To many, meditation is a scary word, one often associated with being spiritual, or with the Buddha, or sometimes religion. Outreach worker at Durham College, Heather Bickle, believes that meditation is centering and grounding yourself. Another word for meditation is mindfulness. Mindfulness creates a feeling of calmness, and relaxation, which reduces stress.
When faced with constant stresses of school, work, and home life we fall into what Bickle describes as ant mode. “Sometimes we get ant mode where we just kind of wake up, we come to school, we do the same things every single day and we almost start wasting our days,” says Bickle.
The American College Health Association did a study in 2013, and found that of the students surveyed almost 90 per cent say they feel overwhelmed by all they have to do. Because of this, many struggle to find ‘me time’. Bickle says meditation is a time to put everything else on the back burner and just focus. Instead of thinking about all the things we need to do and the problems that we’re facing, Bickle suggests taking two minutes to focus on our breath. Something as simple as breathing has many benefits.
Meditation and relaxation are just one of many ways to add mindfulness into your daily life. By spending less time worrying and more time relaxing, the workload will begin to feel lighter.
So what are the benefits of meditation?
Reduces stress and promotes well-being
In a 2014 study called Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-being, Dr.Madhav Goyal, MD. et al, found meditation produced the same effects anti-depressants would on a patient with anxiety and/or depression. “These small effects are comparable with what would be expected from the use of an antidepressant in a primary care population but without the associated toxicities,” Dr. Goyal says in the study.
Helps to quit addictions
In 2011, the Department of Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine conducted a study called Mindfulness training for smoking cessation: results from a randomized controlled trial. When compared against an online program called Freedom From Smoking (FFS), four per cent more of the smokers completed the program using Meditation Training (MT) than FFS. Of the two groups, those who followed the MT were twice as likely to abstain from smoking by the end of treatment.
Harvard researchers found that disease fighting genes are active during relaxation, showing the relationship between our mind, our mood, and our behaviour. “After two months, their bodies began to change: the genes that help fight inflammation, kill diseased cells and protect the body from cancer all began to switch on,” Jake Toby, a hypnotherapist at London’s BodyMind Medicine Centre, said in an article which appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald.
A study conducted at Trakya University (Turkey), showed that stress reduces both mobility of sperm and their count. Along with this study a similar one done at the University of Western (Australia) saw that women are more fertile when they are relaxed as opposed to stressed.
“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves,”
– Gautama Buddha.