Many people believe the only purpose of meditation is to relieve stress. But in reality, the practice actually offers a variety of additional mental and physical health benefits that go far beyond relaxing during times of anxiety. Understanding what meditation is and how it affects wellness are key factors to consider before learning how to meditate.
What Exactly is Meditation?
Meditation is a mind and body practice long associated with increased calmness, physical relaxation, coping with illnesses, enhanced psychological balance and overall well-being. There are many types of meditation, but each usually contains four elements:
- A quiet area with minimal distractions
- A comfortable posture, either lying down or seated
- An attention focus, such as a special word or item
- An attitude of openness for letting distractions pass
Mental Health Benefits of Meditation
Meditation has been credited with creating peace, joy and enthusiasm. It transports the practitioner’s brain wave pattern to an alpha state. Alpha waves are linked to peacefulness and relaxation.
With regular meditation, you may begin to see additional mental health benefits, such as:
- Decreased anxiety
- Heightened emotional stability
- Increased creativity
- Increased happiness
- Reduced anxiety or depression
- Peace of mind and clarity
- Decreased emphasis on the importance of problems
- Heightened mind sharpening and focus
Physical Health Benefits of Meditation
People who regularly practice meditation have noted:
- Lowered blood pressure
- Calming of irritable bowel syndrome
- Help with smoking cessation and substance abuse recovery
- Assistance overcoming insomnia
- Reduced problems with severe respiratory illnesses like the flu
- Lowered blood lactate levels for reduced anxiety attacks
- Decreased pain from tension problems such as ulcers and certain headaches
- Boosts to the immune system
- Elevated energy level
- Increased serotonin production for improved mood
Research also suggests that when meditation increases relaxation, women are more likely to conceive children than when stressed. And since stress also cuts sperm count plus motility, relaxation might also increase fertility in men. Some experts believe that because stress leads to inflammation, meditation might help prevent or treat conditions such as arthritis, psoriasis, asthma and heart disease.
How to Begin Meditating
Meditation is a friendly tool that leads to the unknown, the mystery of optimal wellness in each person. Early attempts at meditation often reveal how easily the mind becomes distracted. These simple tips can help an individual walk the meditation path:
- Use helpful posture. Sit up straight with the head facing forward.
- Keep eyes open. This increases the ability to remain in the present.
- Pay attention. Choose a word, object or breath and focus on it as the center of awareness.
- Let breathing help. Start counting normal breaths. When thoughts stray, return to “one” and begin counting again.
- Let thoughts go. Gently acknowledge interrupting thoughts, then let them go.
- Deal with emotions. Focus on body feelings linked to strong emotions. Release sensations like anger in the stomach.
- Maintain silence. Simple silence sometimes accomplishes more than mood music.
- Choose a good length. Begin with sessions no longer than 10 minutes.
- Pick a good environment. If possible, create a special place with objects like flowers or shells that have a special meaning.
- Aim for enjoyment. Try smiling a bit while seated. Be gentle to yourself. Enjoy meditation.
The health benefits of meditation line up perfectly with our vision at Sunlighten. Like meditation, Sunlighten saunas can help you relax and are associated with a bevy of health benefits such as blood pressure reduction, pain relief and improved circulation. To maximize the mental and physical health benefits of meditation, try meditating in your Sunlighten sauna.