As most of you will be aware, I am passionate about meditation. I’ve been attending weekly meditation classes for about seven years now, as well as practising alone at home and in the great outdoors. Since 2010, I’ve also been teaching children’s weekly meditation workshops. Along with the shift towards a 100% plant-based diet, meditation has definitely been key in raising my levels of physical and mental well-being these past few years.
Today, I am delighted to share a guest post from Holly Ashby who works for the London meditation centre, Will Williams Meditation. Holly is a super talented writer, and she’s kindly offered to write a mini introductory series on meditation for Bit of the Good Stuff. We’ll be posting one article per month for the next three months. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do ♥
In today’s post, Holly is talking about some of the benefits of meditation.
by Holly Ashby
Despite the fact that modern life has provided a level of comfort, convenience and material gain that would have been unthinkable even seventy years ago, many people are finding it increasingly difficult to be as healthy and happy as they could be. On the face of it this doesn’t make much sense, as for many people life is now characterised by stability and ease that’s unprecedented in human history, enough to make anyone cosily content.
Yet when you dig deeper, it’s possible to connect this unhappiness with the sometimes alienating nature of our modern lifestyles. Very long working hours, a culture that encourages you to constantly strive for something better and less time with family and friends all take their toll. Furthermore, there’s been a rapid shift away from living in small communities, where most people felt valued for their unique skills and what they could offer to that community. Now, even if you do feel valued in your field, there can be a pressure to keep achieving in order not to have your reputation fade or find yourself replaced.
This can be a very stressful way to live, and also one that perpetuates itself as we are encouraged to sacrifice our leisure time for future achievement and satisfaction that may never arrive. Habits such as this can leave you stressed, exhausted and unable to think clearly. These are all things that meditation can help alleviate, and it can even be part of a change of attitude that can improve your life. Here’s some of the benefits of meditation that can facilitate this change.
Our stress response, which evolved to put us in flight or fight mode in life-threatening situations, is triggered with unhealthy regularity by even trivial occurrences such as being late for work or your computer going on the blink at a crucial moment. When this happens, as your body is preparing itself to either leg it or start throwing punches, so all non-essential processes get neglected, heart rate increases and stress hormones are released.
While on occasion, and with plenty of recovery time, this response has no ill effects, when you are constantly stressed out it can be pretty harmful. This manifests itself in headaches, stomach upsets, and even increased risk of heart attacks or stroke, as well as all kinds of psychological issues such as anxiety.
Meditation can be an excellent way to balance you out as it produces physiological and biochemical changes that directly counteract the stress response, and on a much more profound level than ordinary rest. Meditators recover more quickly from stressful moments, and meditation helps calm down the areas of the brain which trigger the flight or fight response so they react more appropriately. Additionally, the stress hormone cortisol (which can build up in our systems and cause issues) can be reduced by up to a third in those who meditate.
One of the problems with stress is that it can make it hard to have perspective outside of immediate concerns and leave you apprehensive about the future. It’s easy in these situations to get locked in cycles of negative thinking that can stop you enjoying life fully, and sometimes even become self-fulfilling prophecies. This is can lead to sleepless nights and a general feeling of being drained of energy, making tasks you would otherwise embrace a dreaded struggle.
However, with stress reduced it’s much easier to think clearly and regain a natural inclination to look at the bright side of things. Meditation can improve sleep, increase your energy, and make you more productive. Studies have even shown that people who meditate find it easier to focus, helping you concentrate on completing jobs rather than worrying about them.
Also, in studies, the emotional centre of the brain in meditators has been shown to react more strongly when viewing pictures of people, suggesting that meditation increases empathy. In becoming more compassionate and forgiving of the people around you, you can change your worldview, and also invite more positive influences into your life. All this contributes to your happiness and the happiness of those close to you, allowing positivity to come instinctively to you, rather than it being something you consciously have to work at.
It’s much easier to think about making the right choices from a place of contentment with yourself and your life. Meditation in itself can make you healthier in body and mind, but it is also a great keystone habit from which to build a healthy lifestyle around. Doing things that are good for you can be a natural consequence when you are feeling less stressed, because instead of rushing through the day you have time to consider things more.
Ultimately, meditation can help when you are trying to prioritize the truly important things. Feeling good in yourself gives you a much better platform from which to realise what means the most to you, and allows you to focus on them.
Thanks Holly! ♥
I’d love to hear about your experiences of meditation! Are you interested in meditation? Do you already have a regular practice? If you have any questions you’d like to ask me, don’t hesitate to post them below xx