In the spirit of World Mental Health Month in October, our in-house Naturopath, Maddie Lewin, has delved into the importance of meditation and mindfulness for a healthy mind, body and soul. Learn all about meditation practice, from the basics of what it is, to the scientific evidence that highlights the many benefits of pressing pause, turning inward and finding a moment of stillness in this fast-paced world.
WHAT IS MEDITATION?
Meditation is simply the act of focusing your mind on stillness for a period of time. Mindfulness is the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something. There are a vast array of ways that you can find stillness within your mind. I will share some of these practices with you and how-to guides in part 2 of our Meditation blog series.
I often describe meditation and mindfulness as the act of being consciously in the present moment. When we are stuck in our thinking mind, thoughts flow in one after another. We are either thinking about the past or future and are therefore not allowing ourselves to be in the present moment. Without slowing your thoughts and quieting the mind, you may live your whole life rarely being in the here and now.
WHY SHOULD I MEDITATE?
Personally, I will only incorporate something into my routine if I fully understand why I am doing it. In understanding the benefits of meditation, it then motivates me to practice it regularly as an act of self-love. A wealth of scientific studies have been performed over the past few decades on the vast benefits that meditation has on both individuals and society as a whole.
1. To Reduce Stress
Meditation is a key way to reduce stress levels. A study from the University and Kentucky had 174 individuals undergo a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program to assess the effects of meditation on perceived stress and psychological well-being . The results showed a direct link between the amount of time spent meditating and the extent of improvement in perceived stress levels and psychological well-being.
2. To Improve Productivity & Focus
We have all been there, when our to-do list is a mile long and you can’t for the life of you focus on the task at hand. The frustration and anxiety that arises when you are not in the mindset to be productive, when you know you need to be, is such a common issue. As mindfulness can be defined as paying attention to the present moment, a recent study, concluded that mindfulness training may improve participants’ abilities to reorient and maintain their attention . With the clear benefits in increasing productivity and improving concentration, it is clear why some of the most successful businesses in the world – Google, Nike and Facebook to name a few, are ultising mindfulness practices within their workplaces.
3. To Get a Better Sleep
Sleep is vital for a healthy body and mind. According to the Australian Department of Health, one third of Australians experience insomnia at least once in their life . Within my Naturopathic practice, I find that the clients who have difficulty in falling asleep do not have any other point in their day in which they can take a moment to pause. Due to this, when they do finally go to bed at night, their brain is still busy with thoughts of their day, inhibiting them from falling asleep. By having even a short amount of time set aside each day for mindfulness meditation, our brains can catch up and find stillness. In doing so, you are working towards cultivating better focus, presence and joy in your life.
4. Meditation & Cortisol
Our stress hormone, ‘cortisol,’ is often out of balance due to the pressures of modern society. When we are in a constant state of doing, with a constant flow of thoughts, it can lead to an increase in cortisol. When cortisol is imbalanced, it can lead to stress-related health issues that commonly afflict our society such as insomnia, anxiety, depression and adrenal fatigue. According to a study from the Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand , mindfulness meditation lowers the cortisol levels in the blood and therefore suggests that it can lower stress levels.