The Science Behind Meditation

The Science Behind Meditation

The alarm goes off, and my mind automatically kicks in with its incessant ritual chatter.

Beep!…Beep!…Beep!…

The alarm goes off, and my mind automatically kicks in with its incessant ritual chatter.

I start to imagine yet another demanding day of work, the thoughts churning up those two dubious and all-too-human gifts of anxiety and stress.

I manage to stand and my brain clears enough for me to remember my nightly commitment to myself: to spend at least 10 minutes every morning in a state of tranquil meditation.

Modern life has become increasingly more stressful. There isn’t enough time to get everything done that needs to get done–why add something seemingly frivolous like meditation to an already overcrowded list?

Why Meditate?

Meditation can provide us with not only more time but also better use of time by allowing us to clear our minds and focus on what is most important in our lives.

Stress, anxiety, and depression arise not from external situations but from our response to them. The key to improving our lives is to change our minds (or our mindsets). Meditation provides a way to train the mind and allow it to settle into a state of calmness and clarity.

Recent scientific research indicates that 10 minutes of meditation daily can result in significant changes in the way we conduct our lives.

Richard Davidson, a Harvard University neuroscientist, and Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder and director of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts, discovered through magnetic resonance imaging that “meditation strengthens the neurological circuits that calm a part of the brain that acts as a trigger for fear and anger.” Davidson and Kabat-Zinn also noticed that “people who meditate exhibit an increased activity in the left side of the frontal part of the brain that is responsible for a more positive emotional state.”

These studies reveal the human brain is not as hardwired as scientists had previously assumed; we actually have much more control over our emotions and thoughts than scientific studies of the past believed.

The Benefits of Being

In The Meditative Mind: The Varieties of Meditative Experience (HarperCollins, 1989), the psychologist and journalist Daniel Goleman wrote, “The single most reported physiological benefit of meditation is the drop in blood pressure.” Goleman also found that meditation might enhance the immune function of the body, with “research showing increased defense against tumors, viruses, colds, flu, and other infectious diseases.”

Meditation may also hold the key to happiness as it gives us the ability to control what the Buddhists have named “monkey mind,” our undisciplined thinking mind that jumps from thought to thought and is fuelled by negative emotions and desires.

The practice of meditation allows us to turn inward to stillness and silence instead of being pushed and pulled in all directions by our reactions. We can cultivate a larger awareness that sees that whatever the mind tells us, we are more than that. In this way we can observe our emotional states, rather than becoming completely lost in them.

After my 10 minutes of morning meditation, I feel quieter and more collected inside, and I am looking forward to whatever challenges are waiting for me throughout the day.

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