Call it meditation, mindfulness, centering -- whatever you like -- the act of being consciously present, can be life changing.
For the uninitiated, mediation can be thought of simply as the act of calming the mind and focusing on the present – not thinking about the past or the future – and doing so in a deeply conscious way.
Believe it or not, the consistent act of being still and calming your mind actually rewires your brain over time. When practiced regularly, meditation has been shown to increase people’s sense of well-being and happiness. Not only that, the scientifically proven benefits of mediation also include improving or increasing productivity, focus, creativity, empathy, decision-making and memory, while reducing anxiety and stress.
For example, in a 2014 John Hopkins study, researcher Madhav Goyal found the effect of meditation on reducing anxiety and depression was equal to that of anti-depressants. Another study showed that people who participated in two weeks of mediation training, improved their focus and memory for the verbal section of the GRE exam, leading to an 16 point average increase.
And, it isn’t all in the head. Meditation affects the heart too, improving cardiovascular health and reducing heart disease. And don’t forget the immune system, which mediation has been shown to strengthen.
In today's world of constant multi-tasking, many people are daunted by the idea of meditation. “A lot of people have this idea that meditation means sitting down and doing nothing,” says researcher Goyal. “But that’s not true. Meditation is an active training of the mind to increase awareness, and different meditation programs approach this in different ways.”
The good news is you can start slowly. Even 5 minutes a day has its benefits, and you can build up to more. And it has never been easier to learn how. As they say, “there’s an app for that.” A Here are a few of my favorites:
· Headspace: I got started with this app which offers a 10-session free trial created for beginners (after which you are charged a subscription.)
· Smiling Mind: I use this app regularly. It is completely free (and non-profit) and has mediations that run for different lengths of time and that are created for different age groups.
· Guided Mediations from UCLA's Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC). Not an app but a link to audio files for simple mindfulness mediations.
I know the idea that something so simple can change your life is a BIG statement. And, I make no promises. Maybe it won’t change your life. But, for me, I attribute taking up the practice of mediation as the catalyst of real change in my life – including the eventual decision to pursue a coaching career. Besides, what else can you do that provides so many proven health and wellness benefits, with so little time and no financial investment, and literally, no sweat?
Article: 12 Science Based Benefits to Meditation, Dr. Matthew Thorpe, July 5, 2017
Article: 7 Ways Mediation Can Actually Change the Brain, Alice G. Walton, Forbes, February 9 2015