There’s a “hype” around meditation. You probably know at least one person who is doing meditation, right? Nonetheless, meditation has been around for thousands of years, but recently new technology like fMRI scans of the brain gave us the ability to confirm the positive effects of those old techniques.
That’s more of a good thing than a bad since meditation can have a lot of positive effects on your physical and mental health.
It goes even further: Meditation can actually change your brain, due to its neuroplasticity.
Knowledge-base: Neuroplasticity is built from the words Neuron and Plastic. Neurons are nerve cells in your brain that build connections, called neural pathways. Neuroplasticity simply means that your brain can build new connections between neurons and even new neurons to adapt to your surroundings. Learning a new skill will build a new neural pathway, but it will not last unless you practice that skill over and over again.
Meditation can lead to changes in your brain, that have shown to decrease stress and anxiety. According to Harvard study, even after only 8 weeks of meditation, the brain scans showed decreased the density of gray matter in the amygdala which plays an important role in stress and anxiety.
Did you ever experience mind-wandering? For example, when you were focusing on a specific task, but your mind constantly kept drifting away from the task at hand to other thoughts? That’s mind-wandering and most studies have associated it with decreased happiness.
One reason for this is that we are usually wandering off to things that are unpleasant or worry us.
When your mind starts to wander, a part of your brain called “Default-Mode-Network” (DFM) is activated.
Meditation has shown to reduce the activity of the DFM and thus the mind-wandering. As a consequence people who meditate felt happier.
Besides those positive mental effects, meditation can also increase your physical health, for example by reducing your blood pressure. This may have to do with the fact that meditation reduces stress and anxiety.
A reduced blood pressure might a consequence of that, but actually, it doesn’t matter if the effect is direct or indirect.
Meditation can also help you to do your work, since it increases concentration, focus and attention in most people, even after a few sessions.
Having more concentration and attention will make you more productive and lets you work more effective and efficient. As a consequence you get more work done in less time, so you’ll have more time to meditate. This is an uplifting cycle.
Starting with meditation is rather simple. Just sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Your mind will wander, but don’t stress yourself. As soon as it does, realize it and focus on your breath again.
There are also meditation training programs and courses with a meditation coach if you want to do it professionally from the beginning.
It will take some time to build this habit, but the positive effects are worth it.
Steps to take:
- At least, give meditation a try, if you’ve never done it before.
- Sign up for headspace (it’s free for 10 days) or a similar program and follow their guide for at least a week. You can also search for meditation instructions on Youtube.
- Realize that it is likely to make you more productive so that the 10 minutes you spend on it, will not be wasted, but on the opposite is good invested.