On Your Health

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Why Meditate?

Many people make a resolution each year to incorporate daily meditation into their lives but what does meditation really mean? In a nutshell, it is simply “directed concentration." People practicing meditation learn to focus their awareness and direct it to the breath, a phrase or word repeated silently, a memorized inspirational passage, or an image in the mind’s eye.

Keeping your focus in one place helps to remove attention from anxious thoughts and other distractions in your head. Meditation can help quiet the mind and give you a sense of balance and centeredness, especially during times of stress. It can help clear the mind and relax the body. Some say it minimizes mood swings and improves concentration.

Dr. Andrew Weil, who is a world-renowned pioneer in the field of Integrative Medicine and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, has been practicing meditation for 40 years. He meditates for 15 minutes each morning by just sitting and focusing his attention on his breathing and body sensations.

There are some common misconceptions related to meditation.

You don’t have to give up or adopt any religious beliefs in order to meditate. You can incorporate the principles of meditation regardless of your beliefs. You do not have to sit cross-legged on the floor to meditate. You can sit in a chair or even lie down. There are even some who practice moving meditation.  

If you meditate you aren't self-absorbed. Focusing your attention might help you function more effectively as you go about your day.  

Taking time for yourself each day is good for your own peace of mind and is an important part of self-care. There are many studies that show meditation is beneficial.

  • It has been shown to lower blood pressure, decrease heart and respiratory rates and increase blood flow.
  • A study by  psychologist Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn found that meditation is helpful with patients for chronic pain and anxiety disorders.
  • There is research that fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and PMS symptoms can be helped with meditation.
  • Meditation is often used with cancer patients to reduce symptoms of stress.

If used over a period of time, daily meditation can help you become more aware of the everyday aspects of your life and help you avoid the thoughts that cause emotional ups and downs, which will help you to perform daily tasks more mindfully and effectively.

For more tips on meditation, check out the I On Your Health articles Quick Meditation Techniques to Curb Stress and How to Enjoy the Moment.