Three Reasons to Make Meditation A Habit
Meditation has numerous benefits for our bodies and brains, which is why it gets recommended often as a way to improve our overall health, including our brain health. As the practice becomes more mainstream, it’s becoming easier to access. There is a multitude of meditation apps and programs offering guided meditation to choose from. But for all the convenience and availability, meditation is still a skill that needs to be practiced.
The good news is we don’t have to spend hours practicing or engaging in meditative practice. Research shows that spending as little as one minute in active meditative practice has a wealth of benefits for the body and mind. Even better, long-term meditation can result in increased neural pathways and new synaptic connections.
Here are three reasons to practice meditation daily.
Daily meditation helps improve our memory on two fronts. One is the increased blood flow, which is always a benefit for optimal brain functionality. Studies show that meditation improves blood flow in the frontal and parietal lobes, particularly in the cerebral cortex and the hippocampus. Those areas are pivotal in forming memory and in our ability to perform immediate memory recall.
The second is lowering the stress hormone cortisol in our brain. When we’re stressed, our brain releases higher amounts of cortisol, which then prevents the hippocampus from performing its memory functions optimally. Prolonged stress will begin to impact long-term memory first, but eventually, it will damage our ability to form short-term memories.
Engaging in as little as ten minutes of focused meditation a day showed improved memory over an eight-week period. In individuals with the beginning signs of memory impairment, meditation was able to slow or in some cases reverse the memory problems. However, as with anything health-related, forming meditation as a habit before memory problems set in will lead to stronger memory as we age.
ENHANCE COGNITIVE FUNCTION
Studies have shown meditation can not only minimize normal age-related cognitive decline, but it can enhance cognitive function in older individuals. Multiple studies were done specifically measuring various meditation techniques and their impact on attention, executive function, and processing speed. These studies concluded that daily meditation showed significant improvement, with many elderly participants outperforming non-meditative younger individuals.
As a practice, meditation helps us control the flow and speed of information in our brains. With practice, we learn how to filter out distractions both physical and mental, so that we can zero in on the specific things we want to concentrate or focus on. This ability to quiet our minds will naturally extend into other areas of our lives, improving our productivity levels, increase our decision-making processes, and amplify our problem-solving skills.
Daily meditation not only improves our cognitive function, but it helps keep our cognition flexible, preventing age-related decline. These results were noted after an average of ten minutes a day after eight to twelve weeks of active daily meditative practice.
Stress is generally what prohibits us from falling into deep, restorative sleep. Couple that with a mind that can’t slow down and we can find ourselves awake long after our intended bedtime. Even if we have busy schedules and escalating pressure, quality of sleep matters. And here is where meditation can help.
Research on how using meditation to help reduce insomnia have shown significant improvement after six weeks of meditative practice. Not only did the participants experience ease in falling asleep, but the reported feeling less fatigue during the day.
Meditation, especially when combined with deep breathing exercises, relaxes the body and the mind, helping individuals fall into restive sleep faster. It does this by strengthening the relaxation response in our brain, and as a result, we tend to sleep deeper. And by regulating the autonomic nervous system, we gain more control of those systems, which prevents us from waking easily throughout the night.
In addition, meditation can increase the release of melatonin, the hormone that helps us fall asleep and stay asleep. It can reduce our heart rate, decrease our blood pressure, and regulate our mood. All of this helps with sleep, but it also improves our stress response throughout the day, keeping sleep-disrupting cortisol levels significantly lower as well.
There is a wide range of different types of meditative practices available so learning these skills with the guidance of a teacher or an app is a good idea. They can help pair specific meditation goals with a type of meditation so that we achieve the results we want. As we build our meditation skills, we can branch out, trying different techniques so that we can always find a meditation style to fit our lifestyle needs.
The key to meditation is to start small, adding it into our daily routine. Even practicing just a few minutes a day will help reduce stress and regulate our mood. As we improve, we will notice sharper focus and concentration, with greater cognitive functionality. It improves our health, our sleep, and our mental processing, enhancing our overall way of life.