The practice of meditation has been around for thousands of years and there have been mythical stories of yogis and yoginis. But we’re only beginning to unravel the science behind how this seemingly simple practice can bring about significant changes in both our bodies and minds.
Meditation is like working out. Just that you are working out your mind instead of working out your body. Much like physical exercise, the more you meditate the more you will harness the benefits of this routing.
Meditation is not the act of sitting idly in a lotus pose and doing nothing, Its act of focus, its the act of observation and in the process of observation returning back to your focal point. It generally involves focusing on a particular object, often the breath, observing the mind wandering, and returning it to that object.
Through our meditation practice, we get better aware of our own selves, we get in tune with the behavior of our minds. We can enhance our ability to enhance our life by managing how we experience our environment. We let our environment not dictate how we experience life.
We have enough neuroscientific findings around neuroplasticity of the brain and how meditation as a practice has been shown to literally rewire brain circuits that boost both mind and body health. These benefits of meditation have surfaced alongside the revelation that the brain can be deeply transformed through experience.
The amazing thing about meditating is that, on top of affecting brain functioning, it can have both short-term and long-term benefits in both brain and body.A Harvard study showed that eliciting the body’s relaxation response could even affect our genes – in just minutes. They found that meditating (even just once) could dampen the genes involved in the inflammatory response, and promote those genes associated with DNA stability (hello longevity!). Other short-term benefits include reducing stressand blood pressure and improving attention. It may even help us make smarter choices.It’s fairly clear that in establishing a consistent practice we can experience enduring health benefits. For instance, the short-term benefits described above are typically enhanced with regular practice. Other studies are beginning to shed light on the long-term benefits of consistent practice. Researchers have found denser gray matter in brain areas related to memory and emotional processing in expert meditators. Additionally, having a regular practice is associated with benefits to social aspects of our health, like boosting our mindfulness, empathy and resilience. It can also help us regulate our thoughts so that we’re not so quick to judge, diminishing the potentially detrimental effects of stereotypes.
In one study it was even suggested that meditation could make us kinder individuals, boosting our levels of compassion. (By the way, this study used the Headspace app as their intervention.)While mounting scientific evidence suggests meditation physically alters our minds and bodies, sometimes the proof is in the pudding.