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Three Signs That You Would Benefit From Meditation

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There aren’t many of us who wouldn’t benefit from meditation. In our hectic modern world, simply dedicating 20 minutes a day to peace, quiet and reflection is an act of self-care, giving us the space we need to slow down and switch off. However, there are times in life when the need for meditation can feel particularly keen, and if you recognize these signs, it may be time to start, ramp up or recommit to your meditation habit. 

1. You are tired more often than not

Feeling exhausted all the time is a common issue for us modern humans. So many of us drag ourselves out of bed, power ourselves through the day with caffeine and then – despite feeling tired all day – find it difficult to sleep at night. Every month in the USA, people type “tired all the time” 18,100 times into Google, a small hint of just how many of us feel dogged by fatigue. 

This kind of weariness seems to be a symptom of our increasingly demanding lives, and many of us wish for more motivation and energy. With more energy, we wouldn’t spend our work days in a waking doze, banking up unfinished tasks and creating stress. It would also be easier to achieve our goals in other areas of life – it’s not unusual to find ourselves crashed out on the sofa when we do have any spare time, rather than doing any of the stuff we aimed to do. 

Meditation gives us some of the rest we need in life. By focusing our mind on a mantra, practicing yoga or embracing mindfulness, we soothe our mind and body into a state of deep relaxation, allowing ourselves to switch off in a way that’s otherwise hard to achieve. This, in turn, gives us the energy boost we need, and generally makes us feel that little bit more awesome throughout the day. 

2. It feels like you have no time 

Time is something of a preoccupation in today’s culture. Our whole lives are defined by the almost arbitrary whims of the clock, in a way it would probably be difficult for our distant ancestors to imagine. Instead of following the cyclical, seasonal and celestial-based timekeeping of early humans, whose major concern was keeping the tribe fed and safe, we sacrifice much of our time to earning money and squeeze everything else in whatever time we have left. 

The result is a feeling that we simply don’t have enough time to pursue our own hobbies, build our relationships, or to just laze about if we fancy it. The speed at which the world zips by imbues us all with a false sense of urgency, where any delays or mishaps feel like an absolute disaster. Amongst the rush, we can forget about what’s actually important. 

While meditation can’t stop the clock, it can slow the pace of life a little through a change in our perception. Meditating every day provides us with a sense of calm, increasing our focus so we can appreciate the small things in life. Furthermore, because meditation can make us more productive, we tend to work through tasks with more speed and accuracy, giving us more time to simply enjoy ourselves.  

3. ‘Stressed’ is your default state 

It’s pretty normal to get stressed out every now and then, but being stressed all the time is a completely different matter. Unfortunately, like tiredness, the feeling of being constantly under pressure is something an awful lot of us can relate to. Chronic stress can make life feel far less enjoyable, as we are rarely “in the moment” but always thinking about whatever’s nagging away at us. Too much of this, and life begins to feel like it’s nothing but a meaningless list of chores and worries.  

One of meditation’s most famous and well-research benefits is reduced stress. With stress causing havoc for our health, sleep and mental wellbeing, it’s this benefit which is perhaps the most far-reaching of all. 

In many respects, meditation (in all its forms and throughout the ages) has been developed to direct the mind away from the mundane and everyday, in order to experience glimpses of the deeper truths in life. It may well be this which helps us rise above persistent worries and daily frustrations, making stress something we can manage without becoming overwhelmed.

posted May 13 by N.yogetha

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Yoga and meditation have both become increasingly popular in the Western world, and practitioners praise their psychological and physical benefits. Current research also suggests that meditating and doing yoga can boost overall well-being and resilience to stress factors. A new study suggests that yoga and meditation are beneficial for physical and mental well-being and that they improve resilience to stress.

Increasingly, yoga practice and meditation have been the focus of research aiming to test their benefits. Recently, Medical News Today has reported on a wealth of studies pointing to many different advantages of yoga and meditation, including countering cognitive decline, acting on genetic factors that predispose individuals to stress, improving lower back pain, and easing depression. A new paper published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience now shows that yoga and meditation appear to have a positive effect on the central nervous system as well as the immune system and that it may improve the individuals' overall sense of well-being.

How yoga, meditation benefit the mind and body

The study - led by Dr B Rael Cahn, from the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles - was part of a larger body of research addressing different approaches to promoting resilience.

Yoga and meditation may improve resilience

Dr Cahn and team worked with some of the participants at a 3-month yoga and meditation retreat. At this retreat, the participants engaged in daily meditation and yoga practice, and they followed a vegetarian diet.

Of the 200 participants (both male and female), 98 volunteered to participate in tests measuring particular biomarkers. However, due to a lack of funding, only 38 volunteers (19 male and 19 female) underwent these assessments.

Additionally, due to circumstances that rendered some of the data unusable, biological samples collected from 26 of these volunteers were analyzed.

Many participants had previous experience of practising yoga and meditation on a frequent basis, including Shoonya and Samyama meditation, Hatha yoga, and pranayama.

The participants were assessed both before and after participating in the yoga retreat. They had to undergo:

  1. psychometric tests that collected data about their psychological well-being, mindfulness, and psychological involvement

  2. measurements of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is a protein that promotes the survival and growth of various nerve cells and is involved in immune response, metabolic regulation, and resilience to stress

  3. assessment of the "cortisol awakening response" (CAR), which measured the secretion of cortisol, a hormone involved in the interaction between the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal gland (also known as the "HPA axis")

  4. measurements of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokine levels, which are involved in the functioning of the immune system

After analyzing the data, the team found that engagement in the yoga and meditation practices at the retreat was associated with decreased anxiety and depression levels - as reported by the participants - as well as with an increase in their level of mindfulness.

From a biological point of view, the scientists noted an increase in BDNF plasma levels, as well as a strengthened CAR, suggesting improved resilience to stress factors.

The data also showed an increase of an anti-inflammatory cytokine (interleukin-10) and a corresponding decrease in a pro-inflammatory cytokine (interleukin-12), which led to a reduction of inflammatory processes.

"It is likely that at least some of the significant improvements in both HPA axis functioning as exemplified by the CAR as well as neuroimmunologic functioning as exemplified by increases in BDNF levels and alterations in cytokines were due to the intensive meditation practice involved in this retreat," suggests Dr Cahn.

Potential benefits to the nervous system

The researchers believe that the various biological improvements gathered from the collected data indicate an enhanced overall sense of physical and psychological well-being.

They highlight that their results may point to an enhanced functioning of certain elements of the central nervous system, a healthier immune system, and a strengthened sense of focus and awareness.

We don't provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. See additional information.
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