We live in a world that is full of stress. We shock our bodies from the moment we wake up to the jarring sound of an alarm clock, to the second we drop off, exhausted, after pulling an all-nighter.
Stress has become such a common part of our lives, that we often forget what it is like to slow down. Being in the moment has become a foreign practice to us, but recent science suggests that not only could practicing mindfulness exercises such as meditation be healing, it might even save our lives.
Meditation does a lot more than just reduce our stress. It can help with the physical healing of our bodies. One study even found that a group of 50 year olds who practiced meditation had the same amount of brain matter in their frontal cortex as 25 year olds. This change isn't just seen in people who have practiced meditation for a long time. Differences can be seen in just a few weeks of meditation.
What meditation does
When you sit down to meditate, you are actively focused on being in the moment. What has happened in the past doesn't matter—it's already gone. What will happen in the future doesn't matter—it's not here yet.
When we focus on breathing, and bringing our mind to a stand still, we are letting go of the stressors caused by the past and the future.
Meditation has been shown to heal very real illnesses, proving effective in fighting high blood pressure, depression, and insomnia. Since meditation works to help relieve stress, it also helps heal injuries associated with chronic stress. Health problems associated with chronic stress include weight gain, mood problems, and physical problems such as headaches and stomach problems.
While no studies have conclusively linked meditation to the healing of acute injuries, there are many anecdotal accounts of people using mindfulness to help them overcome pain and soreness associated with injury.
How you can use meditation to heal yourself
If you're feeling the stressful effects of a busy lifestyle or perhaps a traumatic event, meditation can help you heal. Meditation is especially good for those who are grieving, or have suffered through a painful event, such as a house fire or other major disaster.
Best of all, meditation costs nothing, and can be done anywhere. All you need to do is take a few minutes by yourself, and focus on your breathing. Concentrate on your breath, and if other thoughts wander into your brain, do your best to quell them.
At first, you may not succeed at this, but don't feel too distressed. It's best to start for short periods of time, and gradually work up to longer periods.
If you struggle to keep thoughts from coming into your mind, it can be helpful to count while you are breathing, so you can focus on the numbers as well as your breaths going in and out.
Whether you are simply searching for a way to slow down, or you need real help to deal with mental and physical stress, meditation is a great starting point for yourself. It doesn't hurt to try, and it can give you lasting benefits.