31 October 2019
Long gone are the days when the word meditation conjured up images of shaven-headed monks in orange robes and isolated temples high up on the mountainside. Meditation is now firmly a part of the mainstream, with practitioners ranging from city execs and celebrities to stressed moms and college students. Chances are you’ve had a go yourself, perhaps following a guided meditation video or using one of the readily available apps on the market. But do you know about the biological and psychological effects of meditation – or, to put it more simply, the impact it can have on your mind and body?
There are many varieties of meditation, but their core features remain the same. You are generally required to choose an object to focus on – often the act of breathing in and out – and continually bring your attention back to this object whenever you find it wandering. This simple process alone, even when practised for just a few minutes, a few times a day, hugely improves our ability to filter out excess stimuli from our over-busy environments. You will have a clearer, calmer mind – allowing you to concentrate more easily on work or important conversations for example – and a more balanced perspective, making you less likely to judge or jump to conclusions.
Read also: What is mindfulness?
It seems that slowing your racing mind through meditation also has significant benefits for your physical health. The attention on slow and regular breathing has been associated with a lasting drop in blood pressure – excellent news for those worried about heart disease or with a genetic history of coronary heart problems. The calming effect of meditation also extends to the body’s mechanisms for bringing about an inflammatory response: with regular meditation it is thought that the body’s tendency to inflammation is reduced, with positive implications for a range of diseases from cancer to stroke and arthritis.
When it comes to anxiety and stress, the mind and body are inseparable. When you feel stressed or anxious, not only is your ability to concentrate or feel compassion severely impaired but you also experience unpleasant physiological responses, such as sweating, increased heart rate and, in the long-term increased blood pressure and its associated risk of heart attack and coronary heart disease. Meditation is a powerful tool in your armoury against stress and anxiety, both with regard to their impact on your mental and physical health.
Make a date with yourself to start today!
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