If you are suffering from stress or feeling overwhelmed on a regular basis, you should absolutely make meditation a habit.
One of the best stress management tools in the book is meditation. Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years, initially as a tool to help deepen understanding of the sacred and mystical forces of life. Now, meditation is commonly used for relaxation and stress reduction. It is considered a type of mind-body complementary medicine that can produce a deep state of relaxation and a tranquil mind. Can you begin to see why you should make meditation a habit?
During meditation, attention is focused and the stream of jumbled thoughts that may be crowding your mind and causing stress is eliminated. This process may result in enhanced physical and emotional well-being.
Meditation positively induces biochemical, physical effects on the body. It has been scientifically documented to lower blood pressure, reduce cortisol, lower inflammation and improve sleep. Meditation is also totally free, can be done anywhere, and comes with no negative side effects.
Here’s Why You Should Make Meditation a Habit
- Lowers Inflammation
Chronic inflammation is a contributor to almost every chronic health problem, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and depression. Meditation lowers inflammation by signalling the brain to lower inflammatory cytokines, specifically interleukin-6, which is a biomarker that can indicate unhealthy levels of inflammation in the body. In addition, NF Kappa B is a major source of inflammation, which is a contributor to almost every chronic health problem in our society. NFkB can be lowered with meditation and therefore, can lower overall inflammation levels.
- Improves Mood
Some studies suggest that meditation is just as effective as mood-altering medications for depression and anxiety. Specifically, meditation has been shown to increase brain gray matter volume (which smartphones destroy) in the right angular and posterior parahippocampal gyri. These are the parts of the brain responsible for regulating our mood.
- Reduces Stress and Anxiety
Scientific studies have shown that meditation can positively regulate the area of the brain that controls stress, known as the subiculum area of the hippocampus. Meditation reduces stress, which reduces cortisol. Chronically elevated cortisol imbalances blood sugar and hormones and leads to weight gain. It can also lead to Alzheimer’s Disease, which is now understood to be a metabolic disease, meaning it’s one we can modify with diet and lifestyle. This is why meditation was included in a treatment protocol recently studied by the Cleveland Clinic which showed the reversal of memory loss in 9 out of 10 Alzheimer’s patients.
Many studies show that making meditation a habit helps to reduce anxiety. The part of our brain activated with feelings of anxiousness is known as the posterior cingulate cortex. When anxiety is calmed the anterior cingulate cortex is activated. MRI’s show us that meditation actually activates this area of the brain.
- Improves Digestion
The digestive system is one of the processes most affected when the body is under stress. Essentially, when under stress, the digestive process shuts down, sending blood and attention out to the extremities to enable the body to run away from danger. This pausing of the digestive process can wreak havoc on the gut, causing everything from inflammation, to acid reflux, bloating, and more. By calming the mind and body, meditation takes the individual out of stress response, and signals to the brain that the body is safe, thus improving biological processes such as digestion. Meditation also stimulates the Vagus nerve, which modulates proper digestion from the stomach to the intestines.
- Improves Immune Strength
A study published in the Asian Journal of Psychiatry showed that making meditation a habit improves genetic pathways that control our immune system. Say goodbye to the common cold!
- Fights Burnout
Ever heard of or experienced burnout? Burnout occurs when people exist in the sympathetic nervous system response too often, also known as fight-or-flight mode. a result of an imbalance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. When people experience sympathetic nervous system dominance, and never balance that with the innate “rest, digest and heal” mode, known as parasympathetic dominance, burnout occurs. With burnout often comes sleep disorders, digestive problems, hormone imbalances and many other issues that then come along with relying on quick and low-grade sources of energy, like caffeine and sugar.
Meditation helps the body shift back into the parasympathetic nervous system response. When done consistently, this can help prevent burnout from occurring.
- A Daily Check In
Most people spend their days running around, trying to juggle multiple things at one time, completely disconnected to their physical bodies. This disconnect pushes people further away from their true essence, purpose and alignment. Meditation offers an opportunity to check in, assess, and make adjustments to generate optimal health. The first step in making a change is gaining awareness that a change needs to be made. A consistent meditation practice grants the gift of the sacred pause to bring awareness and make a change. This is yet another reason why you should make meditation a habit.
Ready to make meditation a habit? Check out YogaToday’s 21-day Mindfulness Meditation Journey here.
But, How Do I Finally Start Meditating Regularly?
Even a daily ten-minute meditation practice can make a huge difference in stress levels and overall health. True health comes from getting the brain on board with the body. In order to add in this new habit, especially if you feel intimidated, it helps to keep it simple.
Here’s how to add meditation into your daily practice and finally make meditation a habit:
1. Keep it Short
Even a few minutes every night before bed is powerfully transformative. If five minutes is all the time you have each day, then stick with that. It’s more beneficial to do five minutes daily than longer amounts of time occasionally.
2. Make it Portable
Most people are on-the-go nonstop, whether it’s the morning commute, work trips or daily errands. In order to make meditation a habit, it needs to come along for the ride of life. No quiet room or fancy equipment required. The YogaToday online portal can be accessed on any computer or smartphone, granting access to dozens of guided meditations for those that are on-the-go. Meditation can be practiced anywhere and anytime.
3. Get Help
Guided meditations can be extremely helpful when just starting out. There are many different forms of meditation (guided, mantra, transcendental, etc), with different types working for different people. Try checking out some of the many meditations in the YogaToday library. Get guidance from some of the top teachers to help optimize the experience.
4. Let Yourself Explore
Making meditation a habit can be fun, exciting and exploratory. There are many different kinds to explore and many good feelings to be had. Let the process be fun! Spend time exploring the different types to figure out which one works best for your unique lifestyle. There is no one right meditation, so don’t get caught up in having to follow a method or technique. Comparison is the thief of joy. The “right” type of meditation is the one that allows for ease and consistency.
Making meditation a habit can have a profound effect on your health. It can help with everything from anxiety management to immune strength to better digestion. It will also give you an avenue to really prioritize slowing down and taking a moment to tap in – something that many people in modern day forget to do. This alone can have a massively positive impact on health and healing.
To reap the full benefits, you should make meditation a habit in your daily life. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Associate (JAMA) found that an average of 2.5 hours of meditation per week can be enough to reap consistent health benefits. That’s only 21 minutes a day.
Check out the YogaToday free 14-day trial to access the library of meditations and dive into your daily practice.