The top 20 benefits of meditation. Why do it?

meditação
meditação

What is Meditation ?

Meditation is a practice of mind training that promotes mental well-being. In this sheet, you will discover what meditation is, its main principles, its history, the different types of meditation, its benefits, some practical advice, and finally the opinion of a specialist.

From the Latin “Meditare” which means “contemplating”, meditation is a practice which consists in dragging the mind so that it is freed from negative and harmful thoughts. Obviously, many thoughts are useful for managing one’s life or solving practical problems. But, mental mechanisms are such that they constantly produce often deleterious thoughts. The goal of meditation is therefore to ensure that these thoughts no longer have control over us, and to free us from our negative ruminants that prevent us from advancing in our lives.

Meditating is therefore using certain concentration and relaxation techniques in order to focus on yourself and thus silence your inner hubbub. It’s a parenthesis in our stressful daily noisy at an infernal and too fast pace: it’s being able to land, stop and observe what’s going on in us …

The main principles

The practice of meditation consists above all in training to maintain one’s attention and to prevent one’s mind from being carried away by the thoughts which constantly arise. That said, it is especially not a war activity where you have to fight against thoughts. Rather, we use “soft will”. It is a catch-up activity where we accept that thoughts parade, like clouds or the horses of a carousel, without being captivated by them.

Meditation is also a spiritual practice, indeed, many people say that meditating is primarily used to be truly in contact with yourself and ultimately with “the whole universe”.

men in  medittion

The different types of meditation

Meditation of full conscience

Full awareness meditation is the approach used in stress reduction workshops designed by Jon Kabat-Zinn. There are also groups that form around experienced practitioners, especially inspired by the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh who adapted the teachings of Chinese Zen (more flexible than Zazen) for the West. The dating program may vary from group to group.

Transcendental Meditation (MT)

Based on India’s Vedic tradition, the technique (with mantra) of transcendental meditation has been adapted by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It was strongly popularized by the Beatles in the late 1960s. Learning takes place in 4 consecutive days, at substantial costs.

Vipassana

Traditional Buddhist practice, maintained alive especially in Burma and disseminated in the West by S.N. Goenka and his disciples. Vipassana is an ascetic practice (based on continuous observation of breathing and body sensations), in a very structured context. To get started, you must first register for a 10-day retreat. Thereafter, other pensions are offered (3, 10 or 30 days). There are no weekly practice groups.

Zazen

Strict practice of Zen (merger of Buddhism and Taoism) as it developed in Japan within the lines of masters. Zazen is practiced in a fairly ritualized context: the relationship with the master is important. Due to the discipline required, it is not suitable for everyone. The different centers offer both weekly meetings and pensions (called sesshins).

The benefits of meditation

Increase the occurrence of positive sensations

No more “positive” feelings. When you feel positive feelings (joy, curiosity, enthusiasm, pride, etc.), electrical activity is predominant in a specific area of the brain (the left prefrontal cortex). A study using magnetic resonance imaging found that in meditation, this area is particularly active. Researchers believe that meditation may promote brain activity in areas associated with positive feelings while inhibiting those related to anxiety and negative feelings. They hypothesize that this could in the long run act on the temperament and make it more “positive”.

Reduce symptoms of chronic pain in the elderly

In 2008, 2 journals on the effectiveness of meditation in the treatment of chronic pain in the elderly were published. The findings of these journals suggest that meditation can be an intervention that helps to decrease the overall chronic pain. However, as it is often accompanied by other treatments and therapies, its specific effectiveness is not clearly established.

Improve concentration and attention capabilities

The practice of meditation would allow one to remain long and effectively focused on a task or on a problem to be solved. When a person is highly concentrated, their gamma frequency brain waves synchronize and amplify naturally. But these periods rarely last more than 1 second at a time. Researchers have found that individuals who have been meditating for a long time can make them last several minutes.

Research over the past 40 years has observed that meditation has several measurable psychological and physiological benefits.

Reduce stress and anxiety

Many studies have highlighted the effectiveness of full awareness meditation in reducing psychological and physiological stress. This could be explained by its action on negative thoughts. Indeed, very many thoughts are harmful (ruminants, catastrophic scenarios, mental representations that have nothing to do with reality…), these thoughts create what is called “internal stress”. The practice of meditation can help dispel these thoughts and reduce stress. This is why, when practiced daily, meditation is a powerful anti-stress.

Prevent cardiovascular disorders

A random clinical study evaluated the practice of transcendental meditation by comparing it to information and discussion sessions with 84 patients with cardiovascular disorders deemed stable. Beneficial effects have been observed with regard to blood pressure and insulin resistance in the meditation group. The use of transcendental meditation by patients with cardiovascular disorders could also improve some aspects of metabolic syndrome.

Reduce the severity of symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder

A 2008 study studied the effects of meditation on individuals affected by obsessive-compulsive disorder. The results showed a decrease in the symptoms of the participants who followed the sessions. In addition, they had less difficulty letting their thoughts go.

Improve the immune system

In a study, researchers found that following vaccination, the level of antibodies to the influenza virus was higher in meditators than in a control group. In addition, the increase in this rate was proportional to that of brain activity in the area related to positive feelings (the left prefrontal cortex).

woman in meditation

How to meditate ? Meditation in practice

According to the different schools, and there are many, meditation can be practiced standing, sitting, walking, eyes open or closed, silently or repeating a word, the mind concentrated on an image or not. There do not seem to be any large difference in the effects of one form compared to another, the most decisive element being an assiduous practice.

To be well understood and integrated, meditation training should take place within a certain framework: stress reduction workshops, pensions, classes or meditation groups. This is important for good habits (practice, adequate posture, etc.).

We now find a lot of resources on the Internet that allow us to learn meditation and meditate alone. Most come in the form of guided meditations accompanied by music or sounds. These aim to bring about inner calm or to gain easier access to states of relaxation, vigilance or creativity, for example.

If you want to start alone, here are some techniques that can help you focus, since they occupy the mind, and thus limit the occurrence of parasitic thoughts.

Meditation on breathing

This is probably the most common technique today. This consists in being aware of the air which penetrates the body, which is expelled from it, which still penetrates… As breathing is a permanent and infallible movement, it gives a stable anchor to the attention span.

Body scanning

The person is seated, his back straight and is carrying out a mental scan of his body. This exercise must be done without judgment, and makes it possible to become aware of any tensions or painful points.

Meditation using a mental image

The individual imagines a precise image, and must focus on it. He can imagine a tree, the sea, or anything that inspires him.

The use of a mantra

The individual repeats a mantra (sacred formula), a personal expression or a syllable (“aum”, for example). He can repeat them mentally, articulate them without making noise or pronounce them out loud. In the latter case, the vibrations caused from the vocal cords are supposed to bring the body to good dispositions.

Meditation using an object

The person is staring at an object near them. This can be the flame of a candle, an image that is dear to it or even a drawing of geometric shape

The word of the specialist

Meditation is a millennial practice that emerged in India over five thousand years ago. Around 600 BCE, it spread to Japan and to Asian countries.

In the 18th century, meditation techniques arrived in the West, but it was not until 1927 and the publication of the “Tibetan Book of the Dead” that meditation and Buddhist philosophy interested Westerners.
In the 1960s, yoga and meditation techniques became popular and secularized in the West.
In Massachusetts in 1979, with the publication of the mindfulness stress reduction program to treat patients with chronic diseases, meditation entered the medical world.

Meditation is aimed at everyone, including young children. However, people with psychiatric disorders are advised to seek advice from their doctor, who will tell them the most suitable meditation.

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