The Benefits May Surprise You
Meditation used to be reserved for hippies, gurus, and rock stars. The practice has now entered the mainstream, and the reasons are all around us. Chaos in the world, our dependence on electronics, and the need-it-now mentality create unrest and an extreme pace. Many are simply looking for a way to slow down or let go.
Those who say they can’t meditate are usually the ones who need it most, and I was one of them. I used to think it would reduce my drive and surrender my “edge.” This couldn’t be farther from the truth; in fact, it’s just the opposite.
When we are in that hypervigilant state, it often takes a lightning bolt (or a stiff drink) to bring us down. That elevated state is often our comfort zone, as it was mine, and meditation is something we will “get to someday.” But taking the time to start today actually gives you more time, added energy and increased productivity.
You can easily find the many benefits of meditation online supported by both history and science, but I believe the best reason is that it can actually make you a better person – both inside and out.
Meditation is a practice and there is no ‘perfect.’ Each day is different and presents its own experience and challenges; they are all part of the journey. The most important part is to simply show up.
You’ve heard that meditation can reduced stress, lower blood pressure, and calm the mind, but here are some of the extraordinary benefits you may not anticipate:
Meditation makes you happy
This one surprised me, but is very true. Meditation is like a car wash for your muddy brain; you come out sparkling clean, feeling lighter and brighter. The physiologic explanations point to a reduction in cortisol (the stress hormone); an increase in serotonin which regulates mood and behavior; and reconfiguration of the brain including reduction in the amygdala, the portion of the brain which controls anxiety and fear1, and increased activity in the left prefrontal cortex, the calm, happy zone of the brain.
You take 20 minutes of out your morning to sit quietly and suddenly you have more energy throughout your day. How does this happen? We don’t realize how much energy it takes to think, and negative thoughts enhance adrenaline using more energy than positive thoughts. Taking time to clear your mind helps revitalize your body and creates more positive energy.
Meditation also has many of the same brain enhancing benefits as naps: increasing focus and attention span, improving creative thinking, boosting memory and furthering the ability to multitask.3
Introduces you to your true self
One of the main philosophies of meditation, which tends to magically happen with regular practice, is letting go of the ego and getting in touch with your true self.
The ego is that part of you which puts “me/I” first. It wants to control all aspects of your life and the world around you. Your true self (often referred to as spirit) is more free, playful and curious. Your ego wants to win, while your spirit wants to share; your ego works to protect you, while your true self wants to explore; the ego comes from the mind, while spirit stems from the heart.
As humans, we innately lead with ego and may not know or trust our true self which often presents as intuition. Meditation can bring you closer to your true you and help create a healthier, more heart-centered balance.
Makes you kinder
A kinder and more compassionate you is a benefit of the philosophy above. Science supports that meditation enhances the right supramarginal gyrus, the part of the brain that increases compassion and empathy.2
Increases awareness, appreciation and wonder
Another philosophy of meditation is living in the present moment. By clearing your mind of past thoughts and future plans, you bring your awareness into the now, which enhances your awareness of everything around you. Trees look greener, the sky more blue and your life in that moment more beautiful. With regular practice you start to adapt an appreciation for everything – and everyone – around you. Coincidences (which begin to happen more often) create a sense of wonder that, when combined with your newfound happiness, feel almost magical.
Makes you more graceful
Think of someone you consider graceful. What attributes come to mind? Self-confidence, the way they carry themselves, calm and collected communication, a brighter light around them? These attributes stem from a more centered self which can be achieved through meditation.
Makes life richer
All of these attributes – happiness, increased energy, a closer connection to your true self, a kinder, more compassionate you, increased awareness, appreciation and wonder, a more graceful demeanor – add to a richer, more fulfilling life. You begin to step outside of your own thoughts and actions and become more in tune with those around you and the natural flow of the universe. In his meditation series Manifesting Grace through Gratitude, Deepak Chopra calls this “the hidden secret of being.”
Where do you begin?
If you are inspired to give meditation a try, there are many resources available from free apps and online meditations to classes offered by local yoga studios and meditation centers. I recommend starting with instruction from a guided mediation or a class and trying a variety of styles to see what works best for you.
As one who likes to learn through lessons, I use the 21-day meditation series offered by Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra which can be found at chopracentermeditation.com. Each meditation begins with inspirational words from Oprah and a few minutes of understanding and guidance from Chopra preceding the meditation. The Chopra Center periodically introduces new series at no cost with the option to purchase at the end.
Getting started can be as easy as finding a quiet, serene place to sit, close your eyes and go within. Try a naturally lit room in your home or an inspiring outdoor space. The Greater Palm Springs Convention and Visitors Center has a list of the “Top 10 Places to Meditate” available at visitgreaterpalmsprings.com.
If you already practice meditation, please share your experience with us online to further inspire others at DesertHealthNews.com. Click on this article and leave your message in the comments field below.
Enjoy the journey! Namaste ~
Editorial by Lauren Del Sarto, founder and publisher of Desert Health.
References: 1) https://scholar.harvard.edu/sara_lazar/meditation-yoga-research; 2) https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201310/the-neuroscience-empathy; 3) https://sleepopolis.com/blog/naps-vs-meditation-whats-better-refresher/