This is the age of productivity. For most of us the majority of our lives are filled with tasks that will develop and achieve a productive life. The first few decades of life are marked with academic achievements sports successes and extracurricular endeavors that will ensure a successful college and career path. The professional life then commences and we run the proverbial “rat race” and climb the corporate ladder motivated by dreams of golf courses and Caribbean cruises in our retirement years. However far too many discover that retirement doesn’t provide the solstice they had hoped for and as the allure of retirement grows dull new hobbies are taken up to satisfy the yearning for productivity yet again. While it is true that different seasons of life can be marked by various levels of stress and chaos many find their lives and minds to be plagued with a whirlwind of activity which frustrates all attempts at rest and relaxation. As a result most adults in the prime of life are falling victim to the effects of constant stress manifested in disordered sleep hormone imbalances gut issues and changes in mood.
The mind and body must rest. They must learn to break from the swirling activity of the day and the fitful thoughts of the night. Rest promotes focus clarity balance and mental and emotional health. It is a form of energy and strength that can allow better productivity because it promotes better health.
Meditation is one of the simplest and most useful tools for promoting rest in both body and mind. It is a practice which has transcended ages cultures and religions. It is not a defined practice with a list of rules but it is an art that can be exhibited in various forms. To meditate is simply to focus the mind for a period of time. It allows the mind to empty itself from all the external thoughts and actions of the moment and to simply rest in stillness for a time. Thoughts worries pressures and tasks are constantly battling for our attention and therefore meditation takes routine practice. However once learned meditation is a powerful tool for stress-management and relaxation. Considering the fact that stress contributes to many modern-day health problems its management is vital for continued health and restoration of the body.
Meditation is especially beneficial for combating stress. Stress is a powerful reaction by the body in response to pressure trauma illness and fear. Individuals who witness tragic events such as war veterans and first responders are particularly prone to the debilitating effects of stress. However it is also recognized in those who have experienced chronic or traumatic physical emotional or sexual abuse at any point in their life. When the body responds to stressful situations it produces hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline which prepare the body to withstand unusual circumstances. These hormones increase energy production and promote awareness and vigilance. While these are critical responses when rescuing a victim running from danger or trying to meet a deadline being in this “fight or flight” response continually will destroy health and the body’s ability to heal. Meditation has been shown to help ameliorate the negative effects of stress by promoting healthier levels of stress hormones and subsequently promoting a more relaxed state of consciousness.
Meditation is also useful for individuals who experience unhealthy amounts of worry fear and hypervigilance. The brain is controlled by numerous chemicals called neurotransmitters. The smallest change in neurotransmitters can affect our central nervous system and contribute to unhealthy moods feelings and impressions. Meditation by nature encourages the brain to relax and restore neurotransmitters to healthy levels. This can positively impact thoughts feelings and our perception of our environment and circumstances. Meditation therefore is often used to help cope with difficult moods and may help balance awareness and responses to situations.
Cognitive health and function may also benefit from regular meditation. The practice of meditation trains the brain to focus on single tasks and moments. When practiced regularly it will become easier to prioritize tasks and complete them with increased focus and attention. Oftentimes our brains are flooded with an abundance of thoughts all attempting to fight for our attention and leaving us exhausted distracted and disorganized. Training the mind to ignore incoming thoughts and focus on the moment can be a powerful tool for productivity and diligence. Meditation therefore is useful for promoting optimal cognitive health and function leaving us more balanced in our tasks and satisfied with our accomplishments.
Meditation is such a simple tool with the ability to gently enhance mood cognition and emotional and mental health. Ten minutes each day is a sufficient amount of time to gain the benefits of meditation and it can be engaged in almost anywhere and at almost any time. We diligently focus on the essentials of good health including diet exercise sleep and hydration. Perhaps for many it may be time to add meditation to this list in light of the increasing prevalence of busy lifestyles and chronic stress. Taking a few minutes to calm the mind should be a welcome treat to any individual.