3 Reasons to Start Meditating

Meditation is truly unique to each individual, and many choose to engage in it for various reasons. Whether it be a way to relieve and manage stress, gain more compassion, attract more abundance, manage physical ailments, or just have a sense of peace about life.

3 Reasons to Start MeditatingStill, some view it as a sort of esoteric sugar coating that numbs your mind. And some are uncomfortable with the concept based on unfamiliarity, and association with spirituality and religion.

Although meditation has been at the center of various cultural practices for about 5000 years, it wasn’t until the early 20th century that Eastern philosophy was introduced to the West.

Since then a considerable amount of research has been done regarding the effects of mindfulness on one’s mental, emotional, and physical states.

More recently, focus is being directed toward the area of Neuroscience and the physical effects being shown in live brain scans. Tools like MRI and EEG are being used to show the physiological changes within peoples brains and bodies after meditating.

It appears that scientific facts – minus esoteric fru fru associated with meditation – are playing a pretty big role in discovering the truth regarding the ancient practice of mindfulness.

I’ll let you consider for yourself after pondering these 3 reasons to start meditating, whether or not you think meditation has the ability to bring us into a balanced state of well being.

Activates the Brain’s Default Mode Network (DMN)

Wikipedia describes the DMN as “a network of brain regions that are active when the individual is not focused on the outside world and the brain is at wakeful rest.” Contrary to what might seem logical, when the brain is in this inattentive state, a “resting”, daydreaming, or introspective state, is when it’s actually the most active.

This downtime frees the brain up from task oriented thinking, strengthening our ability to concentrate, improving memory and mental acuity.

Actual physical changes, including increase in gray matter can be seen in certain areas of the brain in people who meditate such as increased volume and density of the hippocampus which is vital for memory. Prevention of typical deterioration of brain areas responsible for holding attention as we age. Thickening of regions of the frontal cortex which we activate to process emotions. A more defined outer layer of the brain where abstract thought and introspection happen, introspection being a most important way we form a sense of self.

Increases Alpha Brain Waves

3 Reasons to Start Meditating-Alpha WavesBrain waves are made up of five frequencies: gamma, beta, alpha, theta, and delta. The electrical patterns of these brain waves can be observed with an EEG (electroencephalograph).

During the course of a day an EEG will display all five types of brain waves at the same time, depending on your state of consciousness one frequency will show as dominant in that moment.

When we come out of a thinking or goal oriented consciousness and our brain waves reach a slowed state, we are experiencing the alpha state. Our body and mind become relaxed, we feel peaceful, calm, and reflective, bridging the gap between the conscious and subconscious mind.

Too little alpha waves can cause stress, anxiety, OCD, and insomnia, which explains why some people turn to relaxants like alcohol, marijuana, or antidepressants, things that increase alpha waves. But the same optimal alpha state of relaxation can be experienced by reaching a meditative state.

Changes Physiology on a Cellular Level

For a while now we’ve known the physical benefits of reducing stress levels with meditation like decreased blood pressure, increased immune function, and healthy digestion, but science is helping us gain a deeper understanding of why these benefits occur. Evidence is showing that meditating actually contributes to physiological changes within the body on a cellular level.

In this article from CNN.com regarding whether meditation can slow aging, the work of scientist Elizabeth Blackburn is discussed. In the 1970’s she discovered telomeres, repeating DNA that act as protective caps shielding the ends of chromosomes. These wear down over time, shorten, and lose their ability to divide. This is considered the aging process. Stress shortens telomeres which explains why it ages us faster.

Shortened telomeres have also been linked to obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s. The good news is good nutrition habits, regular exercise, and meditation all help. In fact, meditating has been shown to slow the breakdown of telomeres, and possibly even lengthen them again. If that’s not proof that mediating can change physiology on a cellular level, then I don’t what is!

This Video Sums Things up Nicely

 

Tips on How to Start Practicing Meditation

1. Find a comfortable place to sit, I find cross legged on a meditation cushion works best for me, but a chair works just fine too, the key is an upright position with your back straight. Also make sure your space is quiet and distraction free.

2. I suggest a timer (a soft alarm tone on a cell phone works well), you can choose whether to play music quietly or just sit in total silence. Here are some nice free meditation tracks to get started with.

3. Once seated comfortably, set your timer (5 minutes is a great place to start, gradually working up to 30 minutes to an hour long practice daily), close your eyes and start taking slow deep breaths in and out. Don’t think or analyze your breath but pay attention to it. When your mind starts to wander or think, and it will, just gently bring your focus back to your breath. Have patience with yourself and continue to gently pull yourself back to your breath. This is your time not to think about anything, just let your mind and body relax…take a little vacation. :)

You will find the more you practice the easier it will get. I hope this helps you to establish a regular practice, feel more relaxed and reap the many benefits of meditation!

What do you think? Do you think meditation is capable of bringing about these changes within the body? Love to hear your thoughts!

16 Comments

  1. Great article! I’ve been into meditation for a while. The reason I got into it was when I was first introduced to the world of entrepreneurs, the more I read, the more I realised that EVERY successful person meditates. To clear their mind, to focus themselves and it also opens up your mind to new levels of creativity and direction.

    Keep up the great work!

    Aiden
    1. Thanks Aiden, glad you enjoyed this information! I would agree with your comment that it definitely opens us up to receive more abundance. Keep up the great work with your meditation practice and may you receive many blessings :)

      Jess
  2. Hi
    I have been dabbling with meditation for years. I am interested in actually really doing it on a regular basis. Thank you for this great article.
    What would you say the best kind of meditation is?
    Deborah

    Deborah
  3. Wow! I had no idea that meditation resulted in so many very important benefits. Honestly, I always thought people meditated solely for calming and relaxing reasons. I was surprised to read about the benefits to the brain and the changes on the cellular level. I like how the information is grouped into short, informative paragraphs, and only focusing on 3 reasons to meditate helped alleviate an overload of too much information. Great site! Thanks for the info!

    Natalie
    1. My pleasure, Natalie! So happy you found the information useful. It’s quite amazing the changes that meditation brings about within the brain and body. Please visit anytime, and share your thoughts, I love to hear them :)

      Jess
  4. Hi Jess

    What do you think of painting as an alternative to the more formal Meditation session concept?

    I paint mandalas and I see you use one on your website – i think that is is beautiful site you have built by the way!

    I ask because your article is something I believe in and it is a good reminder but I struggle with the more formal meditation training.

    My relaxation CD’s a very good though so I find them a helpful tool.

    All the best Kerrie

    PS Love your whole website – it is beautiful

    kerrie
    1. Hi Kerrie! Thanks for loving my site, I’m blushing from your comment :) My intention in using the mandala (which was hand drawn by someone dear to my heart) is as a symbol of seeking balance within and universally. I’m in love with the fact that you paint mandalas! They carry so much meaning.

      Being that you paint them, I’m sure you’re well aware of the use in a variety of spiritual rituals and practices. Their use as a tool for meditation and inducing trance states would lead me to believe that when done with mindful intention and self reflection, the act of painting them would surely be a form of meditation in itself.

      In fact, Carl Jung stated that after regularly sketching mandalas he began to realize that the urge to sketch came in moments of intense personal growth, allowing one to connect with the Self, allowing for a profound re-balancing of the psyche, and the wholeness of the personality to emerge. Sounds like a legit meditative moment to me!!!

      If formal meditation is not so much your thing and you like relaxation CD’s you may want to read my article on brainwave entrainment, these types of audios may totally be your thing. They would be a beautiful and beneficial tool to use while painting your mandalas.

      Jess
  5. Hi Jess. What an informative article! I practice yoga regularly and meditation is a small part of that for me. I’ve always known it was beneficial, but you did a great job outlining the scientific reasons behind meditation’s success. That CNN article is quite remarkable!

    I’ll definitely be increasing my meditation time. Thank you!

    Samantha
    1. Hi Samantha! I love and practice yoga myself :) You’re right – that CNN article is really interesting, I find it fascinating what a physical impact meditation has on our brains and bodies. Keep up the great work with your yoga and meditation efforts, I’m sure you will continue to reap many more benefits :)

      Jess
  6. Hi Jess, thanks for this great article. Didn’t know that there are so many benefits of meditating. I think I should start meditating because I am a person who gets stressed up very easily. But I am not sure how to go about meditating, would be great if you can give me some basics tips on how to start meditating.

    Kumar
    1. Absolutely Kumar! I’m happy you found the read beneficial. I’m more than happy to share a few tips so you can start meditating, I have added them into the post here :) Hope this helps!

      Jess
  7. It’s funny, I have been thinking about starting meditation for a while. The lady I sit next to at work, she does a lot of meditation and has really inspired me to look into it.

    But I have no idea where to start. This article has reinforced that I should start, but what should I do first,should I read a book? Any suggestions?

    RuthM
    1. That’s great Ruth! Thanks so much for asking how to get started, by asking, you and another reader have inspired me to add the last section “Tips on How to Start Practicing Meditation” into this post.

      Another great place to get started, and a method I love to practice that blends mediation with yoga is kundalini yoga. Here is a review on my favorite kundalini practice you may find helpful as well. Hope this helps and let me know how it’s going for you :)

      Namaste

      Jess
  8. Thanks for this great post. I cannot imagine starting my day without a 20 minute meditation. However, there are times when it’s more difficult than others. Like recently I was traveling with family and it was difficult to find a space to call my own, so I neglected it for a week or so. When I got home I felt noticeably different and just not grounded at a all. Frazzled actually. The best proof that it works is to just start a practice and then compare the difference of how you feel when you do and when you don’t.

    Jackie
    1. My pleasure Jackie! Thank you for sharing your perspective – I couldn’t agree more that you really realize how grounded meditation makes you feel when you experience the difference without out, as is the case with anything we really love or makes us feel good – I find that these moments gently remind me which things I am grateful for :) I’m glad that you were able to reconnect with your practice and are feeling centered again!

      Jess

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