What do the CEOs of Microsoft, Panda Express, Medtronic and Linkedin (amongst others) have in common? They all practice meditation regularly, and they swear on the positive impact it has on both their work and personal life. Sounds surprising, right? (see Peak Wellness)
Scientific research proves that meditation really is the key to productivity. According to the University of Massachusets research (2005), there’s a strong correlation between meditation and increased grey matter in the prefrontal cortex. That area of the brain is responsible for decision-making, focus, judgement, behaviour, planning and self-discipline (NCBI)
Focus, focus, focus
In other words, on a neurological level, meditating will make your brain more productive. Your performance will increase significantly as your brain finds it easier to make productive actions. Say goodbye to the endless cycle of procrastination and non-productive hours!
Furthermore, with meditation comes mindfulness, the practice of living fully in the present moment, focusing all your attention and being intentional on what you are doing. That is, you will find it easier to silence your inner distractions and instead focus on one thing. Which makes sense, as meditating implies silencing your thoughts and focusing on your breath. (Medium)
Yet, most people associate meditation as a kind of “magical”, almost a spiritual practice, which is only within the reach of some gurus. By the end of this article, I want you to be motivated to give this self-care habit a try, and gradually experiment all the benefits it will bring into your daily life.
Busting the myths
Meditation is surrounded by many myths. The first one is that you need to be an expert to do it. The truth is, getting started is easier than it seems. For beginners, the idea of silencing your thoughts might seem utterly impossible. However, aim small at the beginning. Breathe in and out consciously during as little as a minute when you feel overwhelmed. Observe the (even small) change in your body and mind that reconnecting with yourself can have.
The second one is that the benefits are not scientifically based, and that practicing meditation is, ultimately, quite useless. However, evidence has shown this to be false, as we will see now. Furthermore, the long-term effects of regular meditation have a still larger positive impact on our overall well-being.
Benefits: for everything, for everyone
The incredible thing about meditation is that it is positive for each and every kind of person, and that its benefits are all-encompassing. It is the answer to both tiredness and sleeplessness, to productivity and to relaxation. Here are some of the most relevant benefits of the practice. (Bear in mind, the complete list is endless)
Meditation can decrease blood pressure. A recent study by the University of Lanzhou (2015) on 966 volunteers found that, when meditating, blood pressure was reduced by 5 points on average. Meditating helps relax the nerve signals that coordinate the heart function. This not only happens during the practice, but the trend can be found on those who meditate regularly. (PubMed)
Boosting your immune system
The current global pandemic situation we are living has taught us to value our immune system. The good news is, recurrent mindfulness sessions improve meditators’ immune system, according to a 2003 study carried out at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. (WISC)
A good night of sleep
Considering that insomnia is a problem that unfortunately most of us will experience at some point, meditation can be a real lifesaver. To prove it, a study created two separate groups of participants, and randomly assigned one of them to practice meditation. (Pub Med)
The participants that engaged in meditation fell asleep sooner and stayed asleep longer in comparison to those who did not meditate. Most of us know the problem of our thoughts invading our head the moment it rests on the pillow. Meditation can help with that.
Managing stress and anxiety
You know the drill. We live fast lives full of work, activities and obligations. It is extremely easy to feel overwhelmed – thankfully, tools like meditation can really make a difference. Stress is actually the main reason why people try meditation.
Stress is produced by the hormone cortisol, which in turn disrupts sleep, promotes depression and anxiety, and increases blood pressure. This means that the impact of stress on our physical and mental health is awfully negative. It is therefore an important problem, and we should definitely aim to lessen the impact.
Amongst many other scientific studies that prove this, an eight-week study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2012) found that meditation reduced the inflammatory response stress has on our body. Another study of 1300 adults found that meditation indeed decreases stress, and that it was particularly true for people with higher levels of stress. (Science Direct)
Meditation can help you create a more positive outlook on life. One study by various prestigious universities (Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Harvard) compared the electrical activity between the brains of those who meditated and those who didn’t. They found that those who engaged in mindfulness meditation had increased activity in the brain areas related to positive thinking and optimism ( LWW Journals)
Another study by the University of Massachusetts observed 18 patients as they practiced meditation for three years. They observed that the participants experienced long-term decreases in depression. (Science Direct)
Tips for beginners
Now that you’ve seen all the benefits, you may want to give it a go. To get started, I recommend mindfulness meditation, which consists of perceiving the thoughts as they go through our mind. It is not about judging them, but rather about fighting that urge of evaluating them by simply observing them as they come and go.
But, how do we do this? Here are some steps that might help you:
- Sit or lie somewhere comfortable where you can stay still for as long as you like
- Close your eyes. It will help you go deep within yourself
- Breathe normally. Do not force any kind of pattern, accept it.
- Now focus on your breath. How it affects your body, how it makes you feel.
- Go about this for two to three minutes to start, then gradually increase that period of time.
Or else, you can start with many of the guided meditations available on the internet. They will be very helpful if you are a beginner. Some recommendations are The Honest Guys, The Mindful Movement and PowerThoughts Meditations YouTube channels.
At the beginning, it is absolutely normal to find it difficult to give our thinking mind a break and focus on our breathing and the sensations of our body. This is especially true in our modern society, in which constant stimulus and activity is encouraged. Here in Kendani we want to help people to live mindfully, to get a chance to escape from the outside “busyness” through their homes, or even through their skin care.
However, this “busyness” we experience makes it even more important to give ourselves some time to rest and replenish. So, give yourself this very deserved treat and return to the breath!