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Why Meditation Makes You Happier, Healthier and More Successful and How To Get Started

Why Meditation Makes You Happier, Healthier and More Successful and How To Get Started

The benefits of meditation have been talked about for years around mental health, boosted immunity, vitality and creativity. Sounds too good to be true but the good news is science is now supporting that improved well-being, enhanced creativity and a rewired brain are just some of the benefits of daily meditation practice. So what exactly is modern science saying about this ancient wisdom?

The Benefits of Meditation

Meditation reduces anxiety at a brainwave level. A team of researchers at the University of Zagreb in Croatia have published a study on the impact of meditation on brain waves. The EEG brainwave patterns were measured as an indicator of peace. Results confirmed that the effects of transcendental meditation on EEG brainwave patterns and anxiety suggested that meditation is helpful in treating different types of anxiety disorders.

Creativity is enhanced in meditators. In another study published in the Creativity Research Journal it was found that after meditation when participants were given the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking they showed higher than average results for creativity and successful problem solving.

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Job burnout is happen less when you meditate. In a third study researchers looked at job burnout, a syndrome of emotional exhaustion, and found significant reduction in a group who had been meditating versus the control group. This was a clinically important decrease in perceived stress.

Pain is more easily tolerated. A study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research done on chronic pain suffers showed that those who meditated didn’t reduce pain levels but the amount of pain they were having caused them less discomfort than the non-meditating control group.

Interestingly despite these scientific results, meditation is still viewed by many as a hippie practice that borders on religion more than healthcare. In one study 80% of Americans asked said they would rather take a pill to relieve anxiety than sit for 20 minutes in meditation. Perhaps this is because people don’t know how to get started on a practice.

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How To Get Started

If you want to get started at home in a simple meditation practice and see these benefits in as little as 2 weeks, here are 8 simple steps to get you started.

1.Pick a time.

I learned that the best time is when you first wake up. The acronym I learned was RPM for rise, pee, meditate. Why? If you put it off until later in the day, it tends to get lower and lower on the to do list.

2. Make it a habit.

Start by scheduling it on your calendar for 21 days. That’s enough time to get a habit formed.

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3. Avoid distractions.

Find a place where you can sit without interruptions for 15-20 minutes. If you have small children pick a time where they won’t need your immediate attention and tell them they can sit with you but you won’t talk to them until you are done.

4. Comfort is key.

Sitting is recommended more than laying down because your body equates laying down with sleep and you are more likely to doze off if you lay down, Make sure you are warm enough. And there is no need to be in a yoga posture as you sit. Cross legged is fine. Eyes closed if possible.

5. Start by following the breath.

This means just bring full awareness away from anything but inhaling and exhaling. Witness what your breath is doing without trying to change it or control it.

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6. Don’t try to stop thinking.

You have approximately 80,000 thoughts each day. It’s impossible to stop them from coming. The goal in meditation is just to notice when you are thinking and refocus back on the breath. This trains the brain to focus for longer durations without asking it to stop thinking.

7. Don’t compare your meditation to others.

Don’t even compare it to your last meditation. Each one is different. Judging your meditation means that there was a goal you were trying to achieve in the meditation. “There is no try just do” in the words of yoda.

8. Benefits that start in meditation are happening outside meditation.

You will notice the benefits of what you do in meditation, not during the meditation but in the rest of your day. You might notice that you have more patience, more creativity or more vitality.

In the words of Pema Chodron: “Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better, it’s about befriending who we are”

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Last Updated on June 20, 2019

Science Says Guitar Players’ Brains Are Different From Others’

Science Says Guitar Players’ Brains Are Different From Others’

There’s nothing quite like picking up a guitar and strumming out some chords. Listening to someone playing the guitar can be mesmerising, it can evoke emotion and a good guitar riff can bring out the best of a song. Many guitar players find a soothing, meditative quality to playing, along with the essence of creating music or busting out an acoustic version of their favourite song. But how does playing the guitar affect the brain?

More and more scientific studies have been looking into how people who play the guitar have different brain functions compared to those who don’t. What they found was quite astonishing and backed up what many guitarists may instinctively know deep down.

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Guitar Players’ Brains Can Synchronise

You didn’t read that wrong! Yes, a 2012 study[1] was conducted in Berlin that looked at the brains of guitar players. The researchers took 12 pairs of players and got them to play the same piece of music while having their brains scanned.

During the experiment, they found something extraordinary happening to each pair of participants – their brains were synchronising with each other. So what does this mean? Well, the neural networks found in the areas of the brain associated with social cognition and music production were most activated when the participants were playing their instruments. In other words, their ability to connect with each other while playing music was exceptionally strong.

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Guitar Players Have a Higher Intuition

Intuition is described as “the ability to understand something instinctively, without the need for conscious reasoning” and this is exactly what’s happening when two people are playing the guitar together.

The ability to synchronise their brains with each other, stems from this developed intuitive talent indicating that guitar players have a definite spiritual dexterity to them. Not only do their brains synchronise with another player, but they can also even anticipate what is to come before and after a set of chords without consciously knowing. This explains witnessing a certain ‘chemistry’ between players in a band and why many bands include brothers who may have an even stronger connection.

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This phenomenon is actually thought to be down to the way guitarists learn how to play – while many musicians learn through reading sheet music, guitar players learn more from listening to others play and feeling their way through the chords. This also shows guitarists have exceptional improvisational skills[2] and quick thinking.

Guitar Players Use More of Their Creative, Unconscious Brain

The same study carried out a different experiment, this time while solo guitarists were shredding. They found that experienced guitar players were found to deactivate the conscious part of their brain extremely easily meaning they were able to activate the unconscious, creative and less practical way of thinking more efficiently.

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This particular area of the brain – the right temporoparietal junction – typically deactivates with ‘long term goal orientation’ in order to stop distractions to get goals accomplished. This was in contrast to the non-guitarists who were unable to shut off the conscious part of their brain which meant they were consciously thinking more about what they were playing.

This isn’t to say that this unconscious way of playing can’t be learnt. Since the brain’s plasticity allows new connections to be made depending on repeated practice, the guitar player’s brain can be developed over time but it’s something about playing the guitar in particular that allows this magic to happen.

Conclusion

While we all know musicians have very quick and creative brains, it seems guitar players have that extra special something. Call it heightened intuition or even a spiritual element – either way, it’s proven that guitarists are an exceptional breed unto themselves!

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Featured photo credit: Lechon Kirb via unsplash.com

Reference

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