Ten ways meditation benefits your mental fitness.
Meditation — a common feature of Eastern medicine for centuries, has slowly gained ground in the 21st Century western world, growing in popularity in recent years. With both physical and psychological benefits, this self-starter activity has enormous benefit for your personal well-being. In this short blog, we’ll be looking at 10 ways meditation benefits your mental fitness.
1. Stress reduction
Mental and physical stress is linked to an increased production of the stress hormone cortisol, and inflammatory chemicals called cytokines. Research has found that mindfulness-based meditation reduces the physical response to stress, reducing its impact.
2. Enhanced attention span
Research suggests that the average adult attention span sits somewhere between 10-14 minutes before interest levels on a given task begins to drift. The good news is that research studies suggest that regular meditation is akin to mental weight training, enhancing your ability to focus for longer. One review suggests that, as well as enhancing your mental ability, meditation actually reverses physical changes in the brain that contribute to poor attention and excess worry.
3. Self-esteem and self-awareness
Given its direct focus on eliminating noise and directing your focus, meditation guides you to think harder and more deeply. This focus can help to discover positive attributes about yourself, and resolve internal conflict. Casper Farrimond, Mind and Wellness Coach at PAM Life said that
"One of the guiding principles of mindfulness is focused attention, which is being able to focus on a particular object or factor. This skill is perfect for looking introspectively and exploring what you are thinking and what you are feeling. Looking introspectively allows you to reflect on your thoughts and feelings in a controlled manner. This can help you to develop a better understanding of who you are, assist in being able to let go of any internal conflicts and lead to discovering positive attributes about yourself.''
4. Manage anxiety
Linked to point 3, the distilled focus and less noisy thinking environment that meditation provides vastly reduces the likelihood of rumination — the sidekick of chronic anxiety. By focussing narrowly on the here and now, you are less likely to experience the negative impact of anxiety and free yourself from its vice-like grip.
5. Elevated cognitive ability
Focus is a recurring theme when it comes to meditation. This method of thinking helps to bring clarity to a problem, and with the reduced anxiety benefits gives the brain space to maximise its problem-solving and decision-making ability.
6. Improved sleep
Sleep disturbance affects huge portions of the population, with up to half of all adults experiencing insomnia at some point. Research suggests that those who engage in a regular programme of mindfulness meditation experience improvements in their insomnia symptoms, together with less instances of sleep disturbance and more restful sleep overall. As an added bonus, the process of meditation is very helpful for actually getting to sleep, too.
7. Increased connection to peers
Humans are social creatures, and with few exceptions thrive off their connectedness with others. A variant of meditation known as ‘Metta’ is known to increase blood-flow to the parts of the brain that are associated with mental processing and empathy, driving increased desire for social connectedness.
8. Boosted creativity
Endorsed by names like Yoko Ono and David Lynch, many meditation programmes are associated with a boost in creative flair. Owing to an enhanced state of focus and a clear space to think, many people report better access to their creative faculties in a meditative state.
9. Better memory
Working as a sort of mental de-fragmentation programme, meditation helps to clear the mind of unnecessary junk, consolidating important information and formative experiences into long-term memory. The process itself also drives the brain’s ability to retain and organise information.
10. A general brain booster
Some call it a lack of flow, others call it mental block. Sometimes, your brain just jams up. A culmination of many of the factors above, this frustrating experience can bring even the most capable individuals’ brains to a crippling stand-still. A peer-reviewed study carried out in the USA shows that mindfulness meditation can help individuals both get through these blocks, but also prevent their likelihood of recurrence.