Flitting about like a hummingbird, dancing around every thought, whim and compulsive urge is how many of us go about our day. With an extremely high level of external stimulation hitting us from all angles (the computer screen, cell phone beeps, television commercials, radio jingles, shimmering billboards, etc.), giving our brain a rest is getting harder and harder to do.
Some people just don’t take the time to sit quietly, and thoughtlessly yet mindfully examine their state of being. Many of us claim to be too busy, disinterested or skeptical of the benefits a little time out of mind can provide. But science continues to uncover the truth that sitting quietly, slowing our thoughts and relaxing our brain may do more for us than we think.
Meditation, from its rise in popularity in the late 1960’s to its revival among millions of modern peace seeking yogis, has proven beneficial on so many levels. It is not only physically relaxing, it also helps make us smarter and feel less stressed.
According to a group of researchers from UCLA, meditation can change the structure and size of the brain. This means it supports a delayed onset of aging, brain shrinkage and dementia. In addition, when brain scans were taken pre and post participants’ meditation sessions, researchers found that the subjects’ gray matter in the hippocampus, which governs learning and memory, increased, while the gray matter in the amygdala, an area associated with anxiety and stress, decreased.
I can understand why people are reluctant to get off the couch and go for a run, but I am perplexed why anyone wouldn’t want to meditate. It is just a tad bit harder than watching television, and that is not saying much. If all of us spent just a fraction of the time we spend surfing the internet, posting updates on Facebook and checking our email, in quiet meditation, we’d all be a little smarter, less stressed and perhaps even happier as a result.
For those of you who have never tried to meditate, or who have dabbled in it unsuccessfully, please try and try again. What do you have to lose? Perhaps just some of the gray matter that makes you feel over anxious and stressed. Who wouldn’t want to shake that?
February 27th, 2012