A few years ago I actually had to have a crack at meditation as part of a yoga lesson I was trialing. It wasn’t anything like I’d imagined and I can honestly say that since then, meditation has changed my life. Here’s my top 5 reasons why meditation is worth a try!
I resisted meditation for a long time in my younger years, for a few reasons. I thought I had to aspire to be the ’empty mind’ yogi sitting crossed legged in absolute peace. Have you ever tried to ‘empty your mind’? Good luck with that. I also imagined a self-important new-agey guru-y type person who thought they knew it all, surrounded by admirers, and generally acting like a bit of a wanker, which was also a turn off. In short, I thought meditation was a load of BS designed to suck me in and empty my bank account.
1. It helps keep you calm.
Yep, truth. It really does. Studies have shown how it does, but my own personal experience has proved it to me. If I meditate first thing in the morning, it means the difference between me loudly, but calmly saying to my teenage son ‘sweetheart, time to get up, come on’. If I don’t meditate, it’s a totally different story. I’ll yell at him in a panic ‘GET UP WAKE UP, GET UP!!’ because we were running late. I know which way I’d rather wake up and would respond better to… and my son agrees!
2. It’s an effective pain management tool
An article published in the Journal of Neuroscience back in 2011, discusses a comprehensive study called Brain Mechanisms Supporting the Modulation of Pain by Mindfulness Meditation. It’s a complex, academic article, but essentially it explains that participants learned how to focus on their breath through meditation training. Afterwards, they felt reduced pain when they meditated, because they didn’t keep their focus on the pain in the present moment. In other words, they were able to regulate their focus away from the pain itself. If you’re not academic it’s pretty intense reading (well it was for me!), but the findings are there in black and white. I haven’t tried managing pain through meditation practice personally, but I would be keen to find out if anyone has and what their experience is with it.
3. Increases your grey matter – literally
In a study from 2009 conducted on 44 subjects, researchers “detected increased volumes of grey matter in the right orbito-frontal cortex and the right hippocampus. These are both parts of the brain which “have been implicated in emotional regulation and response control”. The study continues, this “might account for meditators’ singular abilities and habits to cultivate positive emotions. As well, they could retain emotional stability, and engage in mindful behavior”. This basically means you’re more chilled out and less prone to reacting to situations. You’re also more mindful about putting your brain into gear before you open your mouth. Your brain has literally grown to accommodate the new and improved you!
4. Helps you get creative
A 2014 study on Improving Creativity Performance by Short-term Meditation researched forty Chinese undergraduates, randomly assigned to two groups. One, a short-term integrative body-mind training (IBMT) group and another, relaxation training (RT) control group. The participants’ mood and creativity performance were assessed by a “Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS) and Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT) questionnaire respectively”.
By using meditation for 30 minutes a day over 7 days, participants from the IBMT group “showed improved creativity performance on the divergent thinking task, and yielded better emotional regulation than RT”. The study also found that by “improved emotion” through meditation, “short-term meditation increases capacity to self-regulate emotions and thus improves creative performance”. Basically ideas flow when you are happier and more relaxed after meditation.
5. Increases your ability to multitask
Now this would have been an interesting study to sit in on. In a 2011 study Initial Results from a Study of the Effects of Meditation on Multitasking Performance, two groups of Human Resource personnel had 2 months’ worth of training in both relaxation and meditation techniques. Before and after this training, the groups completed a “stressful multitasking test.” A third control group didn’t receive any training during the 2 month period. I am curious as to what the ‘stressful’ test was! Figuring out section page numbering or numbering list levels for legal documentation used to send my blood pressure soaring, but take your pick. The mind boggles!
Anyway, results in this study indicated that “overall task time and errors did not differ significantly among the three groups. However, the meditation group reported lower levels of stress and showed better memory for the tasks they had performed; they also switched tasks less often and remained focused on tasks longer.”
Those are some pretty impressive, scientifically proven findings, right there. It’s not ‘woo woo’. If you want to increase your performance at work while feeling less stress use meditation! You might just get noticed for that promotion….
Clearly, my younger self has been proven wrong, wrong, wrong. It’s not BS. It’s not designed to empty your bank account and yes, there are always going to be wankers no matter what group you belong to. On the bright side, meditating will help you deal with them much more easily!
There’s a saying around the traps that if you’re too busy to meditate, then you should be meditating. It’s true. It’s too easy to put ourselves on the back burner in favour of work, family dramas and general day to day living. Like anything though, you have to want to, because it’s too easy to make excuses otherwise. It’s why our BathCalm team has created a meditation product that can be used while you’re having a bath that only takes 20 minutes. Meditation really is worth a try; meditate and multitask and feel all the better for it afterwards!