Studies on the neurobiology of meditation show that the practise has many of the characteristics of an ideal drug. It counters depression and pain and encourages a sense of well-being. And it does all of this with few, if any, side effects, at the cost of a couple of minutes of daily respite from a harried existence. Why don't physicians prescribe it more?
Benefits of Meditation:
- Depression eases
- Chronic pain is easier to manage
- Tension related pain reduces (headaches, ulcers, insomnia, muscle and joint problems)
- A sense of well-being is induced
- A more stable and clear mind results
- A more serene and flexible way of being is produced
- It can lead to an enhanced capacity to focus on tasks which require concentration
- It helps us to deal better with stressful tasks or experiences
- It decreases anxiety
- It improves our relationships with others
- Self-knowledge and intuition improves
- We manage negative thoughts better and spend less time dwelling on them
- We develop the capacity to help others
- It might slow processes of cellular ageing
- It can lower blood pressure
- It can help with irritable bowel syndrome
- It can prove immunity
- It promotes relaxation
- We become more aware of the present moment and savour simple pleasures
- Our problem solving abilities improve
- It increases serotonin production thus improving our mood
- It increases creativity
- It helps self-control
- It improves memory
- It's an opportunity to take time out for yourself
- It helps you tune into your internal chatter and improves your ability to 'turn it off'
The appeal of meditation is that it can be done anywhere and its benefits can be gained even if practised at a basic level. So, learn the basics and experiment. Find out what works for you whether it be counting your breathing, repeating a mantra, listening to an instructional recording or music, or simply sitting in silence.
For me, closing my eyes, being aware of my breathing, staying still, noticing silence (or sometimes - what interrupts it) and visualising a beautiful scene is a wonderful way to reconnect my body and mind and restore peace in my heart. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, this 10 minutes time out of my day is rewiring my brain and creating a cascade of beautiful benefits for my mind and body. The poetry of science.
Andy Puddicombe's Headspace has a free 10 day meditation course which is a really useful resource especially for beginners and those who've strayed like me.