Is meditation for me?
Frequently wondered questions, answered below, along with additional documented benefits of meditation.
What is meditation?
to engage in contemplation or reflection
to engage in a mental exercise (such as concentration on one’s breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness
*Source: Merriam Webster
We meditate – not to be able to sit super still & feel serene when we’re alone – but for life. For the times when life asks that we remain calm amidst the chaos. For the times when things are going great AND the times when they aren’t. We meditate to have more focus, clarity, and to live a happier, more joyful life.
Today, I meditate to create space. Allowing my breath to nourish what needs to be nourished and allowing my practice to heal what needs to be healed.
“If relaxation isn’t the goal of meditation, it is most often the result.”
Herbert Benson, MD, researcher at Harvard University Medical School, coined the term in the 1970’s “relaxation response “. In his words, the relaxation response is “an opposite, involuntary response that causes a reduction in the activity of the sympathetic nervous system.” Since then, studies on the relaxation response have documented the following short-term benefits to the nervous system:
- Lower blood pressure
- Improved blood circulation
- Lower heart rate
- Less perspiration
- Slower respiratory rate
- Less anxiety
- Lower blood cortisol levels
- More feelings of well-being
- Less stress
- Deeper relaxation
- reduces overeating
- relieves pain
- lowers risk of heart attack and stroke
- decreases panic attacks
- increases awareness
- promotes a better sleep
- improves grades
- improves memory
- improves productivity
- improves focus & clarity
- increases brain growth
- makes you happier
I get it. You want to know if it really works! Let the science do the talking.
Did you know that stress + inflammation is the leading root cause of all disease? When exposed to stress, our sympathetic nervous system (otherwise known as “fight or flight”) kicks into action. This floods our body with cortisol, adrenalin and glucagon – simply depleting, and not the least bit nourishing. Meditation helps bring our nervous system back into balance and into a state of rest + digest, where our parasympathetic nervous system takes the lead (what we want!). Meditation can be referred to as an ‘antidote’ to stress. In our day and age, that’s crucial for sanity & mental health. Living in a state of rest + digest allows our bodies to heal naturally and increases our ability to digest – not only physical food – but anything stressful that may be going on in our lives.
>> Watch this video below to hear experts in the meditation field, Richard Davidson, Jon Kabat-Zinn and Amishi Jha, explain the emerging science of consciousness and stress reduction through mindfulness <<
BRAIN STRUCTURE + NEUROPLASTICITY
Let’s talk about the brain. More specifically, neuroplasticity and how we can structurally change our brains just by sitting and breathing. Cool, right!? The reason we feel better, lighter + happier when we meditate is not just placebo. There is a neurological reason. The more regularly we meditate, the more the grey matter in our brain changes.
Here’s the rundown:
- grey matter in the prefrontal cortex INCREASES. This slows the aging of our brains and leads to clear decision making.
- grey matter in amygdala DECREASES. The amygdala is correlated to stress & our ability to handle shitty situations in a more compassionate fashion. Smaller the amygdala, the calmer we respond.
- grey matter in hippocampus INCREASES. This center of the brain is associated with learning, memory, and emotion regulation. More grey matter in this area = better overall brain health.
So what does this all mean?
- little things may not bother you as much
- you notice wonderful coincidences/sychronicities
- you may need less of the material things to fulfill yourself
- you are more aware of the present moment-you are engaged more with your kids or partner-you are more aware of what you eat
- you get more done
- you trust your gut more-that instinct we are born to listen to-you are more in tune with this feeling and the meaning
- your conversations are more meaningful, friendships and relationships are deeper, even the people you find difficult become more likeable
- you can discover your life’s purpose
“Meditation can reshape our brains.”
– Sara Lazar, Ph.D.
Find out what meditation actually does to your brain, from Harvard neuroscientist, Sara Lazar.