meditation benefits for mental health

Meditation: Here’s how it’s a true game-changer of your mental wellbeing

Meditation helps you de-stress, nourishes your mind and body and explore your inner peace.
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As a child, we have often heard our elders talk about meditation like it was an exclusive thing to do. By the time we became adults, it became one of the most recommended, but difficult things to do. Today, science vouches for it and one must try and incorporate it in daily life. So what is meditation? It is essentially a habitual exercise in silencing our mind’s default thought patterns, helping us to be more in touch with the present. Simply put, it is the ability to nourish our mind, let it recuperate and come to terms with its many disruptive and linear thoughts. Meditation puts us in a better position to navigate life’s twists and turns in a more composed way without getting overwhelmed.

Scientific evidence suggests that there are several physical and mental health benefits of meditating, which include improved memory, dimmer perception of pain and a renewed ability to focus on the things that matter.

When practiced with sincerity, meditation can rescue us from despair, insomnia, fatigue and pain. People around the world have spoken up on how meditation has helped them understand that no matter how significant something they were going through was, it was just a moment in time; a moment that may seem long and arduous but is fated to invariably pass. In other cases, meditation has come as a worthy complement for actual medication.

We know that anecdotes sometimes go against our skeptic instincts. So here’s neurologist Alexander Mauskop, MD’s take on the same from the AAN’s journal Continuum, as extracted in a 2012 Brain & Life article: “Physical changes in brain structure convince most skeptics that the benefits of meditation go beyond the placebo effect.” It is quite simple, really, the placebo effect is the result and the benefit derived from staying positive and confident of the treatment. This has often proved more powerful than the treatment itself. This is to say that the pains you feel, whether mental or physical, will likely not evaporate in thin air, but as a regular meditator, you will have a less emotional reaction to it. This, as we know, can do us all a world of good as often suffering lingers on in the mind much after it has stopped impacting our physical being.

Soulveda shares ways how meditation works like medication and has the ability to transform one’s life.

A stopcork for our anxiety

Anxiety, in most people, is a manifestation of their inability to regulate stress levels. A study, cited in a Healthline article, found out that 8 weeks of mindfulness meditation helped bring down symptoms of anxiety among people with generalised anxiety disorder, besides enhancing positive self-statements, improved stress reactivity and better coping.

It’s all in the process. Our anxieties can often act as a double threat in our lives, imploring us at once to feel our fears in full while also working out every possible scenario in our heads to escape the situation. Meditation, the act of which entails sitting in silence with your thoughts, as they come to you, in no explainable order, helps with such a situation. It does so simply by putting you in the habit of navigating these anxious thoughts without having knee-jerk, unnatural expressions of it. A more sophisticated explanation for this is that it reduces the inflammation response that we exhibit in times of stress. Research also shows that meditation improves actual physical discomforts induced by stress, including irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, post-traumatic stress disorder, among others.

An intangible ointment for emotional health

If there’s one thing that we can all agree on, it would be that no one goes through life completely emotionally secure and unscarred. Life throws all of us a couple of curveballs, sometimes fifty. Sometimes we do it to us, beating ourselves up over things that could have been, that are out of our control and are simply not the way we would have wanted them to be. As the years go by, these patterns enable the acquisition and accumulation of certain emotional experiences and responses. However, trouble brews when we find ourselves unable to break out of the limbo and have the same, unevolved emotional approach to everything that we face.

There are forms of meditation that have proven effective in helping you see a kinder, empathetic and generally improved self-image and a positive outlook towards things that happen in your life. A lot of us consult therapists who have time and again suggested mindfulness meditation to cope with depressive thoughts and negative mental images. Cytokins are inflammatory chemicals released in response to distress, sometimes leading to depression. A review of several studies mentions how meditation helps dial down depression by actually working to decrease levels of these inflammatory chemicals in our body.

A lighthouse for the lost sense of self

Let’s face it, a lot of us in our lives have felt an abject disconnect with life and the self at times. There have been times that almost seem like we inhabit a stranger’s body. During these times, the most common thoughts circle around how much we don’t know about our own selves – our likes, dislikes, interests and triggers. This can lead to serious disorientation and affect our physical and mental health.

Self-inquiry meditation, as the name suggests, helps you in developing a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of yourself. This also puts you in a better position to relate to your sense of self. When you allow your mind to free flow like in meditation, and when you do it repeatedly and habitually, you expose your mind to myriad thoughts, which you will eventually start to be able to make sense of. You will be able to recognise the self-deprecatory thoughts from those that make you feel good about yourself and soon harness and discard accordingly.

An antidote to addiction and dependence

Meditation is really about growing an innate mental discipline that harvests our ability to be independent and detached wherever the need arises. When you can train your mind to be one with your thoughts, without interruption, it really trains you for a lot of other things in life too. One of those things can be addictions and dependencies.

The thing about unregulated addictions is that it makes us give in to our impulses without thought. We do not stop to judge whether it will be good or bad for us over the long term. It’s all about the release of tension that stops us from doing something we think we enjoy. Dependencies like these make us feel good over the short term.

Meditation, on the other hand, simply prepares us to redirect our attention, take control of our impulses before they can take control of us. It further helps develop an understanding of what causes these addictive behaviours and creates an ability to analyse the root as well as the repercussions of repeatedly giving in to habits that do us no good.

A harbinger of good sleep

If we had a nickel for every time we asked someone around us what made them particularly chirpy that day and they said, “a good night’s sleep”, wouldn’t we be rich! It may sound like a cliché but has been time tested. Good sleep can do wonders for our physical and mental well health.

Dealing with disruptive sleep cycles and insomnia makes our mind the breeding ground for unfavourable thoughts and actions, rendering us dysfunctional. Multiple studies have shown that people who practice meditation as a way of life, sleep longer and better. It helps take control of the runaway thoughts that keep us off sleep. It also puts our body in the practice of relaxing our muscles and releasing tension in our nerves.

A healer of pain 

While your medical condition or an injury may be physical, the pain that comes with it really originates in the mind, even though you can feel it in your body. The anomalies caused to your physical being causes nervous distress. Simply put, this distress is what keeps you aware and feeling the pain at all times. Surely then, the best medicine for it is also in the mind.

While meditation will not heal your wounds or your condition immediately, it helps to equip you with a stronger ability to cope with the pain you are facing.

They don’t say it’s all in the mind for nothing. Whether emotional or actual physical pain, it all comes down to how well we are able to manage it without it taking over our whole lives. And meditation is the ship that helps us navigate the choppy waters of our physical and mental health effectively.

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