What’s it meditation all about?
Meditation has sometimes received some bad press, often assumed that you have to do it cross-legged on the floor in a loose white cotton shirt, spending hours ‘omm’ing your way to inner peace. Now, for some people, that’s how they meditate and most importantly; it brings them happiness. More recently people are cottoning on to the fact that meditation doesn’t need lots of practice and a new wave of guided meditation has started to flood our headphones being packaged as the newest way to wellbeing. In actual fact, meditation has centuries of history being prominent in Hinduism and ancient Chinese teachings as a way of connecting, not only with yourself but also the world around you.
Mindfulness is used to help connect with ourselves and be more present in the moment (Headspace, 2020). In modern times everything goes at such a fast pace it is sometimes difficult to keep up, instead our minds become so overwhelmed it can’t tell what to focus on results in either trying to place ourselves in the future or reflecting on what we did in the past, missing the most important aspect – the present moment. Guided mindfulness is a meditation practice that enables anyone of any ability to utilize it and harness calming and connecting thoughts. Mastering meditation can quieten negative thoughts, tap into physical and mental wellbeing, increase concentration levels and help us to be mindful in our everyday lives.
The Complete Meditation Pack
Achieving a level of happiness and success that you are content with does not come easy, there is a constant stream of scrutiny and criticism available, comparisons to the lives showcased on social media, unrealistic demands placed by work and expectations put on how and what we should class as a success. What do you do when your true aspirations or how you want to live your life doesn’t align with others expectations, what effect does this have on your health, wellbeing and motivation? Health, happiness, and success can be seen as the pillars to optimal living, all these will be different for every individual depending on their own hopes, dreams and drives. Although unique to the person, the core elements to achieve each are the same. These are; anxiety management, stress reduction, sleep quality, and personal development. All of these core elements can be influenced and enhanced by meditation.
Anxiety management and meditation
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and social anxiety are two of the most common forms of anxiety experienced, across the world around 1 in 11 people suffer with anxiety (headspace, 2020). Many people may not seek professional help but might be aware that certain situations evoke panicky sensations such as sweaty palms, butterflies in the stomach, nausea or an underlying feeling you don’t want to do it. Most people experience this on occasion, such as giving a presentation or going for a job interview. Most people can rationalize this feeling and know the moment will pass. For others, this feeling continues to grow and causes negative issues in their lives, some people will end up avoiding any environment or situation that might risk triggering those feelings of anxiety.
Meditation won’t cure anxiety, but it can help to manage those negative thoughts and emotions that can lead to anxiety being triggered. Studies have shown that regular meditation practice can help relax neural pathways in the brain that control emotional regulation, including anxiety (headspace, 2020). Even if you don’t experience mild to moderate anxiety being able to manage negative emotions and anxious thoughts can help improve your overall mood and ability to explore your own thoughts and feelings.
Stress reduction and meditation
Stress and anxiety are closely linked, acute stress or prolonged levels of high stress can trigger anxiety or anxious feelings around the issues causes stress. We have experienced stress since the dawn of time, it’s a biological reaction automatically triggered to help keep us safe. When danger is recognized the heart pumps quicker, adrenaline is released to keep us vigilant and our bodies divert blood away from vital areas like the gut to our muscles to ready us or either flight or fight.
This reaction happens in everyone, it is very useful for cavemen who have to run or fight dangerous animals, fast forward to today and the danger is you have a deadline approaching with no time to complete it because of a hectic work schedule and you have that family meal you can’t get out of tonight. Our brains can not tell the difference between an animal about to eat us and an impending deadline, it recognizes the danger and alerts the body. The problem with modern-day is triggers for stress are around us constantly from work to home life, trying to keep a social life while still making time to exercise. All these stressors can build up and not only have a negative effect on your mood and happiness but also your health. Those who experience high levels of stress for a prolonged time can be at a higher risk of developing high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and obesity.
A further view of meditation benefits
Back in the late 1970’s at The University of Massachusetts, a professor called Jon Kabat-Zinn was looking into the benefits of meditation to reduce stress for people with chronic illness, what he realised was meditation could be of benefit to reduce stress for anyone. He is often referred to as the founder of mindfulness as he developed the first guided meditation courses called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction.
The foundations of this course has gone on to influence all of the mindfulness courses, meditation apps and resources available today. Kabat-Zin’s original Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction is a course that is still widely recommended and used by people around the world. What guided meditation can do is help people to understand the mechanisms that influence how to be present and tune in with yourself. In relation to stress management meditation allows you to tap into sources that are causing stress, it might not be able to alleviate the stress completely but by being aware of it you can reduce its impact.
Meditation and quality sleep
Sleep is the foundation of overall health, yet getting enough sleep isn’t seen as a priority. During this state of rest, the brain and body completes some essential things that can only happen if it’s given the right amount of time. Whilst asleep, memory and learning is consolidated, the brain flushes out protein and toxins that have built up during the day, muscles and tissue around the body repairs and once all sleep cycles have finished you’re left feeling alert, refreshed and motivated.
It is recommended to get between 7-8 hours of sleep per night, some people might even need up to 9 hours. The UK averages at 6 hours 30mins sleep per night (chemist4u.com, 2018) and the USA average at 6.8hours of sleep (News, 2013) both populations under the minimum recommended time to gain quality sleep. It might not sound too bad, but consistently getting under 7 hours sleep per night can impact on mental health and motivation levels the next day with increased chances of irritability and low mood. Getting under 5 hours of sleep instantly reduces the body’s control of blood sugar levels for the next day which can lead to poor appetite control increasing cravings for high fat and sugar foods. Consistently reducing the body’s ability to control blood sugars over time can cause significant health problems in the long term.
How to achieve better sleep quality with meditation?
What people can find difficult, especially if they’re feeling anxious or under stress is your brain doesn’t want to switch off when going to bed. Instead, it decides to pull out and dissect all the things you’re worried about. Partly, this is the effect of anxiety and stress trying to be acknowledged but also the repercussions of modern-day life, our brains don’t have the natural signals to start slowing down and get ready for rest because it’s under constant stimulation from screens and distractions. Through guided meditation our brains are able to connect with our natural rhythms to relax and get prepared to rest. Meditation has been shown to improve the quality of sleep by helping relax the mind and body promoting the most favorable conditions to fall and stay asleep (headspace, 2020).
Personal development and meditation
Aiming for the complete pack; happiness, health, and success are the basics of personal development as more often than not you can’t have one without the other especially not sustained over a long period of time. Personal development is different for everyone, it might be starting your own business, reaching a promotion, getting fitter or just being able to manage your days without anxiety or stress. Whatever your goal is, taking the core elements discussed in this article seriously will help set you up to be in the best possible mindset to keep going forward.
Using guided meditation enables us to be present and mindful of our inner thoughts, feelings, and conflict providing a platform for self-reflection and motivation. Mindful practices promote motivation, ability to manage anxiety and reduce stress which are all components needed to keep pushing forward towards your goals. On the flip side, mediation also allows us to process and accept any barriers or situations where things don’t go to plan increasing resilience and acceptance.
Practicing meditation isn’t just a trendy gimmick, using the tools and techniques taught through guided mindfulness can allow you to not only tap into your inner thoughts and feelings giving you more control over anxiety management and stress reduction but it can promote quality sleep that boosts mood, motivations and improve physical health.
Using these tools allow for personal growth and a better quality of life. The results are limitless with no catches, all it takes is some commitment and time.Tags: meditation, meditation benefits, sleep quality, stress reduction meditation