There has been a spike in conversations and awareness on mental health lately, especially now that we are amid a pandemic and a lot of uncertainty revolving around it. According to a specialist centre study, by 2020, mental health issues are the second biggest health problem affecting Malaysians after heart disease.
We live in a highly demanding economic environment, and it's not our fault if our mental and emotional wellbeing is off the track. We strive more than ever, working longer hours, juggling between our full-time job, own business, family, responsibilities...etc. Our body and mind are on the run for a minimum of 19 hours a day!
But what is within our control is how we respond to an unpleasant situation. It is usually not what happened to us, but how we react to it is what will protect our mental and emotional wellbeing from getting off balance.
We are all aware of how holding on to an event's negative experience will manifest as stress, anxiousness, fear or depression. The good news is that we have various ways and techniques to heal from such negative experiences, and the only tool we need for it is our mind.
It may seem pretty cliche to you, as this is the most overrated advice you must have heard from netizens and mindfulness gurus, but there is a good reason why meditation has been the go-to for most people to cultivate mental health.
And not until you have tried or understand what meditation is, you will relate to what yogis and meditators have been raving about.
Meditation has become one of the most popular ways among working adults and corporates to boost mental health. This ancient practice is not only for sages or yogis. It is not a practice related to a particular religion and spiritual practices, like many of us mistake it to be.
Meditation is considered a type of holistic healing or medicine. It has the power to produce a deep state of relaxation and a tranquil mind. When you meditate, you focus your attention and eliminate jumbled thoughts crowding your mind, causing your stress. This process can enhance physical and emotional wellbeing.
This practice appears to have a fantastic variety of neurological benefits, such as changes in your body's grey matter volume to reduced activity in the "me" centres of the brain to enhanced connectivity between brain regions.
One of the studies carried out at Yale University found that meditation decreases activity in the brain's network responsible for mind-wandering. Since mind-wandering typically means you're unhappy or demotivated, ruminating, and worrying about the past and future, meditation can help to reduce it.
When your brain, being the "engine" or the "powerhouse" of your body, is in an excellent and healthy state, you will be able to perform well in life and work.
Hormones play a vital role in our wellbeing, and we do have hormones that are considered harmful - if we secrete an excess of it in us. Usually, poor mental health and physical stress are caused by increased stress hormone levels, known as cortisol. This hormone produces many harmful effects of stress, such as the release of inflammatory chemicals called cytokines.
These can disrupt sleep, promote depression and anxiety, aches, hypertension, and other chronic health conditions.
Here is where the benefits of meditation come to play, as research has shown meditation can reduce inflammatory chemicals from being in our body. Furthermore, research has shown that meditation may also improve symptoms of stress-related conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, and fibromyalgia.
- Gaining a new perspective on stressful situations
- Increasing self-awareness
- Reprogram your thought patterns
- Focusing on the present
- Reducing negative emotions
- Increasing imagination and creativity
- Increasing patience and tolerance
Many of us find it hard to meditate. We get ourselves prepared, lay the yoga mat, light the scented candles, prepare the space with serene feels, but the minute we close our eyes to meditate, all our stressful thoughts, past events, traumas appear to us out of nowhere. The truth is, meditation doesn't mean a process of erasing unpleasant thoughts from our minds like we have been told.
Meditation means "to think, contemplate, devise, ponder." If this is the meaning of meditation, why are we even asked to not think of anything when we meditate, making it hard for us? The thought of not thinking of anything is already a thought itself.
In contrary to popular belief, meditation is beyond sitting still and doing nothing. There are many different ways you can practice meditation and achieve inner peace.
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- Written by Durgsh