Do we find ourselves, needlessly dwelling on negative situations for long periods of time, unable to detach ourselves from our thoughts? This is a problem shared by all of humanity. The mind is an equal opportunity misery provider. When a troubling thought gets stuck in "instant replay" mode in our head, we feel quite helpless in being able to get rid of it. The more personal the situation, the longer it takes for us to get over it.
An argument with co-workers, a friend, or family member can wear us down and leave us feeling stressed and frustrated. There is no simple solution to this. Our lives are so busy and we're multi-tasking to a degree that we've never done before that we are left with very little time for reflection and processing. We carry the stressful thought around with us, which can affect our relationships and perhaps even our workplace performance.
We don't take the time to contemplate the important role the mind plays in our life and how much it affects our emotional behavior, physical health, and perspective on life's daily happenings. It acts like a sponge that absorbs everything it perceives through the senses. Everything we see, hear, smell, taste, and touch creates an impression in the mind. We are not conscious of most of the impressions going into the mind because at any given moment, we take in hundreds of sights and sounds. It's not possible for us to be aware of all the impressions. Factually, we can only recall and be cognizant of just a fraction of everything that enters the mind.
Just as eating too much healthy or unhealthy food can lead to indigestion, if we're not doing something to keep the mind healthy, all of these impressions, thoughts, and experiences can act like indigestion for the mind. We can all agree that indigestion of any kind is not a pleasant experience. Controlling what we eat and exercising regularly can help. The problem with our mind is that we have little to no control over it. It runs freely all day and all nightlong. It's trying to process the unlimited amounts of data it is receiving from its environment and all of this processing is causing us stress that we aren't aware of.
Previously, meditation was thought of as a practice that was only used by Hindu and Buddhist practitioners to understand the difference between the body and soul, body and mind, and one's connection to God. More recently, scientific research is indicating that the same type of practice is helping people of all backgrounds - secular and religious - lower stress, anxiety, depression while increasing emotional intelligence and productivity.
According to a November 2014 article in Scientific American, "...meditation produces actual changes in the brain, as shown by brain scans and various techniques. People who meditate not only have a greater amount of brain tissue in some regions, but they also can withstand stress better and react faster to certain types of stimuli."
The same article further states "Other tests in our lab have shown that meditation training increases one's ability to better control and buffer basic physiological responses--inflammation or levels of a stress hormone--to a socially stressful task such as giving a public speech or doing mental arithmetic in front of a harsh jury."
There are a variety of meditation practices that one can engage in to experience the benefits. The more popular ones involve focused breathing. In this exercise, a participant tries to keep all of their attention on the inhalation and exhalation of their breath. The mind does wander off and starts daydreaming and making plans, but as soon as one becomes aware of this, one brings the attention back to their breath. Another type of meditation encourages the participant to get in touch with feelings and sensations in the different parts of their bodies. Most of the day, we are so outwardly focused, that it's a big stress reliever to take deep, purposeful breaths and become aware of what you are experiencing in the moment.
The mind is very much like the CEO of our life. It has almost total control of how we feel, our emotions and how we respond to the stimuli around us. This naturally spills over onto our personal relationships and overall health. Working non-stop while being undernourished is bad for health. Our mind is working 24/7 and we hardly stop to think about its health and nourishment. Meditating for 10-15 minutes everyday can provide the much-needed relaxation our mind needs to remain healthy for the rest of our lives. We eat, sleep, and bathe everyday, to keep our physical body clean and refreshed, so why not meditate regularly and do the same for our mind?