Daily meditation improves overall health

A growing number of doctors and Americans, in general, are finding that even brief stints of sitting quietly and breathing deeply can improve concentration, lower stress and maybe even reduce your risk of disease. Put simply, meditation can be good for your health.

According to new research, people who meditated for about 30 minutes a day for eight weeks had measurable changes in gray-matter density in parts of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress. The study, which was published in the journal “Psychiatric Research: Neuroimaging,” indicates that meditation directly impacts health.

“Meditation isn’t a religious belief or about positive thinking,” says Sharon Salzberg, author of “Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation” and a mediation teacher. “Nor does it require a special background or education. Meditation can be practiced by anyone almost anywhere.”

According to Salzberg, meditation can be any of the following:

* A training in concentration so that you can steady and focus your attention, and have less distraction in your life.

* A way to practice mindfulness, which refines your attention so you can connect more fully and directly with whatever comes your way.

* A way to experience and practice loving kindness, a compassionate awareness that opens you up to becoming more inclusive of individuals and their differences.

In our diverse society, overloaded with information and too many choices, these benefits can help you navigate through distractions, think more clearly and focus on what matters.

If you’re interested in meditation, you can start by:

* Setting a timer for five minutes and sitting in a comfortable position. Despite all the photos of nimble swamis and yoga practitioners, there’s no requirement that you sit on the floor. A chair will be fine, so long as both feet are squarely on the floor.

* Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Don’t try to control your breathing. Just focus on how your breath feels going in and out of your body and let your thoughts go. If you find your mind wandering, bring your attention back to your breath.

* Practice this three times a week to start. You can then gradually increase your practice to 20 minutes daily, or you can practice more frequently by remembering to breathe before answering the phone or while stuck in traffic.

For more information on the technique and benefits of meditation, check out Salzberg’s new book, “Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation.”

Remember, meditation is a cumulative practice — the more you incorporate it into your daily life, the more you’ll feel its benefits.

Courtesy of State Point

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