Meditation is a widely used term and used in many occasions in our daily life, which do not really mean the original definition of meditation. There is plenty of confusion around the terminology and the practice. Sometimes meditation is referred to as daydreaming or contemplation, yet Meditation or Dhyana, is not the same thing. Meditation or Dhyana as we refer in the yogic world means deeper awareness and connection with one’s body, mind, senses and surroundings without attachment to them.
Meditation is to calm one’s mind and focus on one single thought. People meditate for different reasons, it could be to focus clearing one’s mind for relaxation or as a spiritual practice or as for healing benefits.
When we think of meditation, we associate it with an image of a person sitting cross-legged in deep concentration, yet there are millions of forms and ways to align your body for meditation. The main goal is centering our consciousness within, with clear and relaxed mind, keeping our focus inward. Quiet your mind, with no distraction reaching the inner peace and state of being fully awake and alert with no distractions from the external world. There is a wonderful article on Meditation on Yoga Journal.
The basic fundamental goal of meditation is to reach the state of enlightenment, where we liberate our conscious mind from the continuous flow of external chatter and random thoughts. There is no control over these random thoughts but with meditation, we can find the inner peace of stillness and transform our minds from the random flow of confusing thoughts and restlessness to harmony, concentration and rest.
People who meditate can calm their racing mind and be less distracted. It is not easy. We need to work our mind to calm, so we can see clearly. Our mind is like a lake. If there is continuous wind, the flow of thoughts on the surface forms waves. The continuous waves of concerns, stress, fears, regrets prevents us to see to the bottom of the lake. But with no wind, no continuous flow of random thoughts, the surface of the lake is clear and we can see to the bottom of the lake. We can see clearly the beautiful fish, maybe even coral and seashells. With a still, calm mind, with no wind, we can see within ourselves and find the beauty within ourselves.
Manage Stress with Meditation
External stimulus distracts our body function and if we do not manage the stimulus, it affects our mind and body and the chemical balance in our body. If stress is not managed properly, it affects our adrenal gland, which starts to produce cortisol and this steroid hormone has a negative effect on our body. The extra cortisol in our body increases the blood sugar level and affects our immune system, resulting in us being less resistant to illness and disease.
Yet, if we respond to stressful situations with positive attitude and calmness, our body starts to produce serotonin also known as the “happiness hormone”. Even though Serotonin is not actually a hormone, but a neurotransmitter, it contributes to our feeling of happiness and confidence. Wearing a smile every day and a positive attitude keeps the serotonin level high and helps us to deal stress better. With a happier attitude, we start to appreciate the big picture more and understand what actually matters in life and find solutions to the most complex and difficult problems.
Activate the Brain
Meditation can activate parts of our brain that are responsible for involuntary bodily functions, such as blood pressure and digestion, stress management, better sleep, the cure for headaches, muscle tension, allergies, skin problems and the list goes on.
The Harvard Medical School has been one of the pioneers in scientific studies of the benefits and healing impact of meditation. What they have discovered is that relaxation can change the chemistry of our body, balancing the body to its natural state with no stress and agitation and that way have an effect on various aspects of our daily life.
Mindful Mornings at Blue Osa
Meditation engages us into the present moment, the deepest reality that exists. Being mindful in the present moment helps us to enjoy life in the present moment. The human mind has a tendency to wander and focus in the future or in the past and miss out on the current experience we are in each moment. At Blue Osa with a discipline of silence, we bring mindfulness into our mornings, allowing our senses fully open to the current moment and to this reality.
By mindfulness and meditation, we come to experience the reality that we are in, the most valuable possession we have. Mindfulness in the present moment allows us to focus on the preciousness of each moment and to have a precious experience and let the chatter pass by like floating clouds.
There are hundreds of scientifically proven benefits of meditation, yet I have chosen ten.
Ten Scientifically Proven Benefits of Meditation
Meditation can take our body to an even more relaxed state than deep sleep. While being fully awake and conscious inside, meditation places our body to a state of relaxation allowing self-healing.
2. Control of emotions, less agitation
Meditation and being focused in your mind can help to gain better control of emotions. A relaxed mindset leads to less anxiety and reduces the intensity of mood swings and anger episodes.
Anger affects the function of the frontal lobe in our brain. Anger shuts down the frontal lobe, losing the ability to act rational and awareness of being irrational. Communication gets difficult, while the anger that is not managed properly releases the neurochemicals that destroy the parts of the brain that control emotional reactivity.
3. Drop in blood pressure
The effects of meditation to drop blood pressure has been referred by the US National Institutes of Health, as the most effective means for helping mild hypertension. Meditation reduces stress level, as relaxation reduces the activity of the adrenal gland. Stress is most commonly one of the main reasons for high blood pressure, another is diet.
4. Drop in blood cholesterol
Cholesterol is not as bad of a monster as the word echoes. Cholesterol sticks our cell membranes together, helps in digestion and in the production of vitamin D and sex hormones. But when cholesterol comes bad, is when there is an excess amount of it, the extra cholesterol gets into our blood and clogs the blood passages, building up and causing various other symptoms.
When we are stressed the adrenal gland gets activated and starts to produce cortisol. The steroid hormones in excess amount destroy body cells and when the cells get damaged, they are automatically patched up with cholesterol. The higher the stress, more hormones are released, more cells get damaged and more cholesterol needs to be built to take care of the damage.
Meditation naturally reduces stress. Helps us to focus, calm and leave out the negative thoughts. Mediation helps us to react to stressful situations with positivity lowering the level of cortisol in our body.
Studies have shown that people suffering from insomnia, could fall asleep faster. You may not be able to cure insomnia, yet Meditation and Mindfulness will help you to fight insomnia.
Meditation increases blood circulation helping muscles to relax. Meditation takes your mind to the current moment and stay calm, where you are able to let go of the stresses of the day and challenges of tomorrow. When letting go of external worries, bringing your awareness to the current moment, acknowledging that you are in bed, it is night time and that you are tired and you should sleep, actually falling into sleep becomes much easier.
A relaxed body stops affecting the adrenal gland and stops adrenaline and hormones that affect your sleep.
6. Curing addictions
Many of us in the modern world are addicted to something, alcohol, tobacco, food, sugar, prescriptions, drugs, sports. Not to worry, there are healthy and natural ways to overcome addiction with the help of meditation.
The addictions are caused by the chemicals in our brain. We have taught our brain that the substance we are addicted to is the source for the dopamine, the euphoric brain chemicals. The urge, the need for this sensation of dopamine is so overwhelming and strong, that we give our body a “fix” the substance boosting the dopamine level hight releasing sensation of euphoria. However what goes up, must come down, and the externally boosted euphoria is likely to come down crashing, leaving the dopamine level low, and making us look for another “fix’ leading to a vicious circle.
With meditation, we can naturally boost the dopamine level and reserve the sensation euphoria in a natural way. As longterm meditation changes the structure of the front lobe of the brain in a positive way, the part of the brain that is responsible for the happiness, the euphoria levels are more likely to stay higher with the people who meditate.
7. Improved digestion
There is a complex connection between brain and digestive system, which is very sensitive to moods. Our digestive system and inner organs are most sensitive and affected by tension, anxiety and stress. Our stress level affects our digestion and causes problems such as cramps, bloating and gas as it’s the body’s natural way to react to tension. Most of the serotonin produced in our bodies takes place in the stomach and when that process is affected by stress, it causes a variety of symptoms, even food allergies.
Meditation can help in relaxing the mind and body and release stress, but also increases the blood circulation and blood oxygen levels which makes digestion easier and serotonin level stable.
8. Slow down aging
Stress makes us look older and that is because the “telomeres” in our DNA begin to fray. That happens naturally with time, but living under stress speeds up the process.
Lab studies show that the stress hormone cortisol reduces the activity of telomerase, therefore reducing the amount of cortisol in body reduces the fray of telomeres in DNA. And as we have concluded earlier, the cortisol level can be reduced by meditation.
Good news is, that the telomere damage can be slowed down. Studies have shown, that meditators have more telomerase activity in their blood cells and that meditation increases the body melatonin level because of the brainwave frequencies in our brain during meditation.
Melatonin is best known for memory, immune system and restful sleep. This sleep hormone and its antioxidant power prevents telomeres from shortening. Therefore, meditation affects the brain waves to frequently increase melatonin and the increased melatonin affects telomeres in a positive way, through their hormone receptors.
So meditate, sleep better, relax and look younger.
Check out an interesting Noble prize winning article on how meditation slows down aging.
9. Increased libio
Meditation can have a positive effect on our libido as the endorphins released during meditation can lead into feeling good about ourselves and when we feel great, we are more interested in sex.
Meditation reduces stress, it also improves the ability to focus, center, concentrate and live fully and fully enjoy the moment, instead of a wandering mind. Focus on the task we are engaged with.
Meditation also increases the brain wave frequency releasing DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) hormone. DHEA level in our bodies decreases over the years and there is no external boost, as the DHEA is solely produced by our body. DHEA increases our sex drive by normalizing the testosterone levels. Good news is, DHEA is one of the substances that actually increase in the body as a result of the deep relaxation that meditation promotes.
10. Reduce PMS
Meditation can help and reduce the symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome, PMS, where women usually experience emotional and psychological symptoms. PMS symptoms show up once in a month in the form of mood swings, food cravings, emotional sensitivity, vulnerability, grumpiness and even insomnia.
The way we manage our thoughts, feelings and emotions on daily life, and by creating positive emotions and optimistic thoughts by using meditation as a tool, can reduce the PMS symptoms. Meditation can help in relaxation and better sleep due to ease in muscle tension. By relaxing mind and body, reducing stress level, increasing blood flow allows the body to find its natural state and heal. Reaching a natural relaxed state can help in cramping, bloating and muscle aches.
And don’t just take my word and the scientists word for it.
About The Author
Inka means literally “The Child of Sun”. This radiant world traveler from Finland is in her thirties has explored in 55 countries and lived in USA, Latvia, and China. For the past decade, Inka has been working in the Global Mining Industry as Marketing Manager, promoting a sustainable technology solution for the world’s metal producers and process industries. While working in China, she truly discovered Yoga and completed her Yoga Teachers Training. Inka is on her amazing adventure through Americas for 3 months which of one-month volunteering in Blue Osa. Her Mantra is: “The Universe is my Home – my yoga mat my temple. We have one life – so live it well. Choose to be happy”. Follow her adventures and take a peak into her photographic memory in Instagram ituononen, #VirtaavaValonVoima.