Have you heard? Meditation is good for you. There’s an abundance of research showing the various effects that meditation practice can have on our physical and mental health, and on our overall well-being. But unlike the quick-fix of a pill, meditation requires practice, and it’s likely you won’t always immediately notice an effect. It may be hard to know if you’re “doing it right.”
I’ve been introducing people to meditation and mindfulness for several years through my work as a yoga therapist. The main concern people have is that they’re unable to quiet their minds enough to control their thoughts. Luckily, no mental achievement is required to experience the benefits of meditation. All you need to do is practice.
Meditation is, by definition, the practice of training your attention and awareness, typically by focusing on breath, body, movement, a thought, sound, object, or activity. There’s that word again: practice. It’s guaranteed that your mind won’t stay focused throughout a meditation. The work — and the benefit — is in practicing the return to your focus of attention.
Meditation trains our minds in the same way exercise trains our muscles. Our ability to direct our attention needs exercise to get stronger, have stamina and learn new functions. Here are some of the primary benefits of training your mind through meditation:
- The nervous system is directly affected, specifically several key brain structures. Meditation bolsters areas of the brain that make us kind, creative, logical, and responsive. Meditation inhibits areas of the brain that make us fearful, restricted, irrational, and reactive.
- The nervous system is the director of all other systems in our body. So when meditation helps the nervous system function improve, all the other body systems, such as digestion and immunity, benefit as well.
- Meditation also improves our nervous system’s ability to shift from the Stress Response to the Relaxation Response and not get stuck or stay too long in either state.
Use the link here to try out a 10-minute breath and body-focused meditation. Remember that it’s the practice that counts.