3 specific benefits of mindfulness
The other day, I was walking to work when it started to rain. At first, all I could think about was how annoyed I was for forgetting an umbrella, and dreading the remaining five blocks left to get to the office.
Realizing there was nothing I could do, I took a moment to center myself. With each step, I let go of the small aggravations. It was then that I started to notice the peaceful sound of the rain hitting the sidewalk and the soothing feeling of the water against my skin. I visualized my troubles and aggravations being washed away, and there was something about seeing it happen – seeing my worries wash away – that empowered me to begin my day with a clear head and heart.
You may not realize it, but what I just described is meditation. Meditation is a state of being that we learn, and eventually we can learn it so well that we become it 24 hours a day. After years of meditation training, I’ve conditioned my mind to live in the present moment, not in the past or the future.
The good news is that it doesn’t take long for meditation to make a measurable impact on your brain. In fact, it can take as little as eight weeks.
The lasting mental benefits are worth it. Researchers found that regular meditation is “associated with changes in gray matter concentration in brain regions involved in learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking,” according to a study published in the journal Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging.
Gray matter gives us the power to process information. The more gray matter in a person’s brain, the more intelligent that person is. MRI scans show there are specific regions of the brain where gray matter is linked to IQ – language, memory, and attention span.
How meditation benefits the brain
Better learning and memory skills
Meditation triggers the release of Alpha brainwaves – the enhanced brain state for learning, studying and recalling information. When your brain is releasing Alpha brainwaves, your mind is clear, and you are more receptive to receive and process information.
More emotional control
I used to think I was controlled by my negative emotions. When I started meditating, everything changed. In fact, research shows that meditating on a daily basis helps people effectively manage their emotions.
Jason Moser, author of the study, “Deconstructing the Emotion Regulatory Properties of Mindfulness: An Electrophysiological Investigation,” explains: “Our brain data suggested that after 20 minutes of meditation, peoples’ emotional brain activity was significantly reduced.”
Meditating allows you to look within yourself and reach a deep level of self-awareness –a level that allows you to be an observer of your thoughts. By learning how to observe your thoughts rather than get sucked in, you will feel less overwhelmed and more in control.
Meditation is a wonderful way to bring us back to the present, provide clarity on life’s challenges, and allow us to simply be. As Eckhart Tolle once said, “Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have. Make the Now the primary focus of your life.”