Meditation is a set of techniques of ancient origin, related to the oriental tradition, especially to the Chinese and Indian cultures.
Due to its proven benefits, it is currently the focus of hundreds of scientific studies, which aim to measure its impact on well-being, prevention or treatment of various diseases, in addition to intellectual and emotional improvement.
Briefly, we can define meditation as mental training, focusing on developing mindfulness for the present moment, bringing greater awareness and self-knowledge.
– and free of charge – we can include the practice in our routine, achieving results in a short time.
Check out, in this article, the reasons why meditation has been so recommended by health professionals and appreciated by its practitioners.
When we look for information about how meditation came about, we come across religious contexts.
Although it is possible that even prehistoric peoples already experienced meditative states, since they did not have writing to record their practices, it is customary to attribute the origin of meditation to the Hindu (India) and Taoist (China) texts – which date from 1500 BC to 300 BC – the origin of the techniques.
Over time, meditation was widespread in the East, always linked to spiritual issues.
Only in the second half of the 20th century did techniques begin to become popular in the West.
In the 1970s, the cardiologist and professor at the Harvard Medical School (USA), Dr Herbert Benson, conducted studies with his hypertensive patients, adapting traditional meditation techniques to use them as aids in health promotion.
Benson’s work was an important milestone in understanding the benefits of meditation, detaching it from its strictly religious character.
There is certainly no problem in pursuing meditative techniques as an exercise in spiritual uplifting or, as Buddhist meditation proposes, in enlightening consciousness.
Validated by Science
However, by adding positive evaluations of science, we broaden the scope of interest in practice, since we remove it from an exclusively mystical understanding.
The contributions of meditation, therefore, do not depend on a commitment to any specific faith or religious rite. Everyone, without restrictions of philosophical and ideological inclinations, can experience the advantages of meditation, noticing rapid improvements in the overall quality of life.
Another mistake that deserves unique clarification concerns the reduction of the act of meditating to the habit of a lotus posture, to arrive at null thinking.
Neither posture is necessary – one can meditate walking, for example – and much less, absolute exclusion of thought is viable. We can’t “think about anything”!
What meditation proposes is the focus of attention, with a greater focus of thought – that is, practically the opposite of what common sense postulates.
Why did meditation suddenly become so popular? Entrepreneurs, children, the elderly, creatives … People of the most different profiles adopt the practice and report real benefits.
As each profile has a particular lifestyle and goals, we could not imagine that the effect of meditation is identical for everyone. Each legitimizes it in its way.
However, there is something in common with all the testimonials you can find. Meditation is defined as something that improves processes.
Happiness, success, productivity, tranquillity. We identify our purposes with different words, but they all point to a sense of full enjoyment of life, with the development of skills that we consider essential to our well-being.
Therein lies the question: how can we invest in these goals, consciously and continuously, considering that we are primarily responsible for the success – or not – in our challenges?
Meditation vs Happiness
Note: you enjoy your happiness to the extent that it is present at the moment it happens. You are more creative or productive when you are immersed in a project, focused, open to insights.
Regardless of which forms of meditation are applied, they offer, precisely, the possibility of greater integration with the moment, increasing the perception of both the body and emotions.
Meditation does not empty the mind. She cleans it. It provides clarity, organization of ideas, understanding of the behaviour of feelings and physical responses.
This keen self-knowledge – which is not magical or complex – strengthens our ability to act. Our control over experiences. In this way, we enhance our being and being, which brings more quality to our time and choices.
Benefits of meditation
If you think that the benefits of meditative practices are fanciful, subjective, without concrete evidence, it’s time to change your mind! We are not appealing to beliefs: we are talking about scientific proof!
Among the positive results of the meditation habit, according to empirical research carried out since the 1970s, we can mention:
- helps in controlling anxiety ;
- reduces stress and illness resulting from this condition;
- assists in the treatment of hypertension;
- increases cardiovascular protection;
- promotes relief from chronic pain ;
- mitigates the symptoms of depression ;
- improves the immune system;
- enhances memory, learning, concentration and reasoning;
- favours the quality of sleep, with a decrease in insomnia episodes ;
- allows greater control over moods and emotions.
How to learn to meditate alone?
Do you know what mindfulness meditation is? The term began to be used in the first publications and scientific experiments that analyzed the effects of meditation on the health of individuals.
In the last decade, mindfulness has gained even more prominence, with hundreds of academic studies that validate the technique of “mindfulness”.
Although at its base, there are precepts of Buddhist meditation, the practice is devoid of religious characteristics.
In summary, what mindfulness proposes is a state of concentration – in the body and thought – with great emphasis on the observation of breathing as a resource for improving attention.
It is possible to rely on training to develop the “focus on the present” skill. However, as mindfulness does not require fancy postures or advanced philosophical knowledge, it is ideal for practitioners looking to meditate in a simplified and autonomous way.
Mindfulness: train your brain!
We breathe automatically. Why would we waste time to analyze something we do without realizing it? Basically because, when we learn to pay attention to something so intuitive, we are calling on our brain to develop a skill that extends to other areas.
The problem is that we don’t just breathe unconsciously. We also eat, walk, react in a state of distraction, with chaotic thoughts or disconnected from the action we are taking at the moment.
Without realizing it, we let the automatic mode reach much of our routine. We are so busy with the past and the future that we lose quality in the present.
The more we divert our attention from what we are experiencing, the more anxious, depressed, unproductive, stressed and unhappy we feel. This impacts our physical and mental health, according to science.
Mindfulness techniques aim to interrupt this alienation, stimulating the potential of the attentive and active brain, at the time of our actions.
As this is a workout, this type of meditation calls for routine interferences, which develop new thinking habits.
It is recommended that the practice be performed for at least 15 minutes, daily. However, as you refine your concentration, you will find that the exercises occur naturally, incorporated into your most mundane activities.
- Start with the basics: breathing.
Take a quiet moment to concentrate exclusively on your elementary activity.
Sit down, comfortably. It can be in the lotus or Indian position if you prefer. The exciting thing is to seek an upright posture, as the perception of the body will be facilitated.
Notice the air coming and going. Pay attention to the parts of the body that move with this flow. Feel the rhythm of inhalation and exhalation.
The mind may want to be distracted. Persist, turning your attention to your body, your muscles, your sensations with the air. In other words, rescue the focus when he runs away from you.
With habit, performance improves and becomes a valuable resource to relieve stressful situations.
- Meditate walking
Look for space where you can walk without significant concerns about deviations or interruptions.
The idea is to pay attention to the sensations of the body. Feel the foot touching the floor, the rhythm of the steps, the distribution of weight according to the movement, the posture, the swinging of the arms …
Imagine yourself discovering how walking works. Investigate your details. Focus entirely on actions – without haste.
- Activate the taste
We often eat while talking, watching television, checking our cell phones, thinking about the next tasks to do.
By adopting mindfulness exercises in some meal situations, we have the extra benefit of enjoying the flavours more intensely, enriching the palate.
Try exercising with fruit. Wash it, as if you were discovering it by touch. Realize its physical characteristics, such as colour, shape, weight …
Feel its aroma. When you bring it to your mouth, explore all its textures. Close your eyes and pay attention to every flavour you can identify. Make chewing a slow ritual, with small pieces at a time.
Since fruit – or any food that seems appropriate to you – offers a particular, concrete and rich point of analysis possibilities, this strategy is beneficial as a form of meditation for anxiety.
Anxious people find it very difficult to locate themselves in the present. The object outside the body, therefore, can represent an exciting resource for the control of thoughts and concentration in the “now”.
- Make bathing a meditation experience.
See that we are punctuating a series of routine activities and, through them, calling for breaking the distracted way.
As the bath is in our daily life and allows privacy, why not adopt it as a training moment for attention?
Feel the temperature of the water in contact with the skin. Inspire every aroma of the hygiene products you use. Notice the touch of the foam. Look for awareness in every gesture you make.
- Create moments of mindfulness
As you can see from the examples, mindfulness is very accessible and intuitive. Ask only for dedicated observation. Therefore, it is possible to apply the principle to different circumstances. We need to generate the occasion.
Prepare a coffee with this arrangement. Drink a glass of water, take care of the garden, fold your clothes, listen to the sounds of the environment. Invest your gift of senses.
Meditation is easy and natural when we start to experience it. In a month of practice, your mood, reasoning and self-control will already show encouraging results. Do the test!