by Yvonne DiVita, Lip-sticking founder
One of my New Year's resolutions is to learn how to meditate. Seems like a silly idea, doesn't it? How hard is it to meditate, after all?
Well, it is hard. To find a secluded place to meditate in complete and relaxed silence, is a challenge. Plus, I'm not able to just turn my brain off. I am surrounded by activity, all day long.
I hear, though, that this activity is not only good for relaxation and spiritual healing, it's also good for the brain.
The Harvard Business Review reports that meditation can lead to better brain health: "Eight weeks to a better brain," written by Sue McGreevey reports on this with detailed information on how meditation can influence our brain matter to "make significant improvements in a variety of symptoms..."
She writes, “Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day,” says study senior author Sara Lazar of the MGHPsychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program and a Harvard Medical Schoolinstructor in psychology. “This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing.”
The article delves into the idea of "mindfulness-based stress reduction" activities, with a link to the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness. In a study with a small group of people, "participants spent an average of 27 minutes each day practicing mindfulness exercises," where their meditation showed changes in "gray-matter density in the amygdala" - via MRIs.
When I think of the word 'mindfulness' I think of using my brain to be mindful. Like, figuring out the shortest distance to a meeting, to avoid being late. Or, figuring out how to complete two tasks at the same time (listen to a podcast while answering email, perhaps). I don't think of it as conducting a seirous mediation session, being mindful of the outcome. That's what I think THEY mean, however.
Mindfulness is more than thinking about accomplishing things - it's a journey of its own, a way of embracing thoughtfulness to increase good health. Yes, yes, yes... meditation, in and of itself, is meant to contribute to better health. Those few minutes each day, in solitude, can bring about a better sense of peace and happiness. It can help you lose weight. It can prepare you for stress you know is waiting around the corner ( a deadline, a family visit, a health issue needing surgery). Meditation can make you a better person.
And, according the study noted in this article, it can change your brain - which, in turn, can change your life. Because, in the end, the brain is the organ of function in our bodies. The brain and the heart are required organs - you must have both to function. However, a faulty heart might limit you in some ways, whereas a faulty brain limits you in many, many others. And, you can replace a heart - you cannot replace a brain. Yet.
Do you meditate? When? Where? How do you feel afterwards? How has it improved your life? For that matter, has it improved your life?