Sep 29, 2014: Think meditation is a waste of time? Here are seven reasons why you are wrong. Sitting in total silence, eyes closed, palms facing upward and mouthing Om, may seem a practice for sadhus. But this very mindful meditation technique can fit perfectly into the mundane lives of nine-to-five working professionals. And you’ll be more than enlightened. Here are seven benefits ti lure you to trying it.
1. Reduces the pain
Certain studies suggest that the pain you experience in your body is suppressed rage. Meditation helps you cool down. Also, though your back or other body areas may be feeling the ache, part of that pain may actually be in your head. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience suggested just 80 minutes of meditation training could cut pain perception nearly in half. In the study, volunteers were given a pain test before and after the meditation training; brain scans using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of pain-reception regions revealed significant changes before and after meditation, too.
Another study found that people who meditated regularly found pain less unpleasant. Apparently their brains were busy focusing on the present and anticipated the pain less, blunting its emotional impact.
2. Charges up your sex life
That’s right. A little mindfulness can go a long way in bed. A recent research suggested that mindful meditation training (in which a person learns how to bring thoughts into the present moment) can enhance a woman’s sexual experience. Turns out, self-judgmental chatter often fills a woman’s mind during sex, keeping her from the full sexual experience. In another study, college girls who meditated were quicker to become aroused when viewing erotic photos compared with non-meditating women.
3. Steer clear of mental blocks
Whether you are trying to get out of a bout of depression or solve a dispute with a friend, doing the same thing in the same way doesn’t always work. Meditation can help a person avoid mental traps that drag out problem solving. After just a few weeks of mindfulness training, volunteers were better at switching strategies for problem-solving than volunteers who were not taught the technique.
This difficulty of letting go of old, habitual and non-adaptive ways of responding for the sake of better ones may underlie many of our everyday difficulties. A married couple that repeatedly gets into the same quarrels and arguments may be able to break the cycle and look at things in a fresh perspective. Clinicians may be better able to offer new ways of looking at a clinical situation. Negotiators may be better at finding novel ways to settle disputes. Managers may be better able to think ‘out of the box’ and replace existing non-adaptive procedures with new and improved ones.
4. Makes you mentally tough
Meditation can protect a person from the debilitating effects of some emotional events. In a study, US marines preparing for deployment spent two hours each week practising mindfulness meditation training for eight weeks. Compared with the marines who didn’t meditate, those who did showed improved moods and working memory (allows for short-term retrieval and storage of information). The training seems to allow individuals to stay alert and in the moment without becoming emotional, equipping them with a mental armour.
5. Helps you keep cool
Both novice and experienced mediators in the study practised compassion meditation (widely practised by Tibetan leaders), which involves focusing on loved ones and directing loving-kindness toward them, and then extending that goodwill to all beings indiscriminately. When participants heard emotional sounds, such as a distressed woman crying or a baby laughing, they showed more brain activity in brain regions linked to empathy while meditating than when not meditating.
6. Helps you focus
City denizens tend to suffer from mild ADHD. And smart phones, laptops, wi-fi and the opportunity to essentially contact anyone at any time, compounds the problem of distraction. Then how does one stay focused? The Zen practice of ‘thinking about not thinking’ boosts your attention span by freeing the mind of distractions. A brain-scan study results showed that Zenmeditation training, in which a person stays alert and aware of their breathing and posture while dismissing wandering thoughts, led to different activity in a set of brain regions known as the default network, which is linked with spontaneous bursts of thought and wandering minds. Their brains were also quicker to return to this Zen mode after being distracted compared with those who had no meditation training.
7. Bulks up the brain
A few Om chants may make you smarter, suggests research on the effects of meditation on the brain. A study found that long-term meditators (who practised various techniques, including Samatha, Vipassana, and Zen) have larger amounts of folding, of the brain’s cortex than people who don’t meditate. The extra folds may allow the meditators to process information faster than others.
Another study found that people who meditate also have stronger connections between brain regions and show less agerelated brain shrinkage. The bulking-up in white matter was seen throughout the brain, the researchers said.