With meditation, the first thought that comes to mind is usually of monks in a temple, draped in robes, humming and sitting silent for hours on end.
An ancient practice trapped in time.
To those who have never meditated, it can be a very foreign practice reserved to the counter culture depths of modern society.
Yet, in the past few years’ meditation is exploding into the mainstream with corporate CEOs, professional athletes, college students – just about every walk of life – beginning to harness the power of mindfulness.
Meditation is traditionally “marketed” for creating a life of peacefulness and relaxation.
It’s well proven meditation and mindfulness have a positive impact on stress, anxiety, focus, creativity and even relationships.
But researchers and scientists are discovering the benefits of meditation go far beyond cognition.
We’re discovering meditation actually can change our biology and induce physical transformations.
What Science Says About Meditation
For example, a new study out of Harvard University showed 8 weeks of meditation had the ability to rebuild gray matter in the brain.
Grey matter contains most of the brain’s neuronal cell bodies, which are involved in muscle control, and sensory perceptions like seeing and hearing, memory, emotions, speech, decision making, and self-control.
“Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day,” says study senior author Sara Lazar of the MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program and a Harvard Medical School instructor in psychology.
“This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing.”
Britta Hölzel, first author of the paper and a research fellow at MGH and Giessen University in Germany added, “It is fascinating to see the brain’s plasticity and that, by practicing meditation, we can play an active role in changing the brain and can increase our well-being and quality of life,”
Today, technology allows scientists to measure and collect data on the effects of meditation.
Prior, most meditation claims were brushed off as hippie logic or placebo effects.
But this just isn’t the case.
We’re learning mediation allows us to influence things like the autonomic nervous system – something once thought to be impossible.
Being able to manipulate our own autonomic nervous system, which was inherently named so because we believed we had zero control over it, means we can mindfully impact our immunity, our digestion, our hormones and our cardiovascular health.
All just by breathing and with the power of our own mind.
The biggest barrier for most people starting meditation is figuring out where to start.
Thankfully, you don’t need to go searching for the nearest Tibetan temple.
You don’t even need to leave your own bedroom.
Meditation Apps to Improve Your Life
Getting started with meditation is easier than ever with numerous smartphone apps, computer games, and online courses available.
My personal favorite meditation app is the Waking Up app created by neuroscientist Sam Harris.
The Waking Up app begins with a 50-day course which takes the user through the basics of mediation and mindfulness.
What I really enjoyed about this app is how it’s completely devoid of any spiritual or mystical connotations.
That’s not a critique on anyone’s beliefs, meditation just isn’t a religious practice.
I think it’s a good thing the Waking Up App doesn’t alienate any potential users by veering into the potential spiritual side of things which is often associated with the meditation.
Another effective app is called Headspace.
While each lesson in the Waking Up course is about 10 minutes long, Headspace slowly increases the length of your sessions up in 5-minute intervals.
This can be a better choice for those who want to get even deeper into the practice and spend up to hours in meditation.
Headspace also comes with different guided meditation series which are goal specific sessions like sports, health, relationships, and performance.
You can set a reminder within the app as well to help you keep yourself responsible every day.
Other popular mediation apps include Calm, Buddhify, Omvana, and others.
If you want even more support and even more powerful results, there are many courses online.
To name a few of the best… The Wim Hof Method, Do Yoga With Me, The Free Mindfulness Project, and Dharma Seed.
We would love to know your own personal experience with meditation and any of these new age mediation technologies by leaving a comment in the comment section below.
Are you now thinking of starting a meditation practice?