Take Your Time to be Mindful for a Better Living
In today's busy world being mindful is a last option. We are always in a hurry. We multitask a lot. We eat our breakfast on our way to the office. We listen to our ipod while we jog. We talk over the phone while doing our task. Our daily routines run on autopilot. There is no time for mindfulness. The world is spinning fast and we have to keep up with the pace. As a consequence we stress out, we feel overwhelmed and lost our focus. Our fast moving society is pressed with depression, anxiety, mental disorders, not to mentioned the increasing rate of heart problems and high blood pressure.
Today, there are numerous technology gadgets out there to boost up our productivity and help us to relax and be entertained. The smart phones, ipads and ipods are among in the list. They are meant to help us to keep up with the pace and lessen our stress. We rely on them to manage our schedule, to keep ourselves up to date and to boost up our productivity. But, sometimes it can be just too overwhelming. We are overloaded with information, and too much access to everything makes us busier than ever. We live mindlessly, with lesser attention to our surroundings and our relationships. This crazily imbalanced life is what leads a computer scientist and professor of the Information School at the University of Washington, David Levy, to conduct a study on the effect of meditation on workplace. The new study reveals that, meditation, which promotes mindfulness, helps in improving your concentration, memory and lessen your stress.
As cited in the USA Today, in the study, three groups of human resource managers were given a stressful test on multitasking before and after each eight-week period. During the first eight-week period, Levy had the first group undergo a mindfulness-based meditation training, and the second group undergo a body-relaxation training, while the third group did not received any training until after the first eight-week period. The third group was given the same training as the first group during the second eight-week period.
After the first eight-week period, the stress level of the first group had lessen, but not for the second and third group. The stress level of the third group was found decreased only after they undergo the meditation training after the first eight-week period. Besides decreasing the stress level, this experiment shows that mindfulness meditation prolongs the concentration capabilities of the subjects. With mindfulness meditation practice, they are less distracted and switch between chores less often.
In another study at the University of Oregon, researchers found that mindfulness meditation practice is linked with actual physical changes in the brain. Using diffusion tensor imaging, scientist found increases in brain signaling connections in participants after two weeks of meditation practice, and even more increase in this signaling connections as well as an increase in protective tissue called myelin, after a month of practice. They also notice that the participants had better moods after practicing the meditation. "This dynamic pattern of white matter change involving the anterior cingulate cortex, a part of the brain network related to self-regulation, could provide a means for intervention to improve or prevent mental disorders," says the researcher.
Similarly, in another study published in the Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging journal by researchers in the Massachusetts General Hospital, reveals that engaging in such meditation practice for eight weeks leads to changes in gray matter concentration in brain regions involved in learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking.
Other findings from earlier studies involving mindfulness meditation includes:
- Meditation leads to neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to change structurally and functionally. This denies the belief of the past century that the brain stop changing after adulthood.
- Meditation practitioners have thicker cortical walls than non-meditators. The thickness of cortical walls are associated with decision making, attention and memory. The thicker cortical walls means their brain are aging at a slower rate.
- Meditation improves alertness. A study on three groups of students, whereby one group were asked to sleep, another to meditate and the third to watch television, results in the group who meditate was the most alert among the three groups.
- Meditation helps reduce blood pressure level. The relaxation from meditation practice forms nitric oxide which opens up the blood vessels.
- Meditation slow down HIV progression. HIV positive patients who practice meditation show no decline in lymphocyte content, the white blood cells which is important in the immune system.
- Meditation can reduce pain intensity by 40% compare to morphine which reduce pain intensity by only 25%. Meditation helps by reducing activity in the somatosensory cortex and increasing activity in other areas of the brain.
In conclusion, rushing and multitasking does not do us any good. It only makes our life miserable. These studies suggest us to slow down and take the time to meditate daily. We do not have to be in confinement to meditate. We can meditate while doing our daily routine. Just keep our attention to our inner self and be aware of our thoughts without judging them and let them go. Focus on the sensation of our being and the doing of the task at hand, one step at a time. Keep on practicing it until you are comfortable being in your own body. The patience needed to practice mindfulness is worth the time and effort.