Practicing meditation has been a common activity for centuries in different traditions and cultures with the aim of improving mental and emotional health.
Linked to traditions such as Buddhism and Hinduism, its arrival in the West has meant that it has also been the subject of modern scientific study. In this regard, current science suggests that it may have a number of positive health benefits.
Practicing meditation thus joins the current efforts of many to improve their well-being, which is rooted in making some changes in their daily routines and diet with a view to improving their health. This includes dietary changes or the incorporation of nutritional supplements.
For those who are trying to focus on their emotional and physical well-being, knowing the benefits of practicing meditation can turn your daily life upside down. We share some of these benefits, backed by science, and some examples of how to practice meditation.
What is meditation and how to practice it
Meditation is a mental and emotional practice that seeks tranquility and concentration of the mind.
There are various techniques to achieve this, and it can be done individually or in groups.
Some of the most effective and well-known techniques for practicing meditation include:
- Mindfulness meditation: This involves paying full attention to the present moment and the sensory experience it awakens, trying to let go of judgements. Practical ways include focusing on breathing, bodily sensations or sounds in the environment.
- Mantra meditation: this involves repeating a word or phrase in silence in order to focus the mind.
- Guided meditation: in this case, a recording or a live person guides the meditative experience.
- Movement meditation: this is based on doing a specific activity (e.g. yoga or walking) slowly and consciously, focusing the mind on each movement.
Benefits of practicing meditation
Research in this field is still developing, so more benefits of practicing meditation are likely to be discovered in the future.
However, we share some of the scientific findings that have already been made regarding the benefits of meditation:
- Reduces stress and anxiety: meditation can reduce activity in the amygdala, a part of the brain associated with stress and anxiety, as suggested by the research of J. Davidson et al. (2003). This has been particularly interesting in the case of the study E. L. Ros, et al. The effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction therapy on mental health of adult cancer patients: a systematic review, which assessed the effects of meditation in cancer patients.
- Improved attention and concentration: scientists such as M. Mrazek, et al. (2011) have pointed to meditation as a cause of increased grey matter density in areas of the brain responsible for attention and concentration.
- Improvement in some social skills: Science has found that those who practice meditation regularly can improve some social skills. For example, J. L. Krause and D. C. Frank have studied its relationship to greater accuracy in the practice of empathy.
- Regulates emotions: Meditation practice has also been linked to emotion regulation, decreasing disproportionate emotional responses in studies such as B. van den Berg, et al., Mindfulness and emotion regulation.
- Improved memory and cognitive function: improved cognitive performance has also been shown to be one of the benefits of regular meditation practice, as suggested by P. L. Morgan and L. M. Pahl in The impact of mindfulness-based interventions on cognition and mental health: a review of systematic reviews.
These benefits of practicing meditation are especially valuable for some specific demographic groups.
For example, in the case of children, it has been incorporated into educational programmes with a view to improving their performance in the classroom, helping them to develop a more resilient and positive mindset by facing the challenges they encounter with more confidence and strength.
For older people, it can lead to improvements in their quality of life, helping them to effectively manage chronic pain by increasing their ability to tolerate pain and decreasing the perception of painful bodily sensations.
In this way, practicing meditation becomes a very important step towards taking care of your mental and physical health. This is in addition to other actions aimed at addressing the physical and emotional wellbeing needs that many have already decided to undertake.
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