By Ciara Heverin
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I’ve written in the past about the positive effects of meditation. Meditation is the habitual process of training your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts.
It’s bringing our attention to what we want in our lives; do we want to feel happy and calm or stressed and anxious? Daily mindfulness and meditation helps us to cultivate how we want to feel.
More and more people are discovering its many health benefits. You can use it to increase awareness of yourself and your surroundings. Many people use it as a way to reduce stress and develop concentration.
People also use the practice to develop other beneficial habits and feelings, such as a positive mood and outlook, self-discipline, healthy sleep patterns, and even increased pain tolerance.
Much research has been carried out over the years showing the positive effects of meditation. With advances in technology it is now possible to physically see the effects through MRI scanners. Thousands of people have been put through MRI scanners to measure the level of activity in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. This is the area of the brain concerned with happiness and positive emotion. Studies have shown that the happiest people in the world are Tibetan Buddhist Monks, primarily due to the fact that they spend much of the day sitting in meditation.
More and more research has been carried out into the benefits of meditation to treat depression and anxiety. One review of treatments given to more than 3,500 adults found that mindfulness meditation improved symptoms of depression. A meta-analysis including nearly 1,300 adults found that meditation may decrease anxiety. Notably, this effect was strongest in those with the highest levels of anxiety.
Much has been written about the effects of lockdown on people living alone. Long term social isolation is detrimental to our physical health. However, in one study, 153 adults who used a mindfulness meditation app for 2 weeks experienced reduced feelings of loneliness and increased social contact compared with those in a control group.
Other research has found that the mental discipline you can develop through meditation may help you break dependencies by increasing your self-control and awareness of triggers for addictive behaviours.
Meditation helps people learn to redirect their attention, manage their emotions and impulses, and increase their understanding of the causes behind their behaviours.
One study in 60 people receiving treatment for alcohol use disorder found that practicing transcendental meditation was associated with lower levels of stress, psychological distress, alcohol cravings, and alcohol use after 3 months.
Meditation may also help control food cravings. A review of 14 studies found mindfulness meditation helped participants reduce emotional and binge eating.
Some types of meditation may particularly increase positive feelings and actions toward yourself and others.
Metta meditation is a type of meditation also known as loving-kindness meditation, begins with developing kind thoughts and feelings toward yourself.
Through practice, people learn to extend this kindness and forgiveness externally, first to friends, then acquaintances, and ultimately enemies using our imagination to send love and kindness to people we love, people we’re having trouble with and then to all beings. Did you practise this?
A meta-analysis of 22 studies on this form of meditation demonstrated its ability to increase peoples’ compassion toward themselves and others.
One study in 100 adults randomly assigned to a programme that included loving-kindness meditation found that these benefits were dose-dependent.
In other words, the more time people spent in weekly metta meditation practice, the more positive feelings they experienced.
Another study in 50 college students showed that practicing metta meditation 3 times per week improved positive emotions, interpersonal interactions, and understanding of others after 4 weeks.
The ‘Calm’ app is a wonderful tool to learn meditation through. It also has some other excellent features; morning and evening check-ins, guided meditations for kids and many other really good features. The initial instalment is around 49 euros but considering it’s features and positive effects, it’s money well spent in my opinion. If budget doesn’t extend to the app, commit to 10mins each morning just sitting on a cushion with a candle burning, before anyone else in the house is up and either sit focusing on your breathe, practising a loving kindness meditation or following the many meditations available on YouTube.
Whichever you decide on, commit to it. Note how your feeling before and after. Record this in your journal. And as always, if you could like some help bringing in some positive changes to your life, drop me an email and we can set up a meeting. My first introduction meeting is complimentary.
Ciara Heverin is a qualified Primary School Teacher with 15 years of experience in the classroom. Four years ago she took a career break to do a masters in Applied Psychology and Psychology Coaching to measure the results of the Positive Psychology and Mindfulness approach she developed early on in her teaching career, when teaching children with severe Dyslexia. Since completion of her MA, she has qualified as a Yoga, Meditation and Mindfulness teacher for children and teens, has lectured in both Education and Psychology in UCC and St. Patrick’s Teacher Training College, Drumcondra and UCC, uses her Positive Psychology and Mindfulness technique to coach individuals to wellness and career success. She now lives in Ibiza where she teaches yoga to kids and coaches adults online.
Contact Ciara on:
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- Email on [email protected]