meditating makes you happier
A few years back, the notion that meditation could bring bliss was something only a swami might swallow. Today it’s an idea that rings true to the ever-increasing numbers of people—from Madonna and Tiger Woods to thousands of ordinary Janes and Joes—who are making meditation a part of their everyday lives.
For years, studies have suggested that meditating can ease chronic pain, lower blood pressure, and reduce anxiety. But University of Wisconsin researchers recently broke new ground, uncovering physical evidence that it may actually make us happier.
A group of stressed-out employees at a biotech company was taught mindfulness meditation and was asked to meditate at home for an hour a day, six days a week, for eight weeks. The researchers measured electrical activity in the volunteers’ brains at the beginning and end of the experiment, and again four months later.
Those who meditated had more activity in the area of their brains linked to positive emotions. “These people weren’t meditating for thousands of hours like monks do,” says Saki Santorelli, executive director of the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester and one of the study’s coauthors. “The study suggests that everyday people are capable of altering their brain function in a positive direction.”
The next step on the research agenda, says Santorelli, is to better define and measure just what mindfulness is, so as to understand more about how it affects the mind and body. Scientists are also looking at how meditation might help some serious conditions, including prostate cancer, asthma, and menopausal symptoms.
What you can do: All it takes to reset your stress-o-meter is ten minutes a day of quiet. To start, set a chime timer (Now & Zen $199.95), sit comfortably, and soften your gaze. Since your breath is always with you, it’s a natural place to focus your attention. Don’t get wrapped up in controlling it; instead, just observe it. Each time your attention wanders, gently bring it back to the steady flow of air in and out of your lungs. If it helps to count the breaths, go for it. If not, just focus on breathing. Believe us—you’ll be healthier and happier.
adapted from Natural Solutions Magazine, January 2005 by Catherine Guthrie
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