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MEDITATION: The Benefits

Meditation, something I never thought I would have the patience for or be able to get into – until I tried it consistently over the last few weeks.

Previously, I have tried it a couple of times before but I never really understood what to do, my mind kept running wild with thoughts and I thought to meditate, your mind had to be blank and block all of your thoughts but that is not the case. Meditation is being aware of your breath and your thoughts in the present moment, and to increase awareness and help reduce stress.

When lockdown came about, I had a lot more free time than usual so I decided to put it to good use and form good habits over the time. Now, I get up most mornings, read 10 pages of my book, do 10 minutes of meditation and practice 10 minutes of yoga. It definitely helps set me up for the day and puts me in a better mindset.

There are many benefits to meditation which is one of the reasons why I wanted to try it, anything to make you feel better right?

Stress Reduction – Meditation is proven to reduce stress in many. Stress releases the hormone cortisol, and this the produces inflammation promoting chemical cytokines. This can cause sleep disruption, cloudy thinking, increase risk of depression and anxiety while also contributing to fatigue.

There is evidence to show that incorporating meditation into your daily habits has shown a reduction in the inflammation response caused by stress. A study completed on males concluded that practicing meditation for a period of one month improved IQ and cognitive function and reduced baseline stress and reactivity to a stressor. (5) Frequent meditators have shown significantly fewer stressors, illness symptoms, and lower levels of anxiety and depression. (7)

Improves Creativity – meditation has been found to enhance the ability to self-regulate which is a key component in cognition including creativity. This can be due to emotional improvement, which can clear your head and clear emotions so your brain is more free to be creative. (6)

There have also been studies completed on meditation and how it relates to cognitive health and the onset of Alzheimer’s. Studies have shown that completing a 12-minute meditation technique has successfully used to improve memory in people with subjective cognitive decline and has been shown to improve sleep, decrease depression, reduce anxiety, down regulate inflammation genes, and increase in immune function. (8)

There have been a couple of small studies completed on researching the long-term effects of meditation on the brain and results did show pronounced structural connectivity in those who meditated compared with those who didn’t partake in meditation. (1) In another study, where woman took part in an 8-week mindfulness programme, results showed that there was an increased functional connectivity such as consistent attention focus, enhanced sensory processing and reflective awareness of sensory experience. (2) In another study they reviewed the evidence of mindfulness techniques on the function and structure of the brain over a period of 8-weeks. The study concluded that the mindfulness-based stress reduction led to changes in certain parts of the brain related to emotions (amygdala), consistently improved emotion regulation. (3) There is also evidence to suggest partaking in meditation can slow the rate of age decline of the gray matter of the brain. The gray matter of the brain is related to muscle control, memory, emotions, speech, decision making and self-control. (4) This would link it with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, in which is related to the decline of gray matter in the brain. (9)

With all of this research showing the benefits, why not try it out even start with 5 mins and work your way up! There are loads of resources you can use for guided meditation such as the Headspace app, the Calm app, and lots of videos on YouTube to follow along to.

Reference websites:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1053811911006008 (1)

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S105381191100190X (2)

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0278262616301312 (3)

https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-94-007-2079-4_9 (4)

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi= (5)

https://behavioralandbrainfunctions.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1744-9081-10-9 (6)

https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1994-18824-001 (7)

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26445019/ (8)

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1757361/ (9)

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