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Have a big personal excellence goal you are striving to achieve?  Meditation can help you move swiftly toward it for the following reasons:

1. Meditation helps you handle stress better.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “When you meditate, you clear away the information overload that builds up every day and contributes to your stress.”

Feeling fuzzy?  Chaotic?  Do you ever feel trapped in your daily stresses and loose your edge?

Meditation actually gives you a mental vacation from your daily stresses. “Meditation vacations”  help you let go of what is not important, and clears your mind to allow new solutions to old problems emerge.

2. Meditation can improve your brian function in just 4 days.

In a study publised in , Consciousness and Cognition, Fadel Zeiden and his colleagues showed that only four days of mindfulness meditation training for only 20 minutes each day, improves not only mood and stress levels but also improves deep cognitive processing efficiency – core aspects of fluid intelligence such as working memory and sustained attention, as well as long term memory efficiency.

How the Experiment Was Set Up

49 student volunteers completed the experiment. They were randomly assigned in equal numbers to two types of ‘interventions’: either a 4 day meditation training schedule, or listening for an equal amount of time to a book reading – J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

Before and after the interventions, the participants in the experiment were given a broad range of psychological tests assessing mood, memory, visual attention, attention processing, working memory, and concentration. This allowed the researchers to quantify any improvements in mood or cognition due to meditation, compared to simply hearing a story.

The Results of the Experiment

Before the interventions, both groups performed the same on the different tests. Both the meditation and reading groups improved in mood after the 4 session interventions, but only the meditation group improved in the cognitive measures. The meditation group scored as much as ten times better on a working memory task – an important component of fluid intelligence. The meditation-trained group averaged aproximately10 consecutive correct answers, while the listening group averaged approximately one.

The brief mindfulness meditation practice – but not the book reading – improved concentration (attentional focus) and the efficiency of what are called ‘executive processes’ – the ability to maintain focus on tasks or goals in an intelligent way, and not be distracted. In other words, the ability to ‘stay on strategy’.

Meditators also gained efficiency in long-term memory retrieval – not just short term working memory, as measured by more fluid word association

The meditation group did particularly well on all the cognitive tests that were timed – where participants had to process information under time pressure causing stress.

3. Meditation can help you get in touch with yourself (not all the “experts” in your life).

We are constantly exposed to information wherever we go now.  We can’t stand in line or workout at a gym with out staring at multiple screens inputting information into our nervous system, whether we want it to or not!  Sometimes, it becomes difficult to distinguish if our thoughts are coming from ourselves or from this information noise in our environment

Meditation can help us with that. According to researcher Erika Carlson,

“Mindfulness helps us to see our authentic selves in two ways: nonjudgmental observation, and attention. Nonjudgmental observation enables people to really get to know themselves without feeling any negative feelings.”

4. Meditation can improve your grades.

Whether you’re a part-time student, a full-time student, or someone who just likes to take tests for fun, meditation can help you learn and retain what you learn.

One study showed that mindfulness training resulted in “improved accuracy on the GRE and higher working memory capacity.” The researchers concluded that “the improvement could be explained, at least in part, by reduced mind wandering during the task.”

The researchers estimated that mindfulness training resulted in the equivalent of a 16 percentile-point boost on the GRE, on average.”

5. Meditation can increase your productivity in high-performance situations.

A study done in 2012 set participants up in a real-world multitasking situation. They had to do several activities that required various forms of input in a typical office setting. And they had to complete them all within 20 minutes. Some of the participants received mindfulness training, and some didn’t… and then, they tested them all again. “The only participants to show improvement,” reported the researchers, “were those who had received the mindfulness training.”

Another study, done in 2011, showed that “daily meditation-like thought could shift frontal brain activity toward a pattern that is associated with what cognitive scientists call positive, approach-oriented emotional states — states that make us more likely to engage the world rather than to withdraw from it.”

Handling high-stress, high-performance situations like a pro could certainly be a handy skill to have, and it’s one that meditation can help you cultivate.

6. Meditation helps you to appreciate music more.

Love music but find yourself drifting off and missing out in the middle of a concert or show? Meditation can help you to stay tuned in and aware, one study shows. The majority of the people in the “mindfulness groups” in the study said that the mindfulness task had “modified their listening experience by increasing their ability to focus on the music without distraction.”

7. Meditation affects your brain positively even when you’re not meditating.

Some research shows that the way meditation helps your brain to work better is consistent, staying with you not just when you’re sitting on a cushion with your eyes closed, but all the time. According to the research, “the effects of meditation training on emotional processing might transfer to non-meditative states.”

The researchers point out that this may mean that the benefits of meditation are not specific to a task or certain stimulus (such as that cushion or a mantra) but are process-specific, meaning that they “may result in enduring changes in mental function.”

8. Meditation helps you feel reduce a sense of isolation and feel connected.

It’s funny (not funny) that in the age of constant connectivity, isolation and loneliness can feel even more poignant. But it happens, and when that sense of isolation descends, it can be overwhelming.

However, meditation has been shown to reduce feelings of loneliness in one study on older adults, and those who have been practicing Transcendental Meditation, even for a very short time, say that the practice of meditation provides a feeling of being connected and whole, a “fundamental level of unity.”

9. Meditation reduces your symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Sure, so meditation can help you feel connected, and handle some stress. But what about ongoing anxiety? What about overwhelming negative feelings or that debilitating sense of depression? A study done on high school students showed that a mindfulness program could help a lot with both: students who stuck with it “exhibited decreased symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression both immediately after and six months after the program.”

10. Meditation can help you fight disease and stay healthier.

According to the Mayo Clinic,

meditation “might be useful if you have a medical condition, especially one that may be worsened by stress.”

Being able to handle stress better can reduce its impact on your body, which can decrease symptoms and physical aggravation.

A researcher at one of Harvard Medical School’s teaching hospitals notes that “The kinds of things that happen when you meditate do have effects throughout the body, not just in the brain.”

11. Meditation can calm you for a better night’s sleep.

Let’s do a quick review: meditation can help you cope with stress better, help you know (and like) yourself more, help you lessen anxiety and depression.

With those benefits alone, it seems pretty likely that you’d be able to get a better night’s sleep. After all, if you can stop your brain from racing and your emotions from raging, you’ll be much more likely to drift off to sweet dreams. Research concurs: “mindfulness is correlated not only with less moodiness, but also with improved sleep quality.”

12. Meditation can increase your metabolism and help you lose weight.

When a group of psychologists were asked to recommend a few strategies for reaching weight-loss goals, 7 out of 10 said meditation, or mindfulness training, would be beneficial.

Another study showed that meditation resulted in an increase in mitochondria. The mitochondria are what fitness expert Lisa Johns calls “ the energy centers of our cells. In layman’s terms, metabolism increased for people who meditated regularly and it was more pronounced in the more experienced group.”

13. Meditation can make you a better friend.

It makes sense that being able to know and accept yourself better might help you to know and accept others, as well. Other studies have also shown that meditation increases the “mental expertise to cultivate positive emotion.”

In other words, people who meditate tend to respond with positive emotions more than negative ones. They have a stronger sense of empathy and compassion for others.

14. Meditation can increase your attention span.

Are you still reading?

Or did you get distracted up there at point #10?

Meditation can help you stay focused.

Studies show that mindfulness training helps the brain to connect better. What that means for you is that your brain, after meditating, finds it easier to access and process information. Along with that, mindfulness trains your brain to release the information that’s not important, and quickly. So meditating regularly helps you get better at collecting information, processing it quickly, and discarding the stuff you don’t need.

Doing that well is what allows you to keep your attention focused on the information that you do need.

15. Meditation can help you come up with ideas.

If you wish you could access the creative, crazy, idea-making part of your brain more easily, it’s time to quit stalling and start meditating. The “catch-and-release” nature of mindfulness, that ability to let a thought in and let it go, turns out to be really helpful for what one study calls “divergent thinking.”

The meditative practice helps your brain to be less judgmental and more accepting, while exercising less “top-down control and local competition.” Your brain opens up to new ideas and inputs, which, say the researchers, “facilitates jumping from one thought to another – as required in divergent thinking.”

Thanks to http://www.lifehack.org for information on this page.  Visit that website for more great articles and publications!

 

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