What’s the first image that comes to mind when you think of meditation?
You might immediately envision monks in a temple, draped in robes, humming and sitting silent for hours on end.
To those who have never tried mediation, it can seem like a very foreign practice only found in the counter-culture cracks of modern society.
But the ancient practice of meditation has been anything trapped in time.
Not only has it gained a mainstream following among corporate CEOs, professional athletes, college students and more. But this ancient practice has been shown in modern times to have measurable benefits for the mind and body.
Meditation is traditionally "marketed" for the remarkable sense of peacefulness and relaxation it can create.
It’s been well-proven that meditation and mindfulness can have a positive impact on stress, anxiety, focus, creativity and even relationships.
But researchers and scientists are discovering the benefits of meditation go far beyond just cognitive benefits.
We’re finding out that meditation actually has the ability to change our biology. These changes have been shown to induce physical transformations.
Benefiting from meditation is more than just mind over matter. That’s because it can literally improve your mind … by improving the gray matter in your brain!
For example, a new study done by Harvard University showed that eight weeks of meditation had the ability to rebuild gray matter.
Gray matter contains most of the brain’s neuronal cell bodies. The gray matter includes regions of the brain involved in muscle control and sensory perception. That is, seeing and hearing, memory, emotions, speech, decision-making and self-control.
The senior author of the study is Sara Lazar of the MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program. Lazar is also a Harvard Medical School instructor in psychology. Here’s what she has to say …
"Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day.
"This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing."
Britta Hölzel, first author of the paper and a research fellow at MGH and Giessen University in Germany, added,
"It is fascinating to see the brain’s plasticity and that, by practicing meditation, we can play an active role in changing the brain and can increase our well-being and quality of life."
That’s an intriguing modern twist on this ancient practice — the ability to actually measure and collect data on the effects of meditation.
Before that, so many of the claims for meditation were brushed off as "hippie logic" or placebo effects.
But this just isn’t the case.
We’re learning that mediation can allow us to influence things like the autonomic nervous system, something once thought to be impossible.
Being able to manipulate our own autonomic nervous system, which was named that way because we believed we had zero control over it, is huge.
This means we can mindfully impact our immunity, our digestion, our hormones and our cardiovascular health.
All just by breathing and with the power of our own mind!
The biggest barrier for most people starting meditation is figuring out where to start.
Thankfully in 2016, you don’t need to go out find the nearest Tibetan temple.
You don’t even need to leave your own bedroom!
Getting started with meditation is easier than ever with numerous smartphone apps, computer games and online courses available.
My personal favorite meditation app is called Headspace, which is a guided meditation app that you can download on your smartphone.
With Headspace, a narrator walks you through each meditation session. That way you’re not on your own, desperately trying to keep yourself silent and still.
The nice thing about it is that you can dial up a few moments of mindfulness no matter where you are — in your office, at your hotel or anytime you need a moment of "me" time.
Headspace keeps track of your progress and slowly increases the length of your sessions by five minutes.
The app even comes with several different guided meditation series. These are goal-specific sessions like sports, health, relationships and performance.
You even can set a reminder within the app as well to remind you to meditate each day.
Other popular mediation apps include Calm, Buddhify and Omvana, among others.
If you want even more support and even more powerful results, there are many courses online.
To name a few of the best … The Wim Hof Method, Do Yoga With Me, The Free Mindfulness Project and Dharma Seed.
We would love to know your own personal experience with meditation and any of these new age mediation technologies. Are you now thinking of starting a meditation practice? Let us know in the comment box below.
Happy and healthy investing,