Sunday 07 April 2024
The Benefits of Daily Meditation
Words by Madelaine Couch
Years ago, when I was at university, I would wake up early and cycle to the local Buddhist centre. Upon arrival, I removed my shoes and stepped into a calm space with other people sitting in a zen-like posture. The room was a complete contrast to the busy city streets outside, where commuters moved from place to place and traffic hummed on. These mornings of meditation helped ease the chaos of the outside world, and took my mind
to a place of quiet.
It’s common knowledge that meditation is good for our health, but how exactly does this ancient practice benefit our wellbeing? Traditional scenes of monks in temples, sitting in rows and chanting, are no longer how the world perceives meditation. This practice has landed in the mainstream, where office workers and managers apply meditation to their daily routine.
Andy Puddicombe is the founder of Headspace, a company offering meditation articles, animations and videos to the public. There is a website and app to help people introduce a bite-sized mindfulness practice into their day. You don’t need to renounce all material possessions and a modern lifestyle to practice meditation.
In his TED Talk, All it Takes is Ten Mindful Minutes, Andy Puddicombe shares how we live busy and frantic lives and asks when we last took ten minutes to do nothing. The mind is our most precious and valuable resource for emotional stability, kindness, happiness and contentment. We depend on our minds for creativity, focus and performance, but we don’t take the time to look after them. Without self-care, we become stressed, overwhelmed, and are no longer present in the world we live - missing out on what’s important to us. Andy highlights how meditation can help us be present, mindful and grateful.
Science now shows that meditation helps relieve stress and improves our social connections. A daily practice reduces inflammation in the body, leading to pain relief and boosting the immune system. For anyone who experiences anxiety, a regular meditation practice activates the anterior cingulate cortex, which
relieves apprehension and improves our mood. Memory and concentration improve in people who meditate regularly, reducing levels of cognitive decline, which keeps our brains and minds healthy as we age. Compassion also increases when we meditate, as we learn to step back from the things that trigger us and look at life through a different lens. We begin to take care of ourselves, increasing self-compassion, which ultimately leads to being kind to others.
So, where do we begin? Meditation is not about stopping thoughts - it’s about stepping back and observing our thoughts coming and going without judgement. Notice the stories you tell yourself and the patterns of your mind. By observing at a distance, you may find you can relax and let these stories pass by. We can’t change everything that happens to us in life, but we can change the way we experience it. By taking a few hours
a week to step back and familiarize ourselves with the present moment, we experience a greater sense of focus and clarity in our lives. Joining Headspace or a local meditation
group is a great place to start.