In a word, yes.
Meditation has recently become very popular in health and wellness circles. Whilst the practise itself is thousands of years old, it seems that only recently there has been research and proof that it is a beneficial practise for all.
Now when I say meditation, you probably think of a monk in a temple in the mountains, repeating the “ohm” mantra. And whilst this is meditation, you don’t need to copy exactly.
Meditation is essentially training for your brain! It is a practise that focusses on training your attention and awareness in order to bring mental processes under greater control and achieve mental well being, focus and calmness.
Now that all sounds great, but how does meditation actually benefit you?
Well, there’s a lot to say here, so I’m going to list the benefits:
It’s a method of reducing anxiety, stress, depression and even reducing chronic pain, which is of particular interest to us Osteopaths! The effects are reported to even rival antidepressant medication. Whilst it isn’t a magic bullet for all of these problems (there isn’t one) but might be able to help!
Meditation is a way to improve focus and attention. One study found that just 2 weeks of meditation improved scores in the American GRE tests by 16 percentile points.
It has been shown to help with kicking an addiction
Preserves the aging brain. In a study by UCLA, they found that those who had meditated consistently throughout their life had significantly more grey matter in their brains than those who didn’t (Grey matter is the part of the brain that houses most of the nerve cell bodies, more grey matter is a good indicator of more cells and therefore a better functioning brain).
Helps stop your mind wandering (a wandering mind has been shown to lead to an overall reduction in happiness, as people ruminate and worry about their past and future during this time, which was shown in a study by Yale).
Meditation has even been put to effective use in schools. One district in San Francisco started a meditation program in their ‘high-risk schools’. And saw a decrease in the number of suspensions and an increase in GPA and attendance. Not bad, eh!
As you can see, meditation is by no means something to be dismissed.
The question is, how do I meditate, and how long do I have to spend doing it?
We’ll start with the how long. To start I’d suggest 5-10 minutes. This will be enough time to experience the benefits, but just like any other skill, its difficult at the start. Your mind will wander often, its important that you accept that this is going to happen and once you realise your mind is no longer focused bring your attention back. Don’t get upset with yourself if this happens, its natural, and above all negative thoughts will have a detrimental effect on the practise. Think of it as training a muscle. Each time you find your mind elsewhere and bring it back, you have completed a rep.
So on to the basics of actually meditating. Find a comfortable space, the position you are in doesn’t matter too much, but sitting or lying is best. You don't need to find a stunning vista at sunset, contort your body into an weird position and repeat a mantra like you may have seen! Make sure there are no distractions, and set a timer, so that you can fully focus on the practise without constantly looking at the clock.
Next, close your eyes and begin to pay attention to your breathing. Focus on the in and the out, trying to keep it slow and relaxed.
That’s essentially it! Practise meditation every day, and you will begin to reap the benefits.
Now if you want an even easier way to meditate, I’d suggest downloading an app onto your smartphone. The best one in my opinion is Calm. All you have to do is select the meditation you would like to do (there’s more than just breathing) and follow the instructions.