The Benefits of Meditation
By this point you know that meditation is the new big thing.
There’s a good reason though. Meditation is one of the best things you can do for your brain.
This practice has existed for thousands of years. But it’s only in the last 20 that it’s reached cities like Amsterdam. This “trend”, like yoga has spread like wildfire across major cities in the 21st century.
The reason why? It’s in cities that meditation can be the most beneficial.
Urban living is hard on the brain. There’s no time to stop. There’s very little nature. There’s always something happening.
For an organ that’s already working on overdrive 24/7, that’s a lot.
Meditation, at its core, is a way for your brain to take a break. It’s not only an excuse for you to take ten minutes out of your day to truly relax—it also has numerous scientifically proven benefits.
If you’re interested in what meditation is, what the benefits are, and what a meditation class is like, look no further.
In this blog we’ll walk you through all of that and more.
What is Meditation?
Wikipedia defines meditation as:
“...a practice where an individual focuses his or her mind on a particular object, thought or activity to achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm state.”
It’s pretty clear, but it also misses the nuance of how meditation makes you feel.
First, we define meditation as a “practice”, not an activity. This means that it’s something that should be done every day to achieve the maximum benefit. You don’t have to spend an hour on it—even just 5 or 10 minutes can leave you feeling refreshed—but when done every day it’s a powerful tool to help you control your emotions and focus.
Second, what does it mean to be in a “mentally clear and emotionally calm state”?
Meditation elevates your consciousness to a new level by serving as a “workout” for your brain every day.
Much like a regular weightlifting program these training sessions help you become mentally stronger and more capable. These short training sessions give your brain more muscle to handle your emotions and chaotic times.
“Through meditation, we get better acquainted with the behavior of our minds, and we enhance our ability to regulate our experience of our environment, rather than letting our environment dictate how we experience life.”
With meditation, you also get a daily practice with extreme concentration. Over time, this develops into a more serious skill that can be applied outside of the practice and in your daily life. So if you feel like you struggle to sit down and get something done, meditation might be able to help you!
To learn more about the benefits of long-term meditation, check out this YouTube video.
What does meditation feel like?
A deep meditation is difficult to describe. When you’re in it, you’ll know that something is working.
One of the first things you might notice is that your thoughts will slow down and that your focus on the moment will increase.
Often when you are first starting the practice you can feel your brain running wild, thinking about all of the things that you need to do and all of the things that you have done. Your thoughts might change direction suddenly: one moment you might be thinking about a meeting you have at work the next day and the next you’re thinking about the dinner you had last night.
As you enter a meditative state, you’ll notice that you won’t be jumping from thought to thought as much anymore. Instead your brain will slow down, and you’ll be able to direct your concentration towards one thought or idea. Often a teacher will direct your attention to a specific part of your body or a mantra, but even directing it towards your breath is a productive practice. The ultimate goal is to direct your attention towards one specific point of interest for the course of the meditation.
You might also have some bodily experiences while meditating. If you are trying a yoga nidra meditation, for example, you might experience a sense of weightlessness. In other types of meditation, you might feel tingling sensations in certain areas of the body.
How does meditation affect my brain?
Over the long term, meditation can have many positive effects on your brain. One of the largest is the increase of gray matter density that’s been demonstrated after longer periods of practicing.
Gray matter refers to the darker-colored tissue in your brain. It’s distributed across all parts, including the cerebellum and brainstem, but also reaches as far as your spinal cord. Gray matter is made mostly of neural cell bodies, and is responsible for the organ’s ability to process information quickly.
As we age, gray matter decreases. That’s why we associate things like loss of cognition and mobility with the elderly. However, increasing the density of it can help prevent these negative effects!
What’s amazing too is that it takes just a short time to see these gains...just 8 weeks!
In another study, participants also showed a 51% drop in their cortisol levels. This hormone is responsible for your stress levels—an added bonus benefit of the practice!
Interested in trying meditation?
After all this talk do you feel ready to sit down and get your zen on?
Lucky for you we have at least one meditation class per week. But we often have more.
Check our events page for more information!