There are some weeks when we barely have time to go to the grocery store, let alone relax and enjoy ourselves. With our hectic lives, it seems like those nagging thoughts of to-do lists, and responsibilities creep in even during the calmest times.
So, why are we letting these pesky thoughts ruin the time we do have for relaxation? They’re our thoughts, in our brains, and we should be able to control them. As nice as that sounds, sometimes we need help calming our brain.
Meditation is a powerful first step in reducing stress and finding the peaceful space between our thoughts. Humans have been using this natural practice for more than 3,500 years, and it is a simple, effective way to improve concentration, decrease anxiety, and improve your mood, all by learning how to be an observer of our thoughts first and then learning how to let them go.
Not only does meditation prevent stress in and out of the meditative state, it also has some important long-term health benefits:
Brain changes in attention, memory, learning, and perception. A study done on Buddhist monks showed that these effects last for many years after habitual meditation. These monks also had more brain activity in areas responsible for positive emotions like happiness and relaxation.
A stronger immune system. Studies have shown that those who meditate will produce more antibodies at a faster rate than those who do not meditate. A healthy, peaceful mind reflects on the body.
Milder symptoms of PMS and lower infertility rates. Meditation has been known to help women alleviate uncomfortable symptoms of PMS, hot flashes, and breast-feeding. In addition, after a ten-week meditation program, women struggling with infertility problems exhibited lower anxiety and fatigue than they did before the program, and within the next six months, 34% of those women became pregnant.
Better sleep. Good sleep is essential for peace of mind, and sleep deprivation often goes hand in hand with anxiety and depression. In a study done by the American Journal of Medicine, 100% of the insomnia patients reported that their sleep had improved after practicing meditation. Of those patients, 91% completely eliminated or significantly reduced their use of sleeping pills after the meditation course.
Improved alertness at the office. By eliminating anxious thoughts, meditation enhances other positive aspects of the brain like creativity, intelligence development, and relationship skills. All of these qualities are helpful for the workplace, and can help enhance your best qualities.
If you want to improve your quality of life today, and for the next five to ten years, there is no simpler solution than meditation. Even meditating five minutes every day will reduce stress and improve long-term cognitive function. And, a week when you don’t have time to go to the grocery store won’t seem so bad after all.