Hi there, thank you for joining me on your wellness journey. Today’s did you know video is about the benefits of meditation. My name is Kinga Burjan, and I’m a registered psychotherapist with Trafalgar Addiction Treatment Centres.
So what is meditation?
Well, I’d like to start off by saying what it isn’t. So there’s a common myth that goes, meditation is about emptying your mind or suppressing or pushing away your thoughts. Well, that’s not true. With meditation, you are going to have thoughts that come and sometimes they’re going to be intrusive or sometimes going to be thoughts that you don’t want.
And your job is not to get caught up in the thoughts. It’s to notice the thoughts, let them go. You can imagine them floating up into a cloud and let them drift and not get caught up in the thoughts.
Meditation overall involves bringing your focus to something, whether it’s an activity, your breath, a saying which is also called a mantra or an object or sound.
And it’s very normal for your mind to start wandering during meditation. So part of strengthening your meditation practice and strengthening your focus is to bring your concentration back to that original focal point.
Imagine like it’s doing a rep at a gym at first lifting up that one weight is going to feel hard, but the more you do it, the easier is going to get overtime.
So there are many types of meditation out there, I cannot list them all, but I’m going to cover the few main types.
So one is mindfulness meditation. This is like mindfulness, staying in the present moment by using your breath or a body sensation or a sound or an object, something to really keep you present to what’s happening in the moment.
Loving kindness meditation is generally a form of guided meditation, so you listen along to an audio and it’s a form of self-compassion where you can connect with yourself in a more loving way. So if you find that you’re hard on yourself, this might be a good avenue to start with.
There are more structured types of meditation programs. One, for example, is called mindfulness-based stress relaxation. It’s an eight-week course designed to work on reducing your stress and address burnt-out symptoms. So it’s primarily encouraged by workplaces for their employers to better manage their stress.
There are other types of meditations that stem from a more ancient practice, an ancient yoga meditation practice, and a lot of these have mantras or sounds that you repeat as part of the meditation. So one lineage of yoga, Créer yoga uses a lot of mantras, and so does kundalini yoga.
But there are a lot out there, as I mentioned. So do your research and see which one resonates with you.
So overall, there are lots of benefits. There’s lots of research papers, I’m going to sum up what the majority of the research papers point to.
So physical benefits include reduction in pain. There’s research that shows meditating at night before sleep can help with sleep and is shown to improve their REM sleep state, so that is the state of sleep that we need to process information.
There’s also a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience that reports that meditation can decrease your biological age. So if you’re meditating regularly, you can actually look younger than you physically are. Good to know. Did you know that? Well, now you do.
There are many mental benefits and what’s nice with modern-day science that we can measure a lot of these benefits. So there is an increase in attention and focus. There is a part of the brain that oversees memory and learning that is shown to thicken, especially in studies done with the mindfulness-based stress reduction meditation.
There’s also research that shows there’s a decrease in the brain cell volume of a part of the brain called the amygdala. And this is the area of the brain that governs fear, stress and anxiety. So the part of our brain that really gets activated during the stress response or the fight, flight, freeze response.
And what I find really interesting and also from personal meditation practice, is there’s a part of the brain called the default mode network, which is also known as the monkey mind, if you ever heard of that part, which decreases, and therefore the person who’s meditating has a greater ability to stay focused and present-oriented.
So they’re being less caught up in those automatic thoughts and they’re more quiet in their mind. So meditation’s goal isn’t to quiet your mind, but over time your mind does become quieter so you can stay more in the present moment.
There are many emotional benefits, just like those observed in physically, meditators report feeling less stressed overall. And there is a shown improvement in anxiety, depression and hyperactivity symptoms.
There was a review done by Eating Behaviors, a journal that indicates mindful meditation decreases emotional eating, including binge eating.
Meditation is also shown to increase our emotional regulation. As well as increase our self-image and so forth. So the stronger our mind becomes and the more present we can stay in the moment. The easier it is to notice what’s going on in our brain and how our thoughts, feelings and behaviors are all connected.
So although we can’t control the thoughts and feelings that come up or physical reactions that come up, we have a greater ability to respond rather than to react.
Meditation is shown to lower symptoms of PTSD. However, for some people with PTSD their flashbacks can heighten during meditation. If this is the case for you, I suggest working with a professional to address your underlying trauma before trying meditation on your own.
You can still practice mindfulness in other ways until you can get to the point of observing your thoughts, feelings and memories without your nervous system, experience the pain of traumatic event.
So meditation, it’s not a one-time fix-it pill, it’s not a fix-it at all. However, it does give you a lot of benefits that will help your overall mental health and wellbeing. So if you want to see the benefits, give yourself a chance and commit to a regular meditation routine.
Some people might notice the benefits right away after three to five minutes of meditation or others it might take some more time. Just like that analogy with the reps, when you go to the gym, you’re going to have some good days where you feel great and you feel like you’re in the zone and you did a great workout whereas other days it might be hard to start, might be hard to get through.
And you might just feel overall that the workout wasn’t as good as the other day. And that’s okay that’s just like meditation. The point is to keep consistent in your routine, to see the long-term benefits.
So I suggest starting as little as three minutes a day and working your way up to 15 or 20 minutes overtime. Thank you so much for joining me today. I hope that you take some information and apply it to your life when applicable because you are worth it.