Meditation for a happier new you
-Sep 7, Jenny Paul, Mind -
Did you know that meditation increases focus and creativity, reduces stress and anxiety, lowers blood pressure and helps you sleep better – as well as easing menopausal symptoms? And, with stress being one of the major causes of premature ageing, as well as the factor lurking behind a large number of fatal diseases, there’s no better time to prioritise sitting and doing nothing but relaxing.
There’s a variety of techniques out there, meaning there’s something for everyone but a good place to start is with mindfulness. Known in the medical community as, “mindfulness-based stress reduction,” this relaxation method is essentially a multi-vitamin for your mind. It’s also one of the simplest forms of meditation to practice — you simply sit, or lie comfortably and listen to your breathing, and when you notice you’ve become distracted, you go back to focusing on your breath.
It’s not just a trendy buzzword, there is now science-based research to help back it up.
In 2014, researchers suggested that mindfulness may be as effective at alleviating symptoms of depression and anxiety as anti-depressants. Emory University demonstrated that the practice creates more connectivity in the parts of the brain that control cognitive attention. Regular practice trains your brain, enabling you to be more focused and quick to disengage from distractions.
But that’s not all; mindfulness has also been effective in treating pre-menstrual and menopausal symptoms. This is because being calm is a crucial part of balancing your hormones, too much of the stress hormone cortisol creates havoc on your hormonal system – especially when you’re going through changes and fluctuations like peri-menopause or menopause.
If you want to try meditation but are afraid you can’t sit still, kundalini yoga is worth considering. Be warned: Kundalini is not for the faint of heart. You’ll be holding forward and backward bends for up to five minutes at a time while practicing deep breathing exercises.
If you’re trying to kick a bad habit at the moment, kundalini will pay off; researchers found that holding the poses longer in a meditative state helps increase willpower — effective even in addiction treatment and therapy, so it could be perfect if you’re trying to cut back on caffeine or refined sugar.
If that sounds too much for you, traditional vipassana yoga often begins with a walk where you focus on your breath and observing the present moment. After, you may practice seated meditation, focusing on the connection between the mind and body – so they ease you into it gently.
Vipassana yoga originated in Southeast Asia and is one of the most commonly practiced types of meditation in Buddhist traditions. Also called “insight meditation,” the University of Wisconsin-Madison published a study revealing that vipassana not only reduced the grey-matter areas in the brain related to anxiety and stress, but also increased the grey matter areas linked to learning, memory, creativity, self-awareness and compassion. So, it’s an excellent choice if you’re looking to improve your holistic wellness.
You’ve probably heard of Transcendental Meditation, which is a technique for inner-peace and wellness, which is something that we could all do with more of at the moment. The goal of this type of meditation is to transcend ordinary consciousness and arrive at a place of mental stillness. It involves a seated position and repeating a Vedic mantra, which is a collection of energy-based sounds which experts say heal and cure as well as preventing a variety of life-threatening illnesses.
In 2012, a study found that the risk of heart disease, stroke, and death decreased by 48% in Transcendental Meditation practitioners with coronary heart disease. Other benefits include; reducing metabolic syndrome, atherosclerosis, myocardial ischemia, and thickening of the coronary arteries. For these reasons, the American Heart Association calls the practice “clinically useful” in the prevention of heart disease.
With so many varieties, you can probably find a type of meditation that you enjoy. Give it a try on your own, or find a teacher who can guide you to the type of meditation that will be most effective for you. Many places that teach yoga classes also offer guided and group meditation.