Once you know what meditation is, the next big question that often comes to mind is why? Either why should we meditate or why has it become such a big thing? Strangely enough, the answers to these two questions are actually very similar, as the personal and the universal often come together in meditation.
We’ve become very busy in today’s world: sometimes it can seem as if our lives have become one giant to-do list, where we mindlessly tick off each activity as we come to it. We get up, go to work, come home, have dinner, go to bed and then do it all again the next day, then when the weekend rolls around we are either rushing around doing everything we couldn’t get done during the week or we’re so lethargic we do nothing and then suffer serious regret about it when Monday rolls around.
Sheesh! It is any wonder we’ve seen a spike in mental illness recently? According to the results of a study published by the Australian government in 2016, 45% of the population aged between 16 – 85 will experience a mental illness at some point in their lifetime. Even more alarmingly, 30% of those aged 4 – 17 who were surveyed were reported to have been experiencing two mental disorders simultaneously over the twelve months prior to conducting the survey. Given how busy the adults around them are, and how unhappy many of them will be, it’s no surprise that our children are beginning to exhibit signs of stress and anxiety at earlier and earlier ages.
When people get stressed, they start to look for ways to de-stress; something they can do to tune out of the stress and just relax for a bit. Given how luxurious it can feel to relax for even a moment in our busy, over-stimulated world, even the very act of stopping for a moment can feel quite radical. Some people like to read a book, others surf the net or go for a walk; others may fall into a habit such as having a cigarette or over-indulging in alcohol. It is this need to de-stress that has made meditation such a go-to in today’s world, as it is one of the easiest (not to mention cheapest) forms of relaxation. If practiced regularly, meditation can lead to lasting benefits, which further increases its popularity on a universal and personal level. There are no adverse health risks, it’s easy to learn and you don’t even need to leave your house.
But beyond these immediate, short-term benefits, there are several long-term benefits to starting and maintaining a regular meditation practice; not least of which that you will be less affected by stress in your daily life (doesn’t that sound good!). A 2017 study by the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles found that, out of 38 volunteers, those who participated in meditation were found to have more relaxed nervous systems and exhibited less stress overall when exposed to common stressful stimuli. This study also found that meditation caused increased activity in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for regulating our mood, and participants reported feeling healthier, happier and more energetic.
So, when it comes to meditation, instead of asking yourself why, instead ask why not; after all, you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Article by J. Byers