I meditate – do you? Meditation is often credited with helping people feel more focused and energetic, but are the benefits measurable? Yes – they are! Meditation involves more than naps or exercise.
At the Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, Dr. Prashant Kaul of the University of Kentucky took 12 students who did not meditate and taught them the basics in two short sessions.
Then, over a series of weeks, the students were asked to come in and take a test devised to measure skills like reaction time. The tests involved a series of visual cues on a display screen that the volunteers had to react to by pushing the correct button. The students were asked to take the tests in mid- to late afternoon, when people tend to be sleepiest. They did so before and after 40 minutes of meditating, napping or exercising, or after taking caffeine. Napping produced poor results, presumably because of “sleep inertia,” the researchers said. Caffeine helped, and exercise was unpredictable.
Earlier studies have found that people are awake while meditating but that their brains undergo changes similar to patterns found in sleep. Some studies have found that people who meditate a lot report sleeping less, so the researchers were curious to see if meditation could serve the same function as sleep. The results support the idea that it can. In fact, when some of the students were asked to skip a night’s sleep and then take the test, the researchers said, meditation was even more helpful. They said they did not know if caffeine and meditation combined would be even better.
Meditation is the practice of focusing your attention and mind on something that makes you feel calm and relaxed and gives you clarity about your life. The medical community is becoming much more accepting of meditation as a legitimate treatment for many different medical problems, such as anxiety, stress and depression. It’s being used treat all kinds of chronic pain. People are using meditation to try to quit smoking. It’s also being used for alcohol and drug addiction. And the National Institutes of Health is even recommending meditation for high blood pressure. Studies have show also that it can help women who suffer from PMS, menopausal hot flashes and even infertility.
Meditation beats medication – and these points are important reminders:
- Meditation can be a form of medication
- Meditation helps your enter a relaxation state that can lower your heart rate, your blood pressure, slow down your breathing and relax your muscles
- Meditation can be a “reset button” for your body
- Meditation is something that most people can safely try on their own
- Take time each day to meditate and connect with the silence within yourself
- Prayer and meditation is a way to be at peace
- Developing a deeper sense of peace and direction will give you a clearer sense of purpose at work and at home
Exercise is a form of meditation
- Chinese medicine practitioners often recommend medical Qi Gong, a form of Chinese healing exercises
- Qi Gong focuses on breathing and movement of Qi to increase physical harmony and strength and establish spiritual/emotional peace
- Exercise helps you to refocus and regroup
1. Sit or lie in a comfortable position with your eyes closed.
2. Simply focus on your breathing, focusing all your attention on sensation of air moving in and out of your body.
3. The other thing you can do is repeat a single word or phrase either silently or by whispering. 4. Do this for about 20 minutes every day if you can
As you begin, your mind may wander, but don’t despair, simply refocus your mind and try again.