Meditation: 5 reasons it’s good for you

Meditation: 5 reasons it’s good for you
You have most likely heard that a daily meditation practice is beneficial for your health, and for good reason. The practice has withstood the test of time and has been passed down through centuries and across continents and cultures until today. While people turn to meditation for many different reasons; cultural, spiritual growth or perhaps as a means of relaxation suggested by a healthcare professional, there is no denying the profound benefits even a short daily practice can provide. Hannah Staunton, London based yoga and meditation teacher, gives us her five favourite reasons why you should take up a daily practice, especially during times of uncertainty. Hannah has been leading weekly meditations live on our Instagram and will be continuing to do so for the foreseeable future, as we have all loved doing them so much. It is amazing how powerful even 5 minutes of mindfulness can be in shifting your mindset and setting you up for the day ahead.
 
1.     Supports anxiety, stress and depression 
There are multiple reasons as to why and how meditation practices can help reduce and manage symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression. Stress-related illness is currently one of the most prominent global health conditions and puts huge demand on healthcare systems.
Meditation techniques, along with simple breathing exercises can help balance the nervous system, bringing you into a state of calm. When practiced on a regular basis, these practices can help alleviate chronic and consistent physiological and psychological symptoms of stress. Regulating the breath and prolonging the exhale during meditation naturally activates the parasympathetic nervous system, bringing you into your ‘rest & digest’ healing state.
Start off by breathing in for a count of four, then breathing our for a count of six, then increasing this as you feel you are able to. 
2. Reduces heart rate and cardiovascular disease 
Bringing our bodies into this relaxed state will naturally promote healing and may reduce the risk of stress-related illness or disease. Heightened anxiety results in the increased secretion of stress hormones which can lead to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
Even practicing meditation techniques for only 5-10 minutes per day can have a significant and lasting affect.
 
3.     Cultivates a sense of routine and ritual

It has never been more vital to create a sense of daily routine than it is now as so many of us have had our usual way of life flipped upside down. This is even more important when spending longer at home; time becomes a vortex and days of the week lose their meaning. Bringing more ritual into your day can encourage a deeper intention with your practice which will trickle out into other aspects of your life.

Perhaps start out with a 10-minute meditation each morning – find a quiet, comfortable space and carve out some time for yourself before your day kicks off. When this starts to become part of your everyday routine, try incorporating a sense of ritual – light a candle, cleanse the space, burn some incense or sage and set an intention for your day or week ahead.

 
4.     It can change the way you think and increase brain function

There have been multiple studies on meditation and movement-based yoga (asana) and how it can positively affect the brain. Research shows the capacity for these practices to influence neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to change the behaviour of neurons (chemical messengers in the brain), and sometimes even create brand-new neurons and neurological pathways in response to new activity, movement and sensory stimulation.  

During meditation and yoga we use the mind and body in a different way to normal. We stimulate the senses and learn completely new forms of movement, which can activate dormant parts of the brain and create new pathways – changing the way we perceive the world, ourselves and our environment along with increasing brain function and memory.

 

5.    Helps to instil a sense of presence 

Practicing mindfulness-based meditation techniques can help bring you into the here and now. It can take away from worrying about the future and dreaming of the past. The aim is to pay attention to, and fully acknowledge what arises during practice; accepting any physiological, emotional and psychological feelings in that present moment.

There are many techniques to practice mindfulness meditation, one of which is body scanning – bringing your awareness to each part of the body from the tips of the toes to the crown of the head. This practice can be a great way of not only cultivating presence, but to also creating a sense of embodiment.

By Hannah Staunton

Hannah is a 240hour certified Hatha & Yin Yoga and meditation teacher based in East London. Trained by world renowned teachers such as Bridget Woods-Kramer and Sarah Lo, Hannah is also currently training as a Yoga Therapist at The Minded Institute in Camden with Heather Mason. Her style of teaching draws from many influences and traditions with a strong sense of embodiment, breathwork and meditation. She also likes to weave in elements of yogic philosophy and ancient wisdom wherever possible. Hannah is passionate about making yoga more accessible, inclusive and therapeutic and works with some well-known charities to offer this. Find out more about Hannah at https://www.hannahstaunton.com/.