Types of mediation
There are many ways to meditate and we will discuss this in more detail in a future article, although there usually are two types that tend to stand out. It’s important to point out that a single meditation session can incorporate elements of both styles.
When the goal of the meditation is to become aware of the thoughts your brain produces, while avoid getting caught up in any thought in particular. Some people call it becoming the observer, where you take a step back and observe your thought, being aware that thoughts will come into your mind, but like a blowing cloud, the thought comes in and without attaching yourself to the thought, without dowelling on it you allow that thought to go away. Being the observer, becoming increasingly aware that you aren’t your thoughts.
Focused-Attention or Mindful Meditation:
When you create a focus, becoming mindful of the moment. Sometimes focusing on different areas/parts of your body, any sensations in that area, scanning other parts of the body and becoming aware of each one individually and as whole. It could also be done by focusing on your breathing or a particular thought, word, feeling or sensation. Always being present in the moment, mindful of what is happening right now. Anytime your mind wonders, you gently bring it back to your original focus.
Most of us have heard at some point or another that we should meditate, although most people probably would have difficulty describing what are some of the many benefits of meditation.
Lets look at the science behind the act of meditation. Using an MRI researchers can actually measure brain activity, and it has been proven that when someone meditates for 20 minutes, even if it’s the first time they’ve done so, it decreases the amount of beta waves produced by the brain, these waves represent the amount of processing the brain does.
The picture below captures beta waves, shown in bright colours, on a brain before and after mediation.
List of benefits from mediation
Besides reducing the amount of processing the brain does, as measured in the beta waves, what are the tangible benefits? What are some of the benefits I can expect to see if I incorporate meditation in my daily routine?
#1 – Increased Creativity:
Researchers at the Leiden University in the Netherlands did a study where they found that practising a form of Focused-Attention meditation in particular increased performance at tasks where they had to come up with new ideas. No difference was noted in participants who practised a form of Open-Minded meditation.
#2 – Better Memory:
Meditation will improve your rapid memory recall. Researchers found when people practised mindful meditation on a regular basis, they became more productive and better able to bring focus to certain tasks, being less prone to distractions when compared with people that don’t meditate. Catherine Kerr a researcher at Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging and the Osher Research Center says that the ability people develop in ignoring distraction was probably responsible for their superior ability to rapidly remember and incorporate new facts.
#3 – Lowering Stress:
In a 2012 study participants were divided into 3 groups, one group was given mindful meditation training, another relaxation training, meanwhile the last group no training at all. All groups were given a multitasking stressful test before and after their 8 week experiment. The group that participated in the mindful meditation training reported less stress in their final test compared to the other two groups.
#4 – Increased Compassion:
A study showed that the part of the brain responsible for empathy, had stronger activity in people that meditated when they heard sounds of people suffering . Another experiment revealed that people who meditate on a regular basis have more empathy and compassion compared with people that don’t.
#5 – Better Focus:
One of the lasting effects of regular meditation is that we’re better able to focus our attention and catch ourselves when our attention drifts, most importantly it shows that we can literally change the way we use our brain even when we’re not in a meditative state.
#6 – Less Anxiety:
Meditation can also reduce anxiety by weakening the neural pathways that connects the fear center of the brain with the prefrontal cortex also known as the Me center, at the same time strengthening the pathway the Me center has with the part of the brain known for reasoning, so we can more relationally assess things that would cause upset or fear. You can find here more details about this.
Start it today!
So from now on don’t just see meditation as something you do to bring relaxing while you’re doing it, like many believe. See it as a form of exercise for your mind, that can improve the way you use your brain, with many long lasting benefits so you can live a fuller and more comfortable life.
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