We’ve all seen them on Instagram. Young, beautiful 20-somethings meditating serenely in front of the ocean while the sun sets in the distance.
Sure it looks peaceful, but I found out early on that when it comes to meditation, it wasn’t as easy as it looked. I needed some answers.
Like, why the heck can’t I stay awake the whole time?
Am I really supposed to ignore the fact that my feet are asleep right now?
Okay, that fly buzzing is not helping.
Seriously, why can’t I stay awake?!
Meditators on Instagram make it look easy, and despite my initial thinking, I found out that it can be just that. I did the research so you don’t have to on why meditation kicks ass and changes lives.
Go behind the om with these little know facts about meditation:
- Meditation can help end our culture of over-medicating. Back in the 1980s Jon Kabat-Zinn, head of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine at University of Massachusetts Medical School, proved that meditation and mindfulness could significantly improve pain symptoms and quality of life in chronic pain patients, even up to four years later. More recently, participants in a four-day study of mindfulness-based training reported less pain intensity and MRIs have shown reductions in pain-induced cerebral blood flow during meditation sessions.
- It’s like anti-wrinkle cream for your brain. It’s common knowledge that brain function deteriorates with age, but did you know that the aging process in our brains begins during our mid-to-late-20s? YIKES! Before you start to freak out know this, know that “meditation may be associated with better preservation of gray matter in the brain – the neuron-containing tissue responsible for processing information.” That’s right, meditation can help your brain stay as young as you feel.
- Virginia isn’t for lovers, meditation is! Recognizing your own emotions, and those of others, makes it easier for you to experience harmony with self and surrounding. Researchers from the University of California – San Francisco taught 82 female teachers, all married or living with a partner, how to meditate. Compared with a control group that hadn’t learned meditation, the women gave fewer negative facial expressions during a marital interaction test. Why is this good news? Because studies at Berkeley University showed that people who demonstrate negative facial expressions towards their partners are more likely to divorce. Maharishi International University in Iowa also found that women who practiced mediation reported significantly greater marital satisfaction than those who didn’t.
- You can break bad old habits with good new ones. In addition to retraining your brain to hold attention, meditation can help you end negative cycles in ways therapy, medication, and support groups otherwise couldn’t. Addiction is rooted in a particular area of the brain and recent research has shown that meditation and mindfulness can influence this addiction pathway with incredible positive results. In fact, a study conducted by the University of Oregon saw up to 60 percent reduction in cigarette smoking when using a meditation and mindfulness approach, with plenty of the participants having previously shown no intention of reducing their habit.
- With meditation you may not need that flu shot next winter. Ever had a cold and tried to sweat it out with a tough spinning class, hot yoga session, or long run on the treadmill? You could have spared yourself the exhaustion while still feeling results by just taking ten minutes to sit with yourself in meditation. In one recent study “compared with exercise, meditation fostered larger reductions in illness severity.” A direct correlation between mood, health, and mindfulness has been made, proving that meditation isn’t just fun for the brain but also fuel for the body.
Who knows, I may see YOU chanting om as the sun sets over the ocean someday soon!