Meditation has surged in popularity over the past few years. Now, it has become one of the most powerful wellness trends and, for some, one of the three main pillars of wellbeing alongside a healthy diet and exercise. While it may have only recently entered the mainstream world of health and wellness, meditation is actually rooted in a deep history of culture and tradition, dating back to thousands of years ago. The question of why we all need to meditate has no doubt been around since then.
Derived from the Latin word meditatum, which means “to ponder”, the term “meditate” was first introduced by Monk Gugi II in 12th century A.D. The practice of meditation has been around for over 5000 years, although its place of origin continues to be a subject of debate. The earliest documented records of meditation were found from the Hindi tradition of Vedantism – one of the world’s most ancient philosophies of self-realization, taught by the Vedas of India. The Chinese Taoists are believed to have developed their own versions of meditation practice later on, in the sixth to fourth centuries Before Common Era.
Over time, pretty much all major religions incorporated some form of meditation into their traditions and rituals. The Buddhists in 500-600 BCE began meditating to increase insight, improve their concentration, and experience tranquillity. Christians meditate on verses from the Bible and reflect on their meaning, aiming to heighten the personal relationship between God and themselves.
The great thing about meditation is that it can be done by anyone, anywhere, anytime, at zero cost. It is not exclusive for people who follow any particular religion; the practice can simply be used as an effective tool for managing stress, moving more calmly throughout your day, clearing your mind, and improving your overall health.
Here are some good reasons for why I believe we all need to meditate:
One of the most common reasons why people meditate is to lower their stress levels. Mental and physical stress lead to an increased level of the stress hormone cortisol, which in effect can disrupt sleep, increase blood pressure, and contribute to fatigue. Meditation functions as an antidote to this; it triggers the body’s relaxation response and helps us gain the clarity of mind that is needed for us to organize our priorities.
The world we live in is extremely fast-paced, and in order to keep up, we usually find ourselves devoting our attention to many different tasks all at the same time. While many of us believe that this is the more efficient route to getting things done, our brains actually aren’t wired to multi-task; our concentration levels drop every time we jump from one task to another. Meditation calls for us to focus on only one specific thing – it can be anything, from a word, an object, or simply the pattern of our breathing. When practiced consistently, meditating can improve our mental focus, which allows for greater productivity, creativity, memory, and problem-solving abilities.
Meditation can also help us improve the way we see ourselves by changing the relationship we have with our thoughts. Many of us subject ourselves to overly negative self-talk; we are constantly criticizing ourselves over the tiniest of things, and we have the tendency to mistake the unreasonable opinions that we have of ourselves as actual facts. Meditation doesn’t involve trying to forcibly push these thoughts away, or pretend as if they do not exist; instead, it calls for us to acknowledge and accept these thoughts so that, eventually, we may learn to let them go.
Reduced symptoms of depression
Meditation has also been adopted by health professionals as a way to help treat patients with mental health issues because of its therapeutic effects on the mind and body. Research has found that meditating boosts serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is believed to have an impact on our mood and behaviour – an imbalance of which, thus, is believed to influence mood in a way that leads to depression. Serotonin is famously referred to as the “happy hormone” for its ability to promote positive feelings such as happiness, pleasure, and even love.
Like anything, meditation takes practice. It is a mental exercise that trains our attention, tests our resistance to distraction, and builds on our level of awareness. The idea of sitting down in one place, closing your eyes, and doing nothing for an extended period of time may sound quite daunting or quite odd for beginners, but meditation is in fact, very versatile. There is a myriad of different meditation types to choose from. Moreover, studies show that meditating for even a short period every day can already be immensely beneficial for your overall mental and even physical health.
How To Start
If you are interested in giving meditation a try, there are several technologies that have been developed to make meditation easy, quick, and accessible to everyone.
The meditation app Headspace was created for the purpose of making meditation simple by offering guided meditations, mindfulness exercises, and countless other features that are meant to make every step of the meditation process much easier on your part. These other features include expert guidance from the founder of the app (a former monk), short meditations for people on the go, fun animations that can help answer all your questions about meditation, as well as articles on topics such as power napping, mindful eating, relationship issues, and much more. The application can be utilized and enjoyed by anyone, from beginner meditators to more advanced ones as well.
Technology is often portrayed as the culprit behind our dissolved focus and cluttered thinking, as it constantly overstimulates our senses and swamps us with never-ending streams of information. It is very interesting to see, therefore, how it can also be used as an avenue for people to practice mindfulness and meditation. Headspace is considered to be one of the best meditation apps that are currently out in the market, but it is important to remember that in order to fully experience the benefits of meditation, we must incorporate this practice into our lives as an everyday habit.