Thursday, October 30, 2014

Why meditate?

Thich Nhat Hanh, peace activist and meditation teacher.
From time to time, I still encounter someone with a negative attitude toward those who regularly practice meditation. The standard criticism is that "navel gazers" are so self-preoccupied they seldom contribute anything useful to society. The good news is that, despite naysayers, mindfulness meditation is catching on even in the Western world, long known for its competitive, multitasking environment. Alex Orlov at the Daily Beast writes:

Plenty of busy people are making time for meditation: Athletes like Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan and Derek Jeter, successful entrepreneurs like Arianna Huffington and Russell Simmons, and even the U.S. Army is hoping veterans can reap the benefits of mindfulness-based training.

So, why should you join them? “Meditation impacts all areas of your life, from mental health to physical wellbeing, and there’s a growing body of scientific evidence to support this,” says (Andy) Puddicombe.

Why Impatient People Should Care About Meditation

Over 3,000 studies on mindfulness have demonstrated that meditating can lower anxiety, increase productivity, improve sleep and memory and reduce your risk of heart attack — in addition to a few dozen more benefits. But why is it especially important for people with little patience?

Well, if you’re plagued by indecision or prone to making poor choices, meditation might help you make smarter calls, faster. One study conducted by The Wharton School and INSEAD showed that just 15 minutes of meditating helped participants concentrate on making a business decision instead of getting distracted by irrelevant factors like sunk costs. The takeaway? Meditating could help you pause and think logically before your next big purchase or investment. 

Another study suggests that meditation might help improve academic performance. Compared to non-meditating classmates, students at a California university retained more information from lectures and scored better on quizzes when they had meditated before class.

Plus, did you know that meditation can change your brain composition — just like exercise can change your body? MRI images taken during one study conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital showed that eight weeks of meditation can increase the grey-matter density in a person’s hippocampus (an area crucial for learning and memory). The images also revealed that participants had decreased grey-matter density in the amygdala, an area that regulates stress and anxiety.

Ready to start reaping these benefits? In honor of the skeptical, fidgety, busy, over-committed and impatient people out there, we present this guide to getting the most from meditation.  

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