In my own opinion, there is one thing that is more powerful than any other therapy when it comes to combating stress: meditation.
Meditation is something a lot of people don’t fully understand. There is the assumption among some that meditation is somehow ‘mystical’ or that it is necessarily linked with religion. Neither of these things is true.
There are many different types of meditation from transcendental, to mindfulness, to religious meditation but all of them really just have one thing in common: they involve the purposeful direction of attention inward.
Whether it is reflecting on your own thoughts, praying or just sitting silently and trying to clear your mind, meditation involves making the conscious decision to take control of what you’re thinking and to try and stop your thoughts from jumping around everywhere. And when you do this, you will find it has a truly profound effect on your ability to stay calm in stressful situations, to control the nature of your thoughts and to combat many of the negative effects of stress.
In fact, studies show us that meditation can improve the areas of your brain that stress destroys – actually increasing the amount of grey matter in the brain and the amount of whole-brain connectivity. Furthermore, it can help to improve areas of the brain specifically related to motivation, attention and willpower. One study shows that it only takes 8 weeks to see amazing positive changes to the brain and restoration of grey matter in particular.
People who use meditation will usually report that they feel generally calmer, happier and more at peace throughout the day. This results in a better mood, heightened attention and general improvements in cognitive function and productivity.
All these things mean that meditation is actually the perfect antidote to stress and can undo a lot of the damage that stress causes. Apart from anything else, meditation will help you to take a small break from the constant stress of daily life and from the racing thoughts that come with this. More to the point though, it will teach you to take control of racing thoughts at will and simply to put them to one side.
Meanwhile, allowing your brain some time to enjoy this highly relaxed state will encourage the rejuvenation of neurons and the cementing of things you’ve learned through the day.
Finally, it makes sense that areas controlling self-control would develop during the process of meditation. Meditation uses certain brain areas and we now know that the more you use an area of the brain, the more it grows. This works just like using a muscle and is a process known as ‘brain plasticity’.
And by practicing reflecting on your own mental state and being more aware of your own emotions, it only follows that you would become better in controlling it and to avoid letting stress or impulse get the better of you in future.
If you’d like to learn how to get started with meditation, contact me and let’s get started!