We are currently stuck in a global pandemic and lockdown. Stress in some form or the other is at its peak for everyone. Some people have lost their jobs, some have been battling health issues and some people have lost their loved ones.
We all are helpless here and meditation is the need of the hour. In this article, you will read-
How to start mediation for beginners?
What are the benefits of meditation?
What successful people have to say about meditation.
And some frequently asked questions about meditation.
What is meditation?
First of all just clear this misconception that meditation is just for monks, hippies, depressed and old.
It is for everyone!
Now, what do you think meditation is?
Is it to sit down in some unusual pose with your back straight trying to concentrate on something?
No, it is way more interesting than that.
To understand this let’s take a real-life example.
You went on a date, throughout conversing with your partner you had absolutely no sense of time and it just flew by. You were not pondering over the past or future.
That’s because you were totally present at that moment.
How wonderful it was.
That is meditation!
Meditation is to be fully aware, to be totally present at the moment. When you are totally engrossed in cooking food, when you enjoy a sumptuous meal, when you actually feel the water running over your body while showering, when you are listening to music or even watching a movie wholeheartedly. In all these situations you are totally present, almost thoughtless yet fully aware.
This is meditation and if you think of all such moments when you were totally present, when time has just flown away one thing would be common and that is – you were happy.
So every act that you conduct consciously being fully present at that moment, you are meditating. It is that simple and easy.
How to start meditation for beginners?
There are a wealth of techniques available but almost every technique is focused on the same purpose. The purpose is to conduct your life concisely rather than being in an automated compulsive mode.
So there is no need to get confused. Just stick to the basics.
To start with what you can do is just sit quietly and be fully alert. Start observing the things around you without judgement. Practice this daily at least for 15 minutes.
Once you think you can sit quietly for 15 minutes without any distraction. This is the time when you should upgrade your practice.
Now sit with your eyes closed, keep your back straight and in ‘Dhyan mudra’ just like how saints sit and concentrate on your breath. Feel your inhalation and exhalation.
That’s the best way you can start with it.
Slowly you can upgrade to a more intense form of meditation.
If you find it difficult to concentrate, don’t get frustrated. It is going to happen at least for a few days or even weeks. Initially try doing a guided meditation, this will definitely reduce your distractions to some extent.
Scientifically proven benefits of meditation
Meditation is not a new FAD. For thousands of years, people have practiced meditation for their physical, mental and spiritual well being. But does it have any scientific backing?
Yes, many scientific studies have proved how meditation can be beneficial for various areas of your life. Let us take a look.
- Increases self-awareness and decreases stress
A Harvard MRI study observed that the people who had taken an 8 weeks mediation course had developed thicker grey matter in the areas of the brain associated with self-awareness, compassion and tolerance. Likewise, it appeared to shrink the regions in the brain associated with stress and anxiety.
When scientists compared the brains of Buddhist monks to the new mediators, they found that the regions of the brain associated with empathy were much more pronounced in the monks.
One study asked the participants to use tape recorders that would record their conversations. The recordings verified that the participants who practiced meditation were more empathetic, had more patience, spent more time with people, were more polite, laughed more, and used the word “I” less.
[Also read – What is stress? 9 Best stress management techniques]
- Boosts immunity
In another study that you would find extremely relevant in the present scenario is where the meditators and non-mediators were given the flu virus. It was confirmed that mediators were able to produce a greater number of antibodies and had an increased immune function.
Basically, just like your workout to increase your muscular power, meditating is a way of working out your brain.
- Lowers blood pressure
Meditation is not only good for the mind but also has profound positive effects on the body. In today’s modern lifestyle where we are stressed out most of the time, as a result, toxic stress chemicals accumulate in the blood. However, studies have suggested that meditation can reverse these effects by lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart disease.
- Helps to develop focus and concentration
Take a look at the sunlight falling all over. Those same rays when they are focussed through a magnifying glass, they develop the power to light a fire. Similarly, if our restless mind can be trained to focus, it helps us become more effective in anything we do.
A 2013 study published by the Association for psychological science found that mindfulness meditation helps you retain more information. It helps you learn faster and stay on task for longer periods of time.
Meditation train the brain to ignore distractions because our brain has this bad habit of jumping from one new stimulus to the next.
This scatterbrain thinking can really impact your memory and your performance so try meditation to help yourself stay focused.
- Cultivates the virtue of self-discipline
The reason why our mind is restless because it craves pleasures and wishes to run away from pain and discomfort.
So when we force the mind into meditation we slowly subdue these urges of the mind for gratification and hence meditation is one of the most powerful means of cultivating the virtue of willpower and self-discipline which is such an important virtue for success in life.
- Slower ageing
As you age your body gets slower and you start to lose your edge but meditation can actually slow down the ageing process.
This is proved by a 2015 study from UCLA. They found that long-term meditators had healthier brains than non-meditators.
- Structural transformation of the brain
Meditation doesn’t just make your brain bigger but it can also change the physical shape of your brain.
A study was done in 2011 states that meditation transforms two specific structures in the brain.
The two structures are called Hippocampus and Amygdala.
Hippocampus is a tiny structure located in your temporal lobe. Despite its small size, it plays a major role in critical cognitive functions like memory and learning.
Without the hippocampus, you couldn’t even remember your own name.
Few people participated in an 8 weeks meditation programme. And after 8 weeks of training researchers found that participants had larger thicker hippocampus which means faster learning and much more efficient memory.
Whereas the amygdala is the emotional centre of your brain. It is known for its almond-like shape. The amygdala processes fundamental emotions like fear and anxiety but the same 2011 study found that meditation reduces negativity.
It shrinks areas in your amygdala related to stress and other damaging emotions.
- Perception of pain
Meditation is more than just a mental process. If you practice meditation on a regular basis you can reduce both mental and physical pain.
In 2011 a study was conducted by the journal of neuroscience. They found that meditation directly impacts pain mechanisms in your brain. Hence if you are going through any mental or physical pain do give meditation a try.
- Unexpected happiness
The next major benefit of meditation is that it keeps your mood swings at a bay.
A study from 2008 shows that people who meditate regularly experience a small boost in their mood.
It’s one of the most reliable ways to increase overall well-being and quality of life.
If you are someone suffering from severe premenstrual syndrome, meditation can really help to calm your mood swings.
- Increases a sense of gratitude
Gratitude comes naturally and slowly when you start meditating. You feel this amazing sense of gratitude towards the people in your life.
Meditation provides a newfound appreciation for the connections you’ve made and the bonds you’ve built in your life.
You learn to live in the moment and you can truly enjoy the time you spend with your friends and loved ones.
- Boosts self-confidence
According to a 1995 study from the General Hospital of Psychiatry, it was found that meditation has a neutralizing effect on social anxiety.
15 minutes of daily meditation can soothe nervousness and reduces self-inflicted stress which gives you more confidence even in nerve-wracking situations.
And this burst of self-confidence isn’t going to fade away, it is long-lasting.
What successful people have to say about meditation?
Views of saints on meditation
These were only a few major benefits of meditation but believe me, there is much more to it. You will start discovering all of them once you start practicing them. But for that, you will have to start it somewhere. Initially, it may feel boring to you or you may feel distracted but give yourself some time and be patient with yourself.
Remember good things take time and it’s absolutely worth it.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
What is the best time to meditate?
The answer is whatever time suits you. There is no hard and fast rule as to when you should meditate. one can even meditate while going to sleep. However, it is not recommended to meditate on a full stomach, obviously because you may doze off.
Where should I meditate?
The best thing about meditation is that there aren’t any prerequisites, you can meditate anywhere you are comfortable. Sitting on the chair, on the floor, lying on the bed even while Stuck in a traffic jam although as a beginner it is good to find a quiet isolated place.
How long should I meditate?
Start small. If you will try to stretch in the beginning you won’t be able to concentrate and distractions will leave you frustrated. Start with 5 minutes and then slowly increase the duration as per your will and wish.
How often should I meditate?
There is no relaxation here. If you really want to start seeing the benefits of meditation, you should practice it daily. That is why I said, “start small”. Do not set huge targets and if someday you missed meditating, don’t worry. Don’t criticize yourself. Don’t feel guilty it’s alright but remember that ‘the key to remaining consistent lies in setting short term goals.
How long will it take for me to see the benefits?
This differs from person to person. It will depend on how consciously you conduct your overall life. A week, days, or a month but surely you will start observing the benefits.