What is Meditation?

By: Chris Anderson Psy.D.

Meditation has been documented as far back as 3000-5000 BCE in India and China. Its practices have been passed on for thousands of years and have been of great value to countless generations within humanity. Historically, many cultures and nearly every major religion has used meditation for religious and spiritual purposes and practices. Today, many people use meditation independent of religious customs for their own personal benefits.

Meditation at its most fundamental essence is a mental exercise intended to train and focus one’s own attention and awareness. Meditation for many heightens consciousness and provides a deep calm and focus as well as many ancillary benefits. Many people use meditation as a means to quiet reactive and negative thinking which tends to derail concentration in the moment.

What are the Benefits of Meditation?

Learning to quiet the mind and the distracting chatter of our inner dialogue is beneficial enough for many people. Studies have found that as little as 10 minutes daily of meditation helps to increase alpha waves in the brain which is associated with increased relaxation, improve focus and concentration, and promote a sense of calmness. Many find that it helps them to silence negative thinking, stop ruminating and dwelling on events from the past, stop worrying about future concerns, and refocuses them in the present. For many, this translates into a reduction in depressive and anxious feelings and thoughts.

Meditation helps to reduce stress and the production of stress hormones in the body such as cortisol. These stress hormones are responsible for fatigue, increased blood pressure, and cloudy thinking to name a few. By reducing these stress hormones people feel more at ease, sharp, and alert. Meditation has been shown in numerous studies to improve physical conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, and other chronic pain disorders. For some, meditation practices become a method of gaining more insight and self-awareness which can be a springboard for deeper change in oneself.

Mediation has also been shown to be effective in improving people’s attention and concentration for sustained periods of time and even have some positive benefits for age-related memory issues. One form of meditation called Metta has been shown to help increase compassion towards self and others. Transcendental meditation has been shown to have some positive effects on addictions by reducing cravings for alcohol and food. Sleep issues are a problem for nearly half the population at some point in their lives. Studies have shown that those engaged in meditation tend to have fewer issues with sleep as they are better at relaxing the body and stopping the racing thoughts that keep many people awake.

How Do You Meditate?

There are a wide variety of methods and focal points that can be used in meditation. For most entry-level beginners, they are encouraged to find a quiet place that will not have noise and interruption. You can sit up or lie down, close your eyes, and simply focus on your breathing. There should be no effort to control the breathing, simply be aware of the breaths and peripherally the movements of your body as your chest or diaphragm rise and fall. In the beginning, it is typical that the mind will wander. Simply try to catch your thoughts wandering and steer your attention back to your breathing. For beginners, even 2-4 minutes can be a challenge. With time and practice, most people are able to increase the length of their meditation. Consistency is more important than duration. Duration will increase over time. As noted above, even 10 minutes daily produces a great many benefits.

If you are interested in learning more about meditation and other mindfulness practices that improve your overall coping, feel free to contact IPC so you can schedule a consultation with one of our psychologists or psychiatrists so we can help discuss treatment options. Please call us now at 763-416-4167, or request an appointment on our website: WWW.IPC-MN.COM so we can sit down with you and complete a thorough assessment and help you develop a plan of action that will work for you. Life is too short to be unhappy. Find the peace of mind you deserve.

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