Every day, millions of people across the world meditate. Some people meditate to relax, others to focus and others to help with issues such as anxiety or sleep. The American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association recommend meditation as part of a healthy lifestyle. And, as the practice becomes more popular, more is coming out about how it helps the body and mind.
So what can meditation actually do for you?
Meditation and your body
In one study, researchers found that eight weeks of mindfulness training lowered stress and blood glucose levels in obese or overweight women. (Mindfulness is a type of meditation that focuses on breathing, body awareness and being present.)
Stress is connected to many functions in your body, which is why doctors are always telling people they need to watch their stress levels. Blood glucose is a good example — high stress can lead to high blood glucose levels. Over time, high blood glucose can hurt the organs and systems in your body, so keeping it low is important, especially for diabetics. The good news is that you don’t need to meditate for weeks to see results. Researchers in Atlanta looked at middleaged men with kidney disease and high blood pressure and found that just 14 minutes of meditation lowered the men’s blood pressures and heart rates.
Meditation and your brain
Much research has focused on how longterm meditation (think years) can help your brain; however, as researchers learn more, they are looking into how shortterm meditation affects your brain. In one study, adults who listened to short, guided meditations for four days reported lower levels of fatigue and anxiety. They also had better mood, memory and executive function (which helps you do things such as set goals, plan ahead, monitor your own behavior and make judgments.)
Another study found that college students who meditated for 10 minutes before an activity or task boosted their learning and memory during the task. The study showed that mindfulness training increased the students’ attention, which helped them focus on the task and remember what they were supposed to do.
So can you find 10 minutes in your day to meditate? Here are some ways to get started:
Simple Meditation Exercise
There are dozens of ways to meditate, so you’re likely to find one that works for you. Here’s a simple breathing exercise you can try. Before you start, find a quiet place, and sit in a relaxed position with your back upright and hands resting comfortably. You may want to close your eyes. Then, clear your head, and focus on the following breathing pattern for five minutes.
- Inhale for 5 counts.
- Hold your breath for 3 counts.
- Exhale for 8 counts.
- Hold your breath for 1 count.
Online Meditation Tools
If you enjoy our podcasts these may also be worth a listen. Find them on the App Store or Google Play.
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- The Meditation Podcast: Half-hour meditations to help you with topics such as self-love, resolving anger and finding your truth.
- Meditation Minis Podcast: Short meditations (15 minutes or less) guided by a hypnotherapist.
- Headspace (app): Guided sessions to help you learn the basics and increase your mindfulness.
- Simple Habit (app): Five-minute meditations for different life situations or specific symptoms.
- Calm (app): Meditations, music, gentle stretching and sleep stories for adults and kids.