain is mediation. For instance, when we feel lonely and isolated, one specific region of our brain becomes active: the partial lobe. We can prevent the feeling of isolation through meditation as it helps us to calm down the partial lobe. Thus meditation, can train the brain to overcome the feeling of loneliness and feel connected and at peace.
- When we meditate, it decreases the beta waves in our brain. This means that the brain stops processing information actively. Even if we meditate for only 20 minutes, the frontal cortex, partial, and reticular lobe tend to slow down. It's as if we turn down the volume knob in our brain and drown out the noise. In effect, meditation helps improve concentration and mental health by reducing anxiety and stress.
- Meditation is also known to impact the grey matter in our brain. Studies have shown that meditation can increase the grey matter in the brain's frontal parts and hippocampus. It is this grey matter that is responsible for increasing emotional stability and positive thinking. Fascinating, isn't it?
Benefits of meditation for mental health
The benefits of meditation may be too numerous to capture in a single article. But below are some of the major benefits of regular meditation.
In meditation we practise witnessing our thoughts and feelings without any judgment. When practised over a period of time, this becomes a part of our thought-process and mental make-up.
When we practice meditation regularly, it helps our brains to slow down and become less quick to react and judge.
We are hence able to clear the clutter and noise in our minds and achieve greater self-awareness which is the foundation of self-esteem.
It is becoming more and more popular that meditation can improve our memory and concentration. When we meditate we try to focus on the present moment. This makes our brain practise concentration. Eventually over time, this helps increase our concentration in our daily tasks and our work as well.
Reduces stress and anxiety
The focus on breathing, mindfulness, and non-judgement makes meditation a great tool to reduce our stress and anxiety.
When we worry our body produces cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone that triggers depression, stress, and anxiety. However, the slow and deep breathing during meditation lowers the cortisol levels. Further, repeating a mantra during meditation (also known as chanting) can have further calming effects on the brain.
Enhances emotional well-being
Meditation is beneficial for improving our overall emotional well-being. It allows us to build a positive perspective on life’s problems. Multiple studies have found that people who practise meditation experience fewer negative thoughts.
Those who regularly meditate can develop the ability to control their emotions.
Stress releases inflammatory hormones called cytokines, which can directly affect our mood. Meditation calms our mind, reduces stress, and boosts our emotional well-being by controlling the level of cytokines.
Helps to fight addiction
Practising meditation requires considerable discipline and self control. When meditation becomes a habit, we can learn to control our emotions and increase our attention and concentration. Most importantly, we develop a more defined sense of self.
Among other tactics and medical support, meditation can also help manage and cope with different kinds of addictions and unwanted habits.
In today's digital world, many young adults suffer from insomnia or poor sleep. They spend hours on laptops, mobile phones, and other devices, which affects their sleep cycle.
When meditation becomes a habit, it can improve the symptoms of insomnia and the quality of sleep. As it slows down brain activity, the body and mind can relax. Releasing tension through meditation can help us reach a peaceful state at night, so that we are more likely to fall asleep easily.
Easy steps for beginners to begin meditation for improved mental health
Meditation is an exercise. And just like any exercise or practice, meditation requires consistency. As a beginner, mindfulness meditation is an easy place to start. Here are some simple steps to follow:
- Get in a comfortable position before starting with meditation. Sit in a chair, cushion, or even floor to meditate. Ensure your spine is erect and your body is loose and not tensed.
- Next, close your eyes and focus entirely on your breathing. Follow your breath, both while inhaling and exhaling.
- Follow your breathing for two minutes. Start by inhaling deeply, holding for three to four seconds, and then exhaling slowly. Then repeat the process for as long as you can.
- Each time a thought crosses your mind, avoid following it. Try to bring your attention back to your breath. Do this repeatedly and you will notice that over time the frequency of thoughts reduces.
Beginners can easily follow these simple steps to begin their practise of meditation. One can meditate for five minutes initially and then try to practise it for extended periods.
Meditation can impact our body and mind in many ways. It has the power to improve our mindfulness, control emotions, and reduce stress. Especially in today's volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) world, meditation is needed urgently to maintain our balance and calm.
Researchers are continuing to study meditation to further discover its potential and benefits. However, from all the we already know, we can safely say that the practice of meditation is a blessing. The more we practise meditation, the more we'll reap the benefits of it.
Read more about the types of meditation in another article.
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Disclaimer: The content provided here is for informational and educational purposes only. Lokyatha has observed best effort due diligence and all health related content is reviewed by a trained professional before publishing. However, this should not and can not replace personalized medical help. Please refer to a professional in all cases of need.