You can lower your stress levels, improve brain function and even spark creativity by simply taking a few minutes out of your day to meditate. Meditation is quite literally, mind over matter.
The difference in our brains when we meditate is a chain reaction that causes us stop processing information as actively as we normally would, decreasing beta waves. During meditation, the frontal cortex tends to shut down. This is the most highly evolved part of the brain, responsible for reasoning, planning, emotions and self-conscious awareness. From there the parietal lobe slows down the sensory information about the surrounding world. The Thalamus organ then focuses our attention by funneling sensory data deeper into the brain and stopping other signals in their tracks. Reticular formation (the brain’s sentry) then dials back the arousal signal of incoming stimuli that puts the brain on alert, ready to respond if necessary.
Meditating will bring you back into focus, decreasing anxiety, improving your creative process, improve your memory, help with pain management and actually grow more brain cells. Studies have shown meditating has been linked to larger amounts of gray matter in the hippocampus and frontal areas of the brain. Meditation has also been shown to slow age-related brain degeneration and reduce the decline of our cognitive functioning.
The best way to meditate is to focus on your mind and body so that they come together by way of a method called mindful meditation. You simply focus on one specific thing like your breathing, a sensation in your body or a particular object outside of you.
You can take these steps to begin practicing mindful meditation:
- Sit or lie comfortably in a quiet, safe place.
- Close your eyes and begin to relax your body, starting at the top of your head and work down to your toes, segment by segment. Take as much time as you need.
- Focus on your breathing and on how your body relaxes with each inhale and exhale. If your mind starts to wander, simply return your focus back on your breathing.
- Once you have worked on this method a few times, you can let go of your focus once relaxed and just be in a state of meditation.
Another method that’s often used is open-monitoring meditation. This is where you pay attention to everything around you without reacting. This method takes practice and discipline.
Meditation is nourishment for the mind-body connection. It’s something to stop thinking about – and just do.