Meditation for Managing Cortisol and Other Benefits


What is meditation?

Meditation is a training of the mind using different sets of practices with the intention of calming the mind and achieving a consciousness state that is otherwise not available in the day to day life. Although by some people meditation is perceived as a religious or spiritual practice, meditation is actually a science-backed way to develop a state of higher awareness. Just like the way people do exercise to train and develop their body, similarly, meditation is done to train and develop the mind. Bill Gates, Narendra Modi, Kobe Bryant, Will Smith, and people from all the other industries have been known to practice meditation. 

It would be very rare that somebody would have never recommended you to practice meditation and raved about its benefits to you and you might have also thought about doing so but could have never gotten it into practice. Doing meditation twice a day for 20 min each is considered ideal, but it’s not easy. Meditation is a skill that you master with time. We recommend our Conquering My Own Everest participants is to start with 2 minutes every day to get into a habit of practicing meditation. As James clear also said in his book atomic habits that habit formation does not depend upon for how long you are doing a certain activity but rather on the number of times you do it. In the excitement of starting something new, it’s very easy to be driven into starting too big. The idea is to make it easy and not challenging else your habit will only last till your willpower does. The point is that you should master the habit of showing up. A good approach that a lot of our CqMyOE participants also follow and looks something like this:

  • Start with 2 minutes around a pre-decided time. Do it for 21 days, and track every day in the calendar or in a mobile app.
  • Assess your continuity from your calendar after 21 days. If you have made it on more than 85% times in your tracker, Double your time for the next 21 days else not.
  • Keep assessing after every 21 days till you reach up to 20 minutes from 16 minutes.

There are many forms of meditation, but one of the methods that are most beneficial and have been practiced for many years is focussed meditation and mindfulness meditation. In this form the person who is practicing focussed his attention on one particular thing or a mantra in order to get the whole attention on the present moment. 

Although meditation is not easy, but just like any other skill with time and constant practice it gets easier and provides umpteen benefits, which we will see in this article along with the science that backs it. 

On a normal routine, our brain is continually processing information at a very high rate. It’s almost like a chatterbox that just does not stop at any time. Meditation does not stop this high rate of information processing in our brain but rather, it slows it down by decreasing the beta wave activity in your brain. Even if you practice meditation for 20 minutes the first time ever, even then these changes can be seen and detected in the fMRI scans. To have more ideas see the image below of beta wave activity before and after meditation in the human brain.

During a pure state of meditation, the frontal lobe which is responsible for processing information and conscious awareness gets inactive, the parietal lobe which is responsible for processing information about our surroundings in real-time and space slows down, the thalamus which is responsible for all the incoming information to us also slows down. 

Source: http://www.researchingmeditation.org/

Benefits of meditation:

  1. According to a study, Meditation is linked to a rising in the level of gyrification, the “folding” of the cerebral cortex as a result of growth. This results in an increase in the brain’s capacity to be process information, be attentive, creating memories, and decisions making. Source: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120314170647.htm
  2. During meditation, our brain actually goes through physical changes. Which is also discussed in a study, that practicing mediation increases the cortical thickness which decreases our sensitivity to pain and hence really supports in dealing with anxieties Source:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1361002/
  3. Meditation is also linked to an increase in the gray matter in the hippocampus and frontal lobe area of the brain, the more the gray matter more is the focus, emotional stability, and positivity experienced. The gray matter is also responsible for the functioning of the central nervous system and is benefitted by meditation. With age, the gray matter decreases for human beings, but it does not hold true for people who practice meditation regularly. Source:https://blogs.aalto.fi/thehumanbrain/2016/09/26/long-term-meditation-is-associated-with-increased-gray-matter-density-in-the-brain-stem/
  4. Regularly practicing meditation reduces anxiety. Meditation loosens the pathways of fear centers to the medial prefrontal cortex ( strong reactions, which happens when we are upset, in this area are responsible for the feeling of being scared and under attack). By loosening these pathways whenever we feel upset makes us feel less anxious and scared. Source:https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/use-your-mind-change-your-brain/201305/is-your-brain-meditation 

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