Most of us agree that it's important to train our muscles, but what about our brains? Are you sure your brain is operating at peak performance? Our brains are the chief executive officers of our lives; they play a role in everything we do, every decision we make, and every facet of who we are. Are you doing everything possible to maximize your brain's potential so that you can get the most out of life? If not, you should be, because the changes you make to your brain have a compound effect and ripple through every aspect of your life.
Research is showing that our brains are like our biceps; they change and grow in response to deliberate training. What constitutes such training? Many of us associate brain training with activities that fall under the category of learning- things like reading, taking classes, doing brain teasers, etc. Although such activities do help keep our brains young and fit, there's an even more powerful and proven way to train your brain: meditation.
What is Meditation?
Meriam-Webster's definition of meditation is: the act of engaging in mental exercise. Hence, bicep curls for your brain!
As straightforward as this definition is, it doesn't shed much light on what meditation actually consists of and how it works. Most of us have a fuzzy, and oftentimes incorrect, understanding of meditation because it's only recently started gaining traction and attention in our mainstream Western culture.
Just as there are different kinds of gym workouts, there are several different types of meditation. Concentration meditation and contemplative meditation are two types gaining popularity and attention with the mainstream media. As with most skills, it's best to enlist the expertise of a professional who can help you understand which type of meditation is best for your needs and assist you in learning how to implement a daily practice. Doing so will save you time and energy as you learn, and help you maximize the mind-blowing effects of your practice.
Meditation's Mind-Blowing Effects
It's the Fountain of Youth
One of the many ways that meditation alters the brain's structure is by increasing its gray matter. Not only is this believed to improve attention and decision making, it's also believed to slow the effects of aging on the brain. Studies also suggest that meditation can help protect our telomeres- the caps on our chromosomes- from the harmful shortening that is associated with aging and the degradation of our genes.
It's a Happy Pill
Although the research is still in its infancy, studies suggest that meditation may be as effective (and possibly even more so) than traditional medications used for the treatment of mood disorders. Want to know the best part? Unlike with mainstream medications, the only side effects you have to worry about with this mood enhancer are positive ones!
It Reshapes Your Brain For Maximal Cognitive Performance
For a long time, scientists believed that our brains stop changing once we reach adulthood. New research is showing that meditation can change our brains at any age by rewiring them both cognitively and structurally, thus unlocking new levels of cognitive potential.
It Blasts Away Stress
Why don't other animals experience psychological stress in the same way we do? Because they don't have the same sense of time that we humans do. Studies show that most of our stress comes from the nature of our wandering minds. We spend an unbelievable amount of our day ruminating about what happened yesterday and worrying about what may happen tomorrow. Meditation has been shown to quiet this default mode network, giving us better present moment mindfulness and lowering our experience of psychological stress.
It Boosts Emotional Intelligence
Meditation can change the nature of your relationships. It's believed to improve emotional regulation, help us read others' emotions better, and increase our compassion- all of which improve our ability to positively connect with those around us.
It's a Powerful Painkiller
Studies suggest that meditation may be more effective at easing pain than even morphine, so next time you feel the urge to reach for the pill bottle, arrange a meditation session instead!
It Lowers Your Blood Pressure
Studies show that a daily meditation practice can lower your blood pressure, and even help lessen the need for medication.
It Lowers Your Risk for A Host of Diseases
Name a major affliction, and more than likely it's on the ever growing list of diseases abated by meditation. Meditation also helps with common colds by strengthening your immune system. Watch out Vitamin C, there's a new cold fighting superhero on the rise.
It Improves Energy Levels
If you want to sleep better and have more energy, grab your cushion- your meditation cushion that is! Meditation not only increases the quality of your sleep and improves your energy levels, it's also believed to decrease your need for z's, thus winning you back more valuable time without compromising your health.
It Might Even Give You Superhuman Powers
For decades, scientists have marveled at the seemingly superhuman feats accomplished by master mediators. From drying soaked sheets on their backs in frigid temperatures without so much as a shiver, to extreme strength, to defying gravity, to conscious manipulation of their metabolisms, to unmatched pain endurance- monks have displayed unparalleled mind-body mastery as a result of their training in meditation. The force is strong within you. Unlock it now!
How Do I Start Meditating?
As with most skills, you can teach yourself; but oftentimes it's easiest and most effective to enlist the help of a professional. Our favorite way to explain the value of seeking help is the analogy of cross country driving. You wouldn't trek cross country without a GPS unless you were an expert navigator, would you? If you did, think of how much longer it would take you to reach your destination (if you even got there at all), how stressful it would be, and how much energy you'd waste along the way. Whether traveling or endeavoring to learn a new skill like meditation, having a guide saves you time, helps your to avoid the frustrations that often plague beginners, and ensures the you maximize the results of your efforts.
Preliminary research suggests that meditation is a powerful brain trainer that has remarkable effects on both our minds and bodies. We still don't fully understand the life changing scope and force of this practice, but we do know that it's something everyone should be prioritizing daily. If you already meditate, the benefits listed above will hopefully keep you motivated. If you don't presently train your brain through meditation, there's no better time to start than today!
Need help learning? Our team offers meditation sessions for both individuals and groups, available both in-person and virtually. Contact us for a complimentary consultation today.