28 Nov The Case for Meditation
Meditation is something that most men scoff at.
“You want me to sit still for ten minutes? And then not think about anything?”
This sounds unproductive, unrealistic, and overall unsatisfying. I won’t argue that point. In fact, meditation will be exactly that the first handful of times that you attempt it. But you should do it anyway.
Like all skills, there’s a learning curve – one that’s relatively steep and frustrating at first. But if you persist past this initial phase, the benefits are monumental. In the past, many benefits have been monitored: from lowering blood pressure and relieving stress to improving our digestive tracts. But recent studies have been discovering that these benefits are even more tangible now than ever before. They’re finding that mediation literally changes our bodies. And this can’t be ignored.
Study 1: Meditation Increased Gray Matter in the Brain
Researchers at Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital recently conducted a study which proves that meditation can actually alter the gray matter in our brains.
The study measured the density of gray matter in subjects’ brains using MRI scans. The measurements were taken before and after an eight week period of daily meditation. Some subjects did not meditate, while others meditated for roughly a half hour per day. The MRI brain scans for those that did not, didn’t change over the eight week period. The scans for those that did meditate, however, did change. And they changed in a profound way.
The concentration of gray matter in several key areas has increased. These areas included the hippocampus (a brain structure important for learning, memory, and the regulation of emotions) and other areas associated with remembering the past, imagining the future, introspection, and empathy. Furthermore, the concentration of gray matter had actually decreased in the amygdala, a region associated with anxiety, fear, and stress.
In other words, meditation can literally cause lasting changes to the very structure of your brain. And these changes can boost your memory, learning, and emotional capabilities all while decreasing anxiety and stress. For a man who means to better himself, grow, and dominate a particular discipline, these changes can make the difference between success and failure. All too often, our emotions and our anxieties get the best of us and cripple our ability to cut through the bullshit, perform, and move forward. Meditation can fix this – and quite literally so.
Study 2: Meditation Can Strengthen Your Body on a Cellular Level
Another recent study, published in the scientific journal “Cancer,” took blood samples from cancer survivors before and after a three-month period of meditation.
The team found that the telomeres, protein caps attached to the ends of our chromosomes that are responsible for determining how quickly a cell ages, stayed the same length for participants who meditated. For those who did not meditate, however, these telomeres decreased in length – their cells would age more quickly.
The question is, of course, what does this mean to us regular folk who don’t have cancer? Well, it actually means a lot. Longer telomeres are associated with the ability to better fight and survive many diseases, as well as the ability to protect us from contracting many diseases in the first place. So, in addition to altering our brains for the better, meditation also puts us in a better spot to live longer, healthier lives by strengthening our cells. You’d be silly to ignore that.
A Simple Method to Meditate
So, you should be sold on meditation by now. If not, then feel free to stop reading. But I’ll offer a super simple and easy approach to meditation that allows me to incorporate it into my daily routine without any hassle or yogi bullshit.
Simply assume a comfortable posture (for me this means laying on my back with my legs straight and my palms facing up on the floor beside me) and focus on your breathing for five to ten minutes. Inhale through your nose deep into your belly – you should feel it rise as you breathe in. Then exhale fully through your nose – you should feel your belly button sink towards your spine as you breathe out. Try to maintain your focus on your breathing. Inevitably, it will wander on to things like work and women, and that’s fine. Just recognize when it does and then return your focus to your breathing.
The first few days won’t be fun or relaxing, but practice a little self-discipline and keep at it – you’ll be feeling better, and changing your body for the better, in no time.
Guest article by David, who is an engineer turned personal trainer turned entrepreneur known for his bestselling books on Men’s Health. Rugged Fellow’s Guide readers can download his new FREE ebook at www.HowToBeast.com