Putting it rather simply, meditation is the intentional process of forming a higher level of awareness through stopping thought and sharpening focus. Meditation is not easy, but when done properly, has amazing healing properties when it comes to stress and anxiety.
Since anxiety affects 40 million adults in the United States alone, meditation is becoming more mainstream than it ever has before, with apps like Headspace and Calm paving the way for normalcy. You don’t have to be a pro to reap the benefits of meditation, since practicing as little as ten minutes a day can help to decrease stress and battle anxiety.
Like anything, the more time and effort you put into your meditation practice, the more you’ll get out of it. Your skill will deepen, and you’ll find it easier to lose yourself in your breathing, while the rest of the world melts away.
Meditation Quiets the Mind
Even a short session of meditation will quiet your mind. By stopping that train of thought and process of overthinking, you’ll begin to experience silence in between thoughts.
As modern humans, much of our anxiety and stress comes from worrying about the future or fretting about the past. The past you cannot change, but you do have the ability to reshape your future through the use of meditation.
By quieting the mind, you’re no longer buying into unrealistic fear and worry. You’re experiencing yourself, instead of thousands of outside factors. By creating stillness, we can let go of paralyzing anxiety.
Changing the Brain
According to the University of Chicago, we can blame our predisposition to fear it’s resulting anxiety on our brains. Studies show that when we take in bad news, our brain scans light up. When we hear good news, electrical activity in the brain is quiet.
“Change your brain to change your life”
Apparently, human beings are programmed biologically to pay strict attention to gloomy news and things like imminent bad weather. Meditation (and turning off the television) can help.
An eight week study out of Harvard Medical School and Boston University utilized the good old MRI brain scan to prove some points about meditation. The results were overwhelmingly positive.
By the end of the study, all participating meditators were showing fewer distress signals in the brain, and according to imaging, the electrical activity in the “fear center” of the brain was shut down.
The most shocking of the results from this study, was that the part of the participants amygdalae (fear center), actually managed to shrink. Not hypothetically or figuratively, but actually physically shrink.
This science alone proves that short, regular and consistent meditation practices are beyond beneficial for those suffering with anxiety and overloaded with stress. Those who participated in the study reported drastic results with massive anxiety relief.
The ability to dump a lifelong load of anxiety in such a short time opens up the door to endless mental benefits that come from meditation. This includes the possibility of putting stress, anxiety and even depression out of our lives and into the past.
The Release of Endorphins
Meditation squashes anxiety and stressors through the release of endorphins. Studies state that regular mindfulness meditation scores higher than exercise regarding the effect on mood. Frequent meditators report feeling better after meditation than they do when exercising.
Endorphins are a massive part of this “good mood” feeling. Created by your body in your spinal cord and brain, endorphins are neurotransmitters that are known for reducing stress and elevating mood. Improved brain function, pain relief and a better night’s sleep are also benefits of endorphin release.
Endorphins offer an incredibly wide array of benefits, creating a worry-free brain environment where anxiety is unable to exist. You cannot have both at the same time.
The release of endorphins during meditation, as well as the goal to create a mindful, positive existence where we remain aware of how we feel and why, makes meditation an amazing tool for stress and anxiety relief.
Marc Kraft is the creator of Mindful Searching, a content site dedicated to providing accurate information around mental health and wellness. Marc has improved his brain health through self-experimentation over the last 9 years. He has broken down personal and professional barriers leading to dramatic improvement in his life. Curiosity is his driving force.
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