Happy young woman practicing meditation on blue background

Mind Over Matter: Mindfulness Meditation and its Health Benefits

Group of women sitting on a yoga mats and meditating in a studioCollege of DuPage Nursing Student Taylor Mikrut wrote for Healthy Lombard that it is safe to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented times amongst millions of Americans, and worldwide. Many have lost their jobs, loved ones, businesses, and homes due to the infamous virus that seems to be never-ending. With COVID-19 restrictions becoming more prevalent throughout the states, many Americans are essentially bound to their homes unless they are an essential worker. With more time being spent at home and away from family and friends, individuals are feeling an array of emotions. Feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety have been at an all-time high during the pandemic. There are many ways to ease these feelings and experiences, one of which is the practice of meditation.

Meditation is “the habitual process of training your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts” (healthline.com, 2020), It was originally used as a method to deepen the understanding of sacred and mystical life forces, and traditionally practiced by Buddhists (mayoclinic.org, 2020). Even though those traditions still remain today amongst the Buddhist culture as well as other groups, meditation has transitioned into practice for millions of individuals worldwide to achieve a form of mindfulness. This practice has become more popular over time and been and divided into different categories to more effectively attend to individual needs. There are nine popular types of meditation that include, mindfulness meditation, spiritual meditation, focused meditation, movement meditation, mantra meditation, transcendental meditation, progressive relaxation, loving-kindness meditation, and visualization meditation (healthline.com, 2020).

Mindfulness mediation is the most popular technique which originated from the Buddhist culture. Spiritual mediation and movement mediation are also common in today’s society. Mindfulness meditation focuses on paying attention to thoughts. It essentially involves understanding who you are, what you need, and boundaries that need to be established. Spiritual meditation is more common in Eastern religions and Christianity. Movement mediation may involve yoga, going for a walk, run, or engaging in some type of motion. Certain forms of mediation may already be incorporated into the daily routine of many individuals without actually realizing it is meditation. Surprisingly, it actually plays a huge role in mental and physical health.

There is evidence to support that the practice of meditation enhances the daily life of an individual (mayoclinic.org, 2020). Meditation increases self-awareness, one’s actions, and benefits health and wellbeing. Incorporating mediation into daily life reduces stress, anxiety, promotes emotional health, lengthens the attention span, improves sleep, helps to fight addiction, and more (mayoclinic.org, 2020). In an 8-week study, ‘mindfulness meditation’ was found to reduce the inflammatory response associated with stress (sciencedirect.com, 2013). Additional research suggests meditation helps to improve stress-related symptoms like irritable bowel syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, and fibromyalgia (healthline.com, 2020). Several studies have also been conducted to demonstrate that meditation reduces anxious feelings in adults (havard.edu, 2018 ). The outcomes of one study showed that 8 weeks of mindfulness meditation reduced anxiety symptoms in generalized anxiety disorder and also increased positive self-statements, and improved stress reactivity (sciencedirect.com, 2013) The act of practicing meditation was found to decrease feelings of depression because it facilitated a sense of awareness and peace (havard.edu, 2018). Meditation has been used to help millions of individuals worldwide, especially during times of uncertainty, fear, and isolation.

Based on these research outcomes, it seems plausible to give meditation a try to improve health. While there are no guarantees that it will work, the potential benefit of improved quality of life makes it worth the effort. Meditation is not limited to one particular practice, so taking a walk, doing yoga, listening to music, focusing on thoughts, or meditating are all behaviors that may work. Another added benefit is that meditation is freely accessible worldwide and available at the tip of the fingers and consciousness. The question is what the person wants to gain from the act of meditation.

During this last year the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many losses; jobs, loved ones, businesses, and even homes in the U.S. and worldwide. The ‘new normal’ has cost mental individuals a loss of mental and physical health resulting in feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety. Meditation improves these feelings and is convenient and can be practiced in many ways. In such unprecedented times, it is important to remain focused to move forward in order to combat negative thinking. Meditation may improve quality of life, yielding great benefits for psychosocial and physical health at little to no cost.

 

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