The concepts and philosophies built on the practice of meditation span a 5,000-year history and can seem daunting and complex from afar. Up close, however, it will only take a few minutes to wrap the mind around the very simplistic practice that involves nothing more than building a connection to the moment and, through cultivation, deepening and widening this connection to the sensations of the body and mind.
This can be done sitting in the traditional lotus position (Padmasana), lying in the corpse position (Savasana) or even when driving to work, standing in an elevator or enjoying a beautiful view. A single focused breath can be a meditation; cultivation is simply stringing a few of these together.
Seems simple? It really is, and the lengthy list of benefits including advantages of self-awareness, stress relief and increased empathy and positivity in attitudes and thought patterns. In the list below we will highlight a few more of the top mental benefits that can come from a cultivated practice of meditation.
Keep the Brain Young and Vibrant
“You are only as old as you think you are,” says the wise adage, and trends are showing a great tendency to longer lives. The first person to live past 150 may already be born, and if it is you, you will want to keep your thinker forever young. An article published in Frontiers of Psychology described how the brains of meditators showed less deterioration of important grey matter than non-meditators. The author of the study, Florian Kurth, noted a surprisingly widespread effect of meditation across many areas of the brain.1,2
Alter the Structure of the Brain
Meditation improves the capacity for learning and memory retention by increasing cortical thickness in the hippocampus. The amygdala is a region responsible for fear, stress, and anxiety – a very primordial region that may have outlasted its usefulness. Meditation decreases cell volume in this region reducing the inclination to stress and fearful responses; this allows for improved mental resilience in the face of everyday irritations and demands.3
Gain the Upper Hand on Addictions, Impulsiveness, and Self-Control
Nothing beats meditation when it comes to gaining a better understanding of the mind and making a wide range of adjustments. In the quest to quit smoking, meditation has been the deciding factor between consolidating a healthy change and relapsing into the old habit. Experts have suggested that meditation helps to disassociate the craving from the need to smoke. In this same way, meditation can “uncouple” a variety of feelings from the immediate and often subconscious response. In the long term, this can lead to fewer harsh words spoken in anger, less financially-debilitating impulse purchasing, and a wealth of opportunities that remained hidden behind old mindsets.4
Improve Focus and Cognitive Function
Professional and academic capacity can often be limited by the capacity to focus and maintain cognitive endurance for hours on end. Meditation involves engaging the mind and focus in a very unique way, internally. Regular practice of this self-imposed mental discipline creates a stronger mind, with an improved focus and mental stamina. According to a study published in the Psychological Science Journal, students preparing for the GRE can increase their final results by as much as 16% with a mere two weeks of meditation practices.5
Final Notes on Improving the Mind through Meditation
When it comes to rewiring the brain and improving cognitive function through meditation, dedication is imperative. Even though many effects from meditation are readily available from the very first session, it is important to consolidate and build from these benefits in order to cultivate the new and improved neural pathways and the greater benefits they bring.
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With this in mind, prepare your path of meditation for the long term. Much of this will involve making your meditation practice a special time of relaxation, renewal, and great positivity.
Make yourself comfortable and ensure that your practice will be undisturbed. Diffusing the atmosphere with aromatics can help to set a relaxing and inspiring atmosphere for meditation sessions. For those struggling with restless minds or emotional upset, the introduction of the right essential oils can improve positivity, sedate the anxious or invigorate the exhausted. Be sure to browse the selection of mood-altering essential oils at MONQ’s website for more information.
Taking an intuitive approach to the many practices and styles of meditation will ultimately bring the best results through sustainable practice. If you would like to know more about the practice of mindfulness and the benefits of meditation, check out the article, Setting Up your Meditation Space.