Meditation… not just for the hippies.

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Meditation… not just for the hippies.

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Does the idea of meditation sound to you like some kind of new age silliness that you would never even dream of doing? You might be missing out on some scientifically backed benefits. It might surprise you to find out that meditation has been extensively studied since the 1950’s, and has been found to have many significant benefits with the actual structure of the brain being changed by regular meditation.
What is meditation? There are many different forms of meditation, and you might want to do a little research to find the style that appeals to you, but essentially meditation is any practice that allows you to quiet your mind. It takes practice to slow or stop the thoughts that are constantly racing through our heads, but the goal is to learn to get to a point where your mind is  free of thoughts, peaceful, and alert. The idea is to be present in the moment that is occurring at that moment, not thinking about anything from the past or worrying or planning for anything that could happen in the future. You may choose to concentrate simply on your breathing, on noticing sounds or sensations in that moment without reacting, or keep your attention on one focal point and keep bringing your attention back there when you feel the urge to turn your attention elsewhere.
Your brain works better Meditation has been shown to improve the accuracy of your perception of the word around you- that is, an event occurs, and rather than being distracted, or letting the noise of other thoughts, feelings or past experiences affect how your perception of that event, you are more likely to see it for how it really is. As an example, lets say that you are feeling uncomfortable and overweight in what you are wearing, and to add to this you are going to be seeing a person who has previously been verbally critical of your weight. You are more likely to mishear something they say, or misinterpret non verbal cues when the associated negative thoughts are at the forefront of your mind. If however, you have been learned to quiet your mind and be mindful of the present, you are more likely to see a situation as it really is. Meditation has also been shown to improve concentration, allowing for more sustained attention on a chosen task and ignoring distractions from their environment or unrelated thoughts intruding on their focus.
Helps you be happy Through the physical and biochemical changes that occur with meditation, breathing and heart rate drop, stress hormones decrease, and racing thoughts settle down, which cause you to relax. Anxiety and depression have been shown to be effectively treated with meditation practices, and have been found to produce results similar to medication. Even in individuals not suffering from low mood, happiness ratings have been found to be higher in practicing yoga meditators. This may be in part due to learning how to effectively handle uncomfortable or negative feelings, rather than suppressing or avoiding these thoughts. Think about how it would benefit you to simply notice a food craving without having to act on it, to notice that nasty voice inside your head telling you that you can’t do it but then be able to let that thought go and go ahead and do it anyway.
Helps you be more productive If you can think more clearly, multitask better, remember things better, and focus better, imagine what this would do for your productivity during the day. Add to this the increased ability to be creative, problem solve, and see things from different angles better, and you’ve found yourself a winning strategy. Doing things right the first time, doing a good job of tasks you undertake, and being able to think clearly enough to plan ahead effectively and all likely to reduce your stress or conflicts substantially, so that you have enough emotional energy left over to focus on making positive changes like getting healthy.

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