College of DuPage Nursing Student Jean Herrera Pinera shared with Healthy Lombard that if you saw a picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger, you would probably think “There is a man that never skips leg day!”. What you would be surprised to learn is he also never skips head day. More clearly, he trains his mind every day. Twenty minutes in the morning and twenty minutes at night through meditation. There is a vagueness about meditation and its benefits. For most people, it is viewed as just a way to calm down at the moment. The benefits go deeper than that.
Most people decide to try meditation to reduce stress in their life. Although this is the most common benefit, it eventually translates to reduced anxiety. By taking the time to be what is referred to as “mindful” a person can think more clearly about the present and less about the future or the “what if’s” in life. Being present allows for better control of breathing, thereby reducing the elevated heart rate that is associated with high stress or anxiety.
With just a few minutes a night, you can improve your quality of sleep. Saving all that tossing and turning that would usually keep you up. Consciously thinking about the day is a big part of what keeps most people having trouble sleeping. By meditating at the end of the night, allows you to clear your mind before bed. It can be thought of as letting your mind digest the day’s events.
A calm mind is a focused mind. According to a study done on those who were considered novices in meditation, a mere ten minutes a day significantly increased attention span (Norris et al., 2018). Participants were randomized to control or a meditation group, practicing for ten minutes a day in which a ten-minute guided audiotape was listened to, followed by a flanker test. The controls also took the flanker test. The Flanker test is in which a directional target stimulus is flanked by other directional stimuli. The stimuli are either noted as congruent meaning it goes in the same direction, incongruent meaning it goes against the direction of the other stimuli, or neutral where the other stimuli have no direction. The meditation group scored significantly higher following twelve trials compared to controls.
Meditation may not be considered mainstream, but it is a viable choice for health. A healthy life is more than eating healthy and going to the gym, it involves mental health; mental health has been gaining more attention in the last few years. There are different forms of meditation for different people. In the end, the effort is worth the peace of mind it brings.
Norris, C. J., Creem, D., Hendler, R., & Kober, H. (2018). Brief mindfulness meditation improves attention in novices: Evidence from erps and moderation by neuroticism. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 12. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2018.00315