by Hamza (he/him)
In this unprecedented time, filled with uncertainty, anxiety, and fear, we all have our fair share of problems to deal with. Whether it's high school or college seniors being deprived of their remaining senior experience and memories they would cherish forever, or it is kids not being able to see their friends for weeks and feeling lonely, or it is people being scared for their family and loved ones during these times. Our physical and mental health can be ignored in this unsettling situation.
Therefore, we need to have coping mechanisms that take care of us and equip us to challenge the obstacles we face. Meditation is a tool that has helped people for centuries but is now being utilized by millions of people globally to cope with stress, anxiety, and improvement on their overall physical, emotional, mental well being.
Meditation is a powerful and helpful tool that helps a person’s physical and mental health. Meditation, by definition, is a practice of concentrated focus upon a sound, object, visualization, breath, movement to reduce stress, promote relaxation, and enhance personal and spiritual growth.
Originated in India, as meditation spread throughout the world, it also evolved based on the location it was being practiced and taught in.Meditation has very different interpretations and practices in different parts of the world, each practice serving to the people’s needs. We have the opportunity and resources to have meditation fit our daily needs while in quarantine.
Over time, meditation has expanded universally to include several different types of meditation that are widely practiced around the world.
There is Mindfulness meditation, which is the practice of being fully aware and present in your thoughts. This type of meditation can be done while performing daily tasks such as brushing your teeth and playing video games.
The next form is Transcendental meditation which is simply using Mantras, a word or sound repeated that aids concentration, allowing one to experience peaceful and silent awareness of their consciousness. Mindfulness meditation can easily be done at home during our free time, and it can help us put ourselves in a better mindset.
The third type of meditation is Guided meditation, otherwise known as guided imagery or visualization. In this practice, a person forms mental images or thinks of situations that they find relaxing.
The fourth type of meditation is the loving-kindness meditation which is also known as the Metta meditation. This form of meditation is simply reciting positive, compassionate, and well-wishing phrases towards yourself, your family, and to the world, an action that is very valuable now more than ever.
The last major type of meditation that we can do during quarantine, arguably the most popular one, is Yoga meditation. In this meditation, there is a wide range of ways you can benefit. All of the forms of Yoga consist of performing a collection of postures and controlled breathing exercises that focus on balance, concentration, and awareness of your body rather than your surroundings.
All of these forms of meditation can be done inside our homes, and we can use the internet to find resources to guide us through the actions.Meditation has been globally popular for many generations because of its evident physical and mental benefits. For example, practicing meditation leads to improved blood circulation, lower heart rate, and lower blood pressure, thus causing one to have a healthier heart.
A study by Psychosomatic Medicine, a trusted health publication, reveals that people who frequently meditate have lower amounts of lipid peroxide—a damaging compound that hardens arteries and causes atherosclerosis—than non-meditators. Furthermore, meditation has been linked to a more resilient immune system which is more important now than ever.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison did a study in which one group of 25 people did Mindful meditation on a regular basis for months and the other did not. Both of the groups were then given flu vaccines. When tested on weeks four and eight of the experiment, it was found that the group who meditated on a daily basis showed a significantly larger number of antibodies forming in their immune system than the group that did not meditate. This study clearly highlights the physical benefits of meditation.
Alongside the explicit physical benefits, meditation also offers psychological and sentimental benefits, particularly improving one's sleep, a benefit that is a critical aspect for emotional wellbeing. Many people in today’s world suffer from sleeping disorders and a lack of sleep, which damages their psychological development and well being. With a drastic change in our routines, a lot of people are experiencing a drastic change in their sleep schedules.
Numerous studies have shown that daily meditation aids in getting more sleep and a better quality of sleep. A study done by the University of California, Berkeley proved as little as ten minutes of daily meditation improved the sleep of working adults who usually had trouble getting quality sleep. Almost all people face stress and anxiety in their daily lives at some point and with a pandemic going on, it is safe to say that the amount of stress has increased in people’s lives. The “stress hormone” cortisol gets released into our brain by the hypothalamus every time we are in a situation that seems unmanageable or stressful.
Research recently showed that cortisol production decreased significantly in the brains of subjects who participated in a mindfulness program. Stress hormone levels were found to remain at low levels even hours after the meditation sessions had ended. Meditation enhances our physical well-being, which ultimately helps develop a healthier heart and a stronger immune system. Meditation will not save you from any illness or virus but it will help in making your overall health better. It also helps our mental health by reducing and managing stress better, while also allowing for more sleep.
In my own experience, meditation has helped me tremendously while coping with drastic changes in life or simply adjusting to a new situation. I have worked towards incorporating Mindful meditation into my daily life. Focusing on my body, breath and thoughts while playing Soccer, cleaning my room and doing the dishes. Little steps can help us all cope in these challenging times. Because #WeCanTogether!