Fun Facts About Meditation – Part one
There’s a lot of talk about meditation these days, but what exactly is it? And Why would you want to do it? Don’t stress; I’m going to share a ton of interesting facts about meditation. I’ll also put you on the path to want to start or make more consistent, this literally mind-altering, highly beneficial practice.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
a) What is Meditation
b) Why Would I Want to Meditate – Overview.
c) Why meditate?
- It reduces stress. Understand the Facts About the Science of Stress.
- It Enhances Brain function and Cognitive Ability, Improves Focus, Concentration and Decision Making. Understand the Fun Facts and Science of Meditation.
- You Can Sleep Better.
- Gain Increased Self Awareness, Emotional Well-Being, Resilience & Enhanced Creativity.
- Reduce Anxiety & Depression, + Symptoms of PTSD.
- Increase Self-Esteem, Compassion, Empathy, and Improve Relationships.
- Lowers Blood Pressure, Increases Cardiovascular Health, and Reduces Pain. Meditation Facts.
- Increase sense of Purpose and Spiritual Growth.
- Improved Performance in Sports, Work or Studies.
- Slows Down The Aging Process – Yes, Really!!! More Meditation Fun Facts
Let’s get to part 1!!!
What is Meditation?
Meditation is a way to give your mind a break from focusing on the things that routinely cause you stress and discomfort, either by distracting it from those things or allowing it to let go of judgement around those things.
It’s a practice where you take time out and find a way to focus your attention on the present moment without judgement. It has a massive cascade of positive physical, emotional, and mental impacts, which I will talk about here.
It’s been around for centuries and is a way to calm your mind and improve your well-being. You can do it sitting, standing, or even walking. There are many different techniques, such as focusing on your breath, repeating a mantra, or visualizing peaceful scenes. It is practised as part of many religions and by atheists and agnostics.
It can be self-guided or guided by someone else, in person or on a recording. Meditation is a great way to reduce stress, increase self-awareness and productivity and enhance your overall mental and physical health.
If you’re looking for a way to find inner peace, quiet your busy mind, and improve your health and performance, try meditation!
Why Would I Want to Meditate?
Meditation is a fantastic practice with a wide range of benefits! In today’s fast-paced, high-stress world, its ability to reduce stress, improve mental clarity, and promote overall well-being, has led it to become an increasingly popular practice worldwide.
Meditation can improve so many areas of your life. It benefits physical and mental health and well-being, supporting and enhancing success and performance at work, home, leisure, and relationships. This blog will show you a ton of reasons why you don’t want to give up on meditation just yet, even if you find it challenging.
When I meditate, time slows down, and I get more done with less stress. I feel more relaxed and more focused. It’s why I host a live silent online meditation and journaling session every weekday morning in my Free Facebook Group. Give your mind and body a break and join the daily meditation, whether live or on replay. What have you got to lose?
It’s truly remarkable how such a simple and accessible practice can profoundly impact so many aspects of our lives.
1. It reduces stress – Understand the Facts About the Science of Stress
Anything that reduces stress positively impacts so many other areas of health, well-being and performance. To understand why this is, we need to understand a bit more about our bodies, our biology and the nervous system.
The Nervous System
The nervous system is a complex network of cells, tissues, and organs that coordinates and controls the body’s response to stimuli.
Internal stimuli are things like thoughts and emotions. Physiological sensations such as hunger, thirst, pain, or fatigue. Hormonal changes and biological processes such as heartbeat, breathing, digestion, or immune response.
External stimuli include sight, sound, touch, taste and smell.
It plays a critical role in maintaining homeostasis, or the balance of internal conditions necessary for the body to function optimally. It collects, processes, and transmits information throughout the body, enabling us to perceive, learn, think, and move.
It is split into two parts, the central nervous system, which includes our brain and spinal cord, and the peripheral nervous system, which is divided into two further sections. These are the somatic nervous system and the autonomic nervous system.
When talking about meditation, we are concerned with the autonomic nervous system, which helps to maintain the internal balance of the body, or homeostasis, by regulating functions such as body temperature, blood pressure, electrolyte and other biochemical balance.
The autonomic nervous system contains another two parts, the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
What Exactly is Stress?
When we experience stress, we experience too much or not enough of the internal and external stimuli discussed in the last section.
We may be over-hungry, thirsty, afraid, angry, tired, or injured. We may be overstimulated or overworked, or conversely under-stimulated. There may be sounds which are too loud and light which is too bright. We may have an illness causing our biology to become unbalanced such as low blood sugar, high blood pressure, or a compromised immune system.
It would probably be a good time for me to point out (seeing as I am a planning and implementation coach and all that!) that planning can help ease any of these stress causing imbalances too! Come and join my Free Facebook group to ease your stress and create the life and business of your dreams. Anyway, back to the body and understanding how incredible meditation is for it!
The Sympathetic Nervous System
In all these conditions and more, our sympathetic nervous system kicks in, and our bodies go into “fight or flight” mode to try to keep us safe. It causes us to release stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline that prepare us for danger. This stress response enables our bodies to have the following;
- Increased heart rate: Both cortisol and adrenaline increase heart rate, which helps to pump more blood to the muscles and organs, preparing the body for action.
- Increased respiration: Cortisol and adrenaline increase respiration, which helps to supply more oxygen to the body, preparing it for physical activity.
- Increased blood sugar: Cortisol increases blood sugar levels, which provides the body with extra energy to respond to the threat.
- Suppressed non-essential bodily functions: Cortisol and adrenaline suppress non-essential bodily functions, such as digestion and immune system function, to divert energy to the muscles and organs needed to respond to the threat.
While this response can be helpful in short-term, acute-stress situations, such as running from a predator, chronic stress can harm both our physical and mental health.
When we’re stressed consistently for extended periods, we get sick. How that manifests differs from person to person, but we can develop:
- Cardiovascular disease: Chronic stress is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, including high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, and heart attack.
- Digestive problems: Stress can cause or exacerbate digestive issues such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), acid reflux, and ulcers.
- Immune system suppression: Prolonged stress can weaken the immune system, making us more vulnerable to infections and diseases.
- Sleep disturbances: Stress can interfere with sleep, making it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep, leading to fatigue, mood swings, and cognitive impairments.
- Mental health problems: Chronic stress can increase the risk of developing depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders.
- Physical tension and pain: Stress can cause muscle tension, headaches, and other physical symptoms that can contribute to chronic pain.
All these conditions can further impact our relationships, performance, and decision-making ability. Depressing huh??? Don’t fear; there are an infinite number of tools and strategies you can use to decrease stress. Meditation is one of them! Let’s understand why meditation can help!
Amazing Facts About Stress Reduction
How Meditation Reduces Stress
Meditation slows and deepens the breath, which in turn activates the parasympathetic nervous system. This part of the autonomic nervous system is sometimes called the “rest and digest” system because it slows down bodily functions such as heart rate and breathing while promoting digestion, relaxation and healing. It’s the other side of the coin of the sympathetic nervous system we spoke about above.
The Parasympathetic Nervous System
When the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in, stress is reduced. It counteracts the effects of stress by slowing down the heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and reducing levels of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.
Here’s how the parasympathetic nervous system helps to reduce levels of stress hormones:
- Slowing heart rate: The parasympathetic nervous system slows down heart rate, which helps decrease the release of adrenaline and reduce blood pressure. The heart beats because of a cluster of cells in the heart called the SA node. It sends electrical signals to the heart muscle to make it contract and pump blood. When the parasympathetic nervous system is turned on, it releases a chemical called acetylcholine. This chemical slows down the activity of the SA node, which slows down the rate at which the electrical signals are sent through the heart. This makes the heart beat slower.
- Increasing digestion: When the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, it sends signals to the digestive organs, including the stomach, pancreas, and intestines, which stimulate digestion by increasing blood flow to the digestive system, releasing digestive enzymes, and promoting peristalsis, the involuntary movement of muscles in the digestive tract. These actions help break down food more efficiently, absorb nutrients effectively, and reduce inflammation in the gut. The parasympathetic nervous system prevents constipation and other digestive issues by stimulating peristalsis. Activating the parasympathetic nervous system is crucial for optimal digestion and absorption of nutrients, maintaining good health and preventing digestive problems.
- Promoting relaxation: The parasympathetic nervous system promotes relaxation by reducing muscle tension, slowing breathing, and calming the mind.
- Supporting immune function: The parasympathetic nervous system supports immune function by increasing the production of white blood cells and other immune system components.
The Vagus Nerve
One of the fundamental ways that meditation activates the parasympathetic nervous system is through deep, slow breathing. When we breathe deeply and slowly, we stimulate the vagus nerve. It is the longest nerve in the body and runs from the brainstem down through the body. It plays a crucial role in regulating the autonomic nervous system. By stimulating the vagus nerve, we can activate the relaxation response and counteract the effects of stress on the body.
Deepening the breath can stimulate the vagus nerve in a few different ways.
Firstly, when we take deep breaths, we activate the diaphragm muscle, which is located just below the lungs. The diaphragm is connected to the vagus nerve, so moving up and down during breathing can stimulate the nerve and trigger the relaxation response.
Secondly, when we breathe deeply and slowly, we increase the amount of oxygen that enters the body. This can help calm the nervous system and reduce feelings of anxiety and stress. In addition, slow, controlled breathing can help to regulate the heart rate and blood pressure, which are controlled by the autonomic nervous system, including the vagus nerve.
Finally, deep breathing can also help improve the vagus nerve’s tone. The tone of the vagus nerve refers to its ability to respond to signals from the brain and other parts of the body. When we practice deep breathing regularly, we can improve the tone of the vagus nerve, making it more responsive and better able to activate the relaxation response.
Overall, deepening the breath can stimulate the vagus nerve through a combination of diaphragmatic movement, increased oxygenation, and improved vagal tone, promoting relaxation and reducing the effects of stress on the body.
In addition to deep breathing, meditation can help reduce stress by promoting relaxation and reducing muscle tension.
Studies have shown that regular meditation can improve overall well-being and quality of life. We can train our bodies to activate the relaxation response more quickly and effectively, which can help us manage stress more effectively.
2. It Enhances Brain function and Cognitive Ability, Improves Focus, Concentration and Decision Making. Understand the Fun Facts and Science of Meditation.
We’ve all heard that meditation sharpens your focus, but how does it do it?
Research has shown that consistent meditation can increase grey matter in some regions of the brain.
- Grey matter is a significant component of the central nervous system. Including the brain and spinal cord, it is made up of cells which are responsible for processing and transmitting information in the brain and within the nervous system. It is involved in functions such as muscle control, sensory perception, memory, emotions, and decision-making.
Several brain regions have been found to show increased grey matter in individuals who regularly practice meditation. These areas include the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in attention, working memory, and executive function, and the hippocampus, which is important for learning and memory. Other regions implicated in meditation-induced grey matter changes include the insula, which is involved in self-awareness and empathy, and the cingulate cortex, which regulates emotions and pain processing.
Get more Groovy! Increased gyrification
- Gyrification refers to the process by which the brain’s surface (the cerebral cortex) becomes more folded and convoluted. This folding creates the distinctive grooves and ridges we see on the brain’s surface.
During fetal development, the brain is relatively smooth, but as the brain grows and develops, the surface begins to fold and form these convolutions. This process is crucial because it allows for the additional surface area of the brain to fit within the confines of the skull. This increased gyrification means that more neurons and neural connections can develop.
Several studies have been conducted which have led researchers to believe that meditation can lead to increased gyrification in some regions of the brain. While these studies on meditation and brain structure are promising, they have limitations, such as small sample sizes, lack of control groups, and short follow-up periods. This may be one of how meditation can enhance brain function and cognitive abilities. Still, more studies are needed to fully establish a clear causal relationship between meditation and changes in brain structure.
Meditation has also improved focus and concentration by training the mind to stay focused on the present moment rather than getting distracted by external or internal stimuli.
In addition, meditation can improve decision-making by helping individuals become more aware of their own thought patterns and emotions, which can lead to more thoughtful and deliberate decision-making. This can also reduce impulsiveness and improve self-control.
3. You Can Sleep Better.
Meditation can help you sleep.
- Meditation can improve sleep in several ways. It can help reduce stress and anxiety, which are common causes of sleep disturbances. When the body is relaxed during meditation, it produces fewer stress hormones like cortisol, which can interfere with sleep. Meditation also helps to slow down the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the body’s fight-or-flight response and activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes relaxation and rest. (See point one above for a more in-depth discussion on this aspect.)
- Meditation can improve sleep quality by increasing melatonin production, a hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles. Studies have shown that regular meditation practice can increase the amount of melatonin produced by the body, leading to improved sleep quality and duration.
- Meditation can help to quiet the mind and reduce the “chatter” that can keep people awake at night. By focusing the mind on the present moment and letting go of distracting thoughts, meditation can help people to relax and fall asleep more easily.
Overall, meditation can be a helpful tool for improving sleep. It may benefit people who struggle with sleep due to stress, anxiety, or an overactive mind.
4. Gain Increased Self Awareness, Emotional Well-Being, Resilience & Enhanced Creativity.
Meditation has been found to increase activity in the default mode network, which is a network of brain regions that is active when the mind is at rest and not focused on the outside world. This network is thought to be important for self-reflection, imagination, and creativity. Additionally, meditation has been shown to increase the production of certain brain chemicals, such as serotonin and dopamine, which are involved in mood regulation and motivation.
Consistent meditation increases resilience.
Regular meditation practice can help rewire the brain, promoting changes in neural pathways that can lead to greater emotional regulation and resilience in the face of stress. By training the brain to respond more effectively to stress, we can become more resilient and better equipped to manage the challenges of daily life.
Through working with Anita Kaiser from Anita Kaiser Wellness and then by doing Live meditations in my free Facebook Group, I’ve been able to observe the sensations in my body and how I feel when I’m stressed, and how those sensations calm and change as I begin to relax and come fully into the present moment. This helps me be more resilient in other stressful situations and create safety within my body regardless of what’s going on outside of myself.
5. Reduce Anxiety & Depression, symptoms of PTSD.
Anxiety and depression are both associated with an overactive amygdala, a part of the brain that is involved in processing emotions. Studies have found that meditation can decrease activity in the amygdala, leading to reduced anxiety and depression symptoms. Additionally, meditation has been found to increase activity in the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in regulating emotions and making rational decisions.
Meditation supports mental health.
PTSD is a mental health condition that can develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. Meditation has been found to be effective in reducing symptoms of PTSD in some people. One study found that veterans who practised Transcendental Meditation, a type of meditation that involves repeating a mantra, significantly reduced PTSD symptoms such as intrusive thoughts, hypervigilance, and avoidance behaviour compared to a control group.
6. Increase Self-Esteem, Compassion and Empathy, Improve Relationships.
There is evidence that meditation can lead to increased self-esteem, compassion, empathy, and improved relationships.
Meditation has been found to increase activity in the prefrontal cortex, a brain region associated with positive emotions, emotional regulation, and social behaviour. This increase in activity has been linked to improvements in self-esteem, self-worth, and positive self-regard. We all know that when we feel better about ourselves, we are more relaxed, have more to give, and are more patient and compassionate to others, right?
In addition, meditation practices that focus on loving kindness and compassion have been shown to increase feelings of empathy and compassion towards oneself and others. This can lead to improved relationships, social interactions, and increased feelings of connectedness and belonging. A win-win for ourselves AND those around us!
Improved relationships are another benefit of meditation.
Furthermore, research suggests that meditation can improve emotional regulation and increase emotional intelligence, contributing to better relationships and social interactions. By practising mindfulness and being aware of our emotions, we may be better able to regulate our emotions and respond to others in a more compassionate and empathetic manner.
Overall, while more research is needed in this area, there is evidence to suggest that regular meditation practice can lead to improvements in self-esteem, compassion, empathy, and relationships. Imagine what a different world it would be if we all meditated!!!!
7. Lowers blood pressure, increases cardiovascular health, reduces pain & boosts immune function. Meditation Facts.
Research has shown that regular meditation can help lower blood pressure; we discussed this in detail in point 1. It also improves the ability of blood vessels to dilate and contract properly. These effects have been found to be effective in reducing overall cardiovascular risk, including the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Meditation has also been shown to be effective in reducing pain, both chronic and acute. Studies have found that meditation can activate areas of the brain that are involved in pain processing, leading to a reduction in the intensity of pain perception.
Meditation can have a positive impact on immune function as well as on overall physical well-being. Research has found that meditation can increase the activity of natural killer cells, which are important for immune function, and can also lead to a reduction in inflammatory markers in the body.
8. Increased sense of Purpose and Spiritual Growth. More Fun Facts about Meditation!
Meditation has been found to have benefits beyond just physical and mental health. It can also provide individuals with a greater sense of purpose and spiritual growth, and inner peace. This has absolutely been the case for me. Through meditation, we can develop a deeper understanding of our inner selves, values, beliefs and connection to the world, allowing us to find a greater sense of meaning and purpose. Meditation has been found to increase feelings of compassion and empathy,
9. Improved performance in sports, work or studies.
Meditation improves performance
As we discussed earlier, meditation has been found to enhance cognitive function. This can improve performance in various areas, including sports, work, and studies. By increasing focus, attention and working memory, meditation can help athletes stay calm under pressure, maintain concentration, and make better decisions. It’s also been found to improve reaction times and accuracy in sports and to increase creativity and problem-solving abilities in both the workplace and academic settings.
10. Slows Down The Aging Process – Yes, really!!! More Fun Facts About Meditation!
Meditation could well be the key to anti-ageing science! The cells in our body have protective caps on the end of our chromosomes, which enable them to divide and replicate healthily. They are called telomeres.
As we age, these telomeres naturally shorten; however, when they become too short, the cells can no longer replicate, contributing to ageing and age-related diseases.
Telomerase is an enzyme that plays a crucial role in maintaining the length of our telomeres. It protects our cells from ageing. It does this by adding DNA sequences to the ends of telomeres, which helps to prevent them from becoming too short, enabling them to stay healthy and do their job. This process is important for maintaining the health and longevity of our cells.
Researchers have found that meditation increases telomerase activity and other factors such as low-stress levels, healthy diet, and exercise. Meditation increases telomerase activity, which may contribute to meditation’s anti-ageing and health-promoting effects. Meditation increases our chances of keeping our cells healthy and strong, which may help us stay healthy and young for longer!
That’s all the fun facts about meditation for today!
As you can see, there are a TON of reasons WHY it’d be a good idea for you to start a regular meditation practice. The practice of meditation can lead to a more holistic sense of well-being, encompassing physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
If you’d like to dig deeper into the studies my handy research assistant Chat GPT discovered to write this article, you can find them here.
Take advantage of part 2 of this blog, where you’ll get the lowdown on how to meditate and a guide to meditation techniques so that you can begin to reap the rewards that have been talked about here.
If you’d like to develop a meditation habit, come and join my Free Facebook group where we meditate together every weekday, you can join in live or catch the replay. I’d love to see you there.