Meditation Is Worth It
Let’s face it, life is busy. Work, appointments, family, friends, chores and countless other daily activities can lead to the horrifying, body abolishing, mental apocalyptic state commonly known as “STRESS.” However, as we are all guilty of being human beings, most (if not everyone) people find a coping mechanism or a way to unwind from the dreaded “S” word. For example, I hike. After a long stress filled day (or days, week, weeks, month, months etc… you get my point) I personally find going for a hike in nature clears my mind and it relaxes me. It is my coping mechanism to relieve my physical and mental tension brought on by a busy working lifestyle. Others have their own methods, and I am not here to judge but drinking alcohol, smoking, drugs, gambling are a handful of more, and I tread lightly here, ‘deviant’ methods of relieving mental stress. These stress relief methods come at a cost, both in a physical way financially. With that in mind, I am not saying do not do these things and I strongly believe in ‘too each their own,’ rather I am writing this blog to show the benefits of an often-overlooked stress reliever, meditation.
Brief Introduction into Meditation:
Meditation is a practice where an individual uses a technique – such as mindfulness, or focusing their mind on a particular object, thought or activity – to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm state. 
Meditation is a process of training your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts. Over time and repetitiveness, meditation can help alleviate the physical and mental effects of stress. Humans have practiced many forms of meditation for thousands of years, and its beneficial effects are widely accepted but now scientist are conducting studies to quantitatively demonstrate meditations medically therapeutic effects. With over 3000 studies on the benefits of meditation is without a doubt something worth trying and adding into your daily routine.
Here are just a few of the amazing benefits of meditation:
· Meditation helps reduce alcohol and substance abuse. Three studies made with Vipassana meditation in incarcerated populations suggested that it can help reduce alcohol and substance abuse. 
· Meditation reduces stress and anxiety and reduces grey matter density in the brain.
· Lengthens attention Span. Even meditating for a short period may benefit you. One study found that four days of practicing meditation may be enough to increase attention span.
· According to a study conducted at UCLA, meditation strengthens the brain. A team of scientist at the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging, have discovered “that long-term meditators have larger amounts of gyrification (‘folding’ of the cortex, which may allow the brain to process information faster) than people who do not meditate. Further, a direct correlation was found between the amount of gyrification and the number of meditation years, possibly providing further proof of the brain’s neuroplasticity, or ability to adapt to environmental changes.”
· Meditation is good for your health. According to one Harvard University, "Meditation can be a useful part of cardiovascular risk reduction," says Harvard cardiologist Dr. Deepak Bhatt, "It appears to produce changes in brain activity. It also can lower your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, oxygen consumption, adrenaline levels, and levels of cortisol, a hormone released in response to stress," says Dr. Bhatt. He recommends 10 minutes of mediation (your choice in style and type) everyday. 
Some Other Key Benefits
· Lowers blood pressure
· Decreases muscle tension
· Helps chronic diseases such as arthritis & allergies
· Enhances immune system
· Helps with weight loss
· Helps with reduction of free radicals; lessens tissue damage
· Improves cholesterol levels
· Increases serotonin levels
· Resolves phobias
· Helps with focus & concentration
· Increases brain wave coherence
· Improves learning ability & memory
· Improves communication between the 2 brain hemispheres
· Decreases restless thinking
· Provides peace of mind
· Increases self-actualization
· Brings body, mind, & spirit in harmony
· Helps attain enlightenment
· Improves inner directness
· Creates a widening, deepening capacity for love
Mediation for beginners
When first starting out, try not to over complicate things. Please keep in mind that the heart of mediation is about relaxing. Figuring out different meditation techniques and different physical aspects of meditation should naturally evolve over time but always be based around the concept of calmness and tranquility. Finding a distraction free area is a great first step. With little effort and without taking up much space you can make yourself a perfect meditation zone free from life’s distractions. Here are a few tips to help you create that perfect environment:
· Use scented candles
· Purchase a mediation pillow
· Wear comfortable clothing
· Dim or turn off the lights
· Have ‘light’ background music
Remember Too Breathe
Focus your concentration on your inhalations and exhalations, let the thoughts of the outside world disappear, but make sure you are not forcefully trying to ignore them (they need to peacefully fade away). Try breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth at a slow controlled rate. Don’t over think on your breathing as it should eventually become a thoughtless action and your mind will meditate onto something else.
There are thousands of little tweaks you can do to set the perfect environment, breathing techniques and meditation styles (pick and choose what works best for you.) Remember it is what makes you feel relaxed, calm and comfortable that truly matters.
1 Roger Walsh & Shauna L. Shapiro (2006). "The meeting of meditative disciplines and western psychology: A mutually enriching dialogue". American Psychologist (Submitted manuscript). 61 (3): 227–39. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.61.3.227. ISSN 0003-066X. PMID 16594839.
2 Alberto Chiesa.The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.Jan 2010.ahead of printhttp://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2009.0362
Published in Volume: 16 Issue 1: January 27, 2010
Online Ahead of Print:January 7, 2010