The Impact of Meditation on Your Mental Health

Today marks the start of Stress Awareness Month, so we’ll be sharing some great ways to unwind and de-stress. A popular technique used by the hero team is Meditation. Meditation helps with controlling our mind and thoughts, to enable us to turn our minds off to feel well and live a happy life. There are a whole range of benefits to your physical and mental health too.

Improved Brain Function

Recent studies, particularly the work of Harvard-based neuroscientist Sara Lazar, have found that meditation may physically change numerous parts of the brain. Lazar (2011) reported that mindfulness-based stress reduction altered gray matter concentration within the left hippocampus, the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), the temporoparietal junction (TPJ), and the cerebellum. These changes in the brain were detectable after participating in a mindfulness training program for just eight weeks, and could theoretically impact cognitive faculties including:

  • learning and memory processes
  • emotion regulation
  • self-referential processing
  • and perspective taking

Reduce Anxiety and Depression

A research paper published in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that mindfulness and meditation significantly reduced anxiety and depression levels among the 22 participants in the study. Perhaps more importantly, 20 out of the 22 participants were still practicing the stress reduction techniques that they learned while undergoing the study at their three-month follow-up. If nothing else, this suggests that the practice is relatively easy to learn and to maintain.

Regulate Sleep

“Meditation appears to have a role in addressing the prevalent burden of sleep problems among older adults by remediating their moderate sleep disturbances and deficits in daytime functioning,” Dr David Black wrote in his 2015 clinical trial, “with short-term effect sizes commensurate with the status quo of clinical treatment approaches for sleep problems.”

Enhance Self Awareness

Some forms of meditation may help you develop a stronger understanding of yourself, helping you grow into the best version of you.

For example, self-inquiry meditation is aimed to help you develop a greater understanding of yourself and how you relate to those around you.

Other forms teach you to recognize thoughts that may be harmful or self-defeating. The idea is that as you gain greater awareness of your thought habits, you can steer them toward more constructive patterns.

A study of 21 women fighting breast cancer found that when they took part in a tai chi program, their self-esteem improved more than it did than in those who received social support sessions.

In another study, 40 senior men and women who took a mindfulness meditation program experienced reduced feelings of loneliness, compared to a control group that had been placed on a wait list for the program.

Meditation Tips

Meditation can help us eliminate negative thoughts, worries, anxiety, all the various factors that can prevent us from feeling happy. Never tried it before? Our Meditation and Yoga Coach Gavin shares his top tips to help you get started:

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Be patient with yourself

Training the brain is like training any other muscle. Be patient and understanding with yourself while you’re learning.

Keep it short

Meditation requires you to use your brain in a very different way. At first, it will take effort. Do regular, short bursts and gradually build up the amount of time you spend during any one meditation session. 

Set a regular time of day

Meditation is a habit, and you’re much more likely to implement it if you set a specific time of day and incorporate it into your routine.

Make it enjoyable!

Meditation is fun. Get nice and comfy, maybe light your favourite candle or put on some relaxing music, and enjoy.

Meditate regularly

To experience the benefits of meditation, you need to do it regularly. Short bursts regularly are far better than attempting a half-hour meditation now and again. 

If you already regularly meditate, it’s important to keep up the practice, no matter how many demands you may be facing. If you’re new to meditation, there couldn’t be a better time to start!

For more information about how you can support the wellbeing of your team or your clients, get in touch below.