Ever thought why something as easy as sitting quiet, still and watching your breath seems intimidating and induces fear?
We’re used to incessant chatter, noise and movement and we have a tendency to get bored if we do nothing for too long, even if it is an hour. This is probably why, despite knowing the benefits of meditation, we shy away from giving it a try.
The common excuses for not taking the time out for meditating is, ‘I don’t have the time’, ‘It’s not for me; I won’t be good at it’, ‘I don’t think it works; it’s all new age hype’.
Here are 10 reasons, backed by scientists and researchers, which will convince the lazy, the unconfident and the cynics alike to start meditating.
Tonya Jacobs, a Researcher at University of California, studied 57 people during three months at a meditation retreat. The subjects took a saliva test at the start and end of the retreat. The aim of the saliva test was to measure levels of cortisol, a hormone that the body secretes when it’s stressed.
Jacobs noted considerably decreased levels of corsitol in the participants at the end of the retreat. The participants testified to feeling more positive. However, the researcher wanted to back the claim with statistics.
Understand yourself better
A study conducted by a researcher at University of Utah showed that mindfulness is linked with greater emotional stability. Researchers explained how people can better understand themselves without the guise of positive or negative feelings clouding judgment.
They call the influence of emotion ‘blind spots’. For example, people who think they are optimists take for granted what others actually feel about them. They assume that they are liked. Alternately, pessimists tend to assume the worst and in most cases reinforce this assumption by behaving in a way that they think is expected of them.
Researchers at University of Utah proved that meditation came to the rescue in such cases since practitioners were more capable of looking at situations rationally without the influence of overriding emotions.
Makes you more social
The same study also proved that looking at situations rationally increases a person’s self-acceptance and consequently aids self-control.
It’s natural human tendency to shy away from social interactions and confrontations, since we presume the situation could get awkward. Meditation strengthens the logical and emotional connection making it easier to speak with people more openly, avoid jumping to conclusions and ultimately forging better social ties.
Allows you to sleep like a baby
Stress and anxiety is one of the primary reasons why people are unable to sleep peacefully. While the immediate effect of a sleepless night can be mood fluctuations, the long-term effects include bad coordination of movements, fatigue and making one more prone to accidents.
Meditation primarily focuses on concentrating on one body function at a time like breathing. Meditating before going to bed allows the mind to keep out troubling and distracting thoughts, which leads to undisturbed sleep.
Makes you more productive and think quicker
When we look at an object, the human brain takes more than half a second to process and recognize the object. This information is stored in the short-term memory. After that, the information is moved to the long-term memory to make more space for new short-term information.
If we are shown a second object in the time we take to process the first, it creates an information bottleneck and the mind is unable to recognize the second object. This phenomenon is known as the attentional-blink paradigm.
In a study that examined attentional resources, researchers found that one can train the brain to process information faster after prolonged intensive meditation. The trick here, however, is to train the mind to work quicker over time. This will not only make you more perceptive of details, but also make you more productive at work.
Helps you stay true to your diet
Psychologists advocate cognitive therapy for dieters or persons trying to deal with substance abuse. Self-acceptance helps a person identify and correct dysfunctional thoughts that lead to emotions that trigger binge behavior. Meditation, as mentioned in point number 3, increases a person’s self-acceptance and consequently aids self-control.
Helps control pain
Pain is controlled by our sensory preceptors. The mind is capable of both accentuating and controlling pain. This is typically what controls how soldiers are able to continue in battle while being injured or sportspersons are able to finish a game while nursing an injury.
A Wake Forest University study conducted in April 2011 performed MRI scans on 15 healthy volunteers while inducing pain. During the study, the researchers also had yoga instructors teach the volunteers how to meditate.
After five days, the researchers were able to access that the pain perceived by subjects on the last day was 40 per cent less than what they perceived on the first day. According to the results, mediation activates areas of the brain used in pain processing. It was able to reduce pain intensity and overall discomfort.
Improves sex life
Sexual intercourse requires the mind and the body to connect in a way that aids one another. It is difficult to enjoy a sexual act if your mind is occupied with other thoughts. In such cases, meditation helps people slow down and focus on one function at a time. In a meditative state, people can connect with their own bodies, which helps them understand its needs and pleasure points. The same applies when you are exploring your partner’s body.
Helps you age gracefully
According to a study published in the medical journal Brain, Behavior & Immunity, meditation helps bring down the feeling of loneliness in old age. Moreover, regular meditation can also slow the aging process by reducing the number of free radicals produced by the body. Free radicals are defined as organic molecules responsible for aging, tissue damage, and possibly some diseases.
Makes you more energetic
Intensive breathing keeps the body well-oxygenated. Health coaches advocate meditation to increase focus and stamina. Since meditation helps you focus better, it reduces energy zapping distractions, leads to better performance and helps people keep at the task for longer.