Meditation has been shown to reduce perceived stress1,2,3,4 and increase the density of the parts of the brain associated with emotion-regulation and perspective taking.
These factors can help you take take a broader perspective on a situation, rather than getting caught up on a issue that doesn’t really matter in the great scheme of things. This is also related to ability to regulate emotions, including the ability to reduce spontaneous reaction to events, allowing yourself to take a step back before responding. This coupled with the overall reduced perceived stress, along with several other benefits of meditation, can lead to an overall happier you, more at peace with yourself and the world around you.
Meditation comes in many forms, be it passive (sitting and meditating) or active (e.g. walking meditation), long or short. Meditation is ‘a practice of concentrated focus upon a sound, object, visualisation, the breath, movement, or attention itself in order to increase awareness of the present moment, reduce stress, promote relaxation, and enhance personal and spiritual growth’ (The Free Dictionary). Just doing a few minutes a day can bring benefits.
Why don’t you try this one-minute meditation now?
1. Sit on a chair with your legs hip distance apart, not crossed, with your feet on the floor. Sit slightly away from the back of the chair (or use the support if you need). Place your hands on your knees or comfortably in your lap and close your eyes or lower your gaze.
2. Bring your attention to your feet and sense your feet on the floor (or not as some people experience). Move your attention up through your legs, hips, back and shoulders ensuring you are in a comfortable but alert posture. Soften your shoulders.
3. Bring your attention to your breath. Breath normally and note to yourself the different subtle sensations of your chest, the air in your nostrils, maybe even subtle sounds.
4. Expand your awareness to your whole body trying to hold attention of your whole body in your mind, noting any sensations.
5. Open your eyes.
How did you find that? You may have found some odd sensations (like not being able to feel your feet on the ground) or maybe found it difficult to concentrate. Don’t worry these are perfectly normal sensations.
The key thing to remember is each person has a different experience, and it is a practice so it needs to be done every day, even if just for a minute, for a while before benefits are felt.
- Chang, V., Palesh, O., Caldwell, R., Glasgow, N., Abramson, M., Luskin, F., Gill, M. Burke, A. and Koopman, C. (2004) ‘The effects of a mindfulness-based stress reduction program on stress, mindfulness self-efficacy, and positive states of mind’ Stress and Health, 20, pp.141-147. [Online]. Available at: http://www.readcube.com/articles/10.1002%2Fsmi.1011?r3_referer=wol&tracking_action=preview_click&show_checkout=1 [Accessed: 1st December 2014].
- Chaskalson, M. (2011) The Mindful Workplace. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.
- Holzel, B., Carmody, J., Evans, K., Hoge, E., Dusek, J., Morgan, L., Pitman, R., and Lazar, S. (2009) ‘Stress reduction correlates with structural changes in the amygdala’ Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Advance Access, September 23. [Online]. Available at: http://scan.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2009/09/23/scan.nsp034.full.pdf+html [Accessed: 1st December 2014].
- Holzel, B., Carmody, J., Vangel, M., Congleton, C., Yerramsetti, S., Guard, T. and Lazar, S. (2011) ‘Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density’ Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, 191, pp.36-43.