If you looked for ways to calm stress or anxiety during the coronavirus pandemic, somebody surely recommended the practice of meditation. And if it wasn’t a friend or family member, it was probably one of us writers at the Optimist Daily. Should you have taken the advice, we hope meditation has put you on a path towards calmness. If not, perhaps we can convince you. Here are 7 ways meditation truly is a prescription for mental health.
Mediation reverses the fight-or-flight response: As humans, we evolved with a primal instinct to fight or flee in the event of danger. The fight-or-flight response, as it’s called, increases your heart rate and blood sugar, while it also suppresses the immune system and produces stress hormones to prepare the body to respond to danger. Although this system is necessary in the face of a real event, the fight-or-flight response can be way too overactive when we’re feeling stressed or anxious. With meditation, you can help the brain turn off this reactive response and shift into a restful state of mind.
Meditation initiates rest: We live in a connected, busy world where we rarely turn off our brains. This means we don’t give our mind or body a chance to reset from stress. Through meditation, you can induce a state of rest in your brain and allow your body to recharge.
Meditation activates resilience: Resilience is the substance that allows you to bounce back and recover in the face of adversity—even when everything inside you says you can’t. With meditation, you tame the fear response that is registered by the amygdala, the part of the brain that senses danger. Since fear and anxiety have a habitual component, over time meditation calms and regulates emotions.
Meditation creates more space in your head: According to Deepak Chopra, people experience 60,000 to 80,000 thoughts each day. By taking the time each day to bypass your thoughts through meditation, you can decrease the activity in your mind and create inner space for more focused thinking.
Meditation creates new pathways in the brain: A study conducted by Harvard University and Mass General shows that after just eight weeks of meditation, participants experienced growth in areas of the brain associated with stress regulation, learning, self-awareness, and empathy. The research also indicated that meditation may enhance your ability to break the loop of fear and habitual anxiety. This study demonstrated that a simple meditation practice can create core changes to affect a rebalance in your biology.
Meditation releases brain chemicals linked to happiness: Meditation has been found to naturally release chemicals in the brain that are often targeted by prescription drugs; the deep state of rest that happens through meditation triggers the release of brain chemicals that are linked to happiness.
Meditation helps you attain balance: Looking at mental health from a holistic perspective, you realize that you are not just the mind or personality—you are part of a larger collective experience. Through meditation, you center yourself within this collective experience and come to understand that you are inextricably connected in all facets of life. Realizing this allows you to attain the emotional balance needed to help you interact with all aspects of life, whether it be positive or negative.