A practice which is seemingly easy but tough. As someone who is grounded in the ways of science, I went to look up how meditation improves my self-awareness, mental health and other benefits it proposes.
Meditation is now gaining momentum, as most people live a fast-paced and stressful routine. It helps the mind to focus, while creating space in our mind to stay present, disallowing other thoughts from our greater pool of consciousness to interfere.
It is tough to catch a break to collect our thoughts and take deep breaths – a simple meditative process, yet many of us struggle to remember doing it midst our busy day. I remind myself that meditation is truly a form of self-care and as we live and work through a global crisis, we must ensure our wellness.
For starters, meditation reduces stress. Stress is caused by increased levels of the hormone cortisol which releases inflammatory chemicals called cytokines. This exacerbates mental health by promoting depression, anxiety, poor concentration, as well as increase blood pressure and susceptibility to fatigue. Regardless of the type of meditation performed, it reduces the production of cytokines, inhibiting the escalation to further unwanted effects of stress!
Meditation seeks to enhance one’s self-awareness. Some forms of meditation helps personal growth. The key idea is to gain greater awareness and understanding of our thought habits, how we interact/relate to others around us. Furthermore with the ability to stay present in the moment to read ourselves, not only does it allow us to move towards developing constructive patterns, it also increases our attention span! I think this is my favourite benefit of meditation, as a Vata dosha type, I truly struggle with the attention span in completing an activity and the patience to see myself through a project which I so ambitiously started. Focused-attention meditation builds strength and endurance of the mind. Research studies have concluded meditators perform tasks with improved attention and accuracy. (Meditation helped me sustain focus and the attention span to see this post through, so I can attest to this too!)
Some of the other benefits of meditation include: reducing memory loss, generating kindness (with self-care and kindness inwards, we extend the positive feelings and actions outwards too), breaking out of vices (with our increased self-awareness and control), improving sleep and decreasing blood pressure.
There are so many great benefits that essentially come back to self-growth, improving productivity and daily quality of living. But it is a real struggle to get into, even if it means we will potentially live better. My mind is constantly thinking of something, be it relevant or not, and that tires me out leaving no energy for my tasks, which in turn are executed with many distractions and poor focus. Also the constant thinking keeps me from sleeping restfully, which builds into this vicious cycle of waking tired and contributing to my poor performance leading to stress and other unhealthy patterns.
The first time I learnt to be one with my breath was when I went diving in high school. I was keen on pursuing marine biology in college and hence went to get certified. Breathing underwater, you’re completely immersed in the moment – no time to accommodate other thoughts. And the pronounced sound of every breath through the regulator – your inhalation and exhalation; following the rhythmic breathing pace and deep breaths to ensure you conserve your oxygen. Just being in the water with the floating feeling (when you’re comfortable with the skill/technique of diving). The entire process of diving was so meditative, and once I learnt how to follow with my breath, it guided me similarly in my daily life. I end my day with a meditation practice to allow me to collect my thoughts and just observe stillness in my mind. My Vata mind is calmed and in a happy place.