Last month we shared some Cambodian wisdom on slowing down like a Southeast Asian:
“If you’re always busy, then you’re doing it wrong, dear friends. You could be functioning on a higher level – simply by making a conscious effort to slow down. This doesn’t have to be a major life change, but it will be life changing. It can and should be a lifestyle.”
We can’t be on holiday 365 days a year, but taking a break from the daily grind to relax, rebalance and rejuvenate at a wellness retreat in Southeast Asia can help your body and mind reboot. One thing you can take home with you is meditation. Taking just ten minutes out of your day to practice mindfulness can do your mind and body worlds of good – and we have the science to prove it.
Stressed? Are you doing anything about it? Even a few minutes of meditation has been proven to lower stress levels and even improve people’s performance when under pressure. Meditation also improves rapid memory recall performance.
A researcher at the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging and the Osher Research Center found that:
“People who practiced mindful meditation were able to adjust the brain wave that screens out distractions and increase their productivity more quickly that those that did not meditate.”
She also said that the ability to ignore distractions could explain their superior ability to rapidly remember and incorporate new facts.
Simply put: the more we meditate, the less anxiety we have. Now science can tell us why. When we practice meditation we loosen the connections of particular neural pathways that are triggered when something scary or upsetting happens to you. When something like this happens, your brain sends signals to the rest of your body that you are under attack. Meditation weakens this connection and, therefore, the response. This allows us to look at these scary or upsetting situations from a more rational and removed perspective.
Researchers at Leiden University in the Netherlands studied both focused-attention and open-monitoring mediation to see if there was any improvement in creativity afterwards. They found that people who practiced focused-attention meditation did not show any obvious signs of improvement in the creativity task following their meditation. For those who did open-monitoring meditation, however, they performed better on a task that asked them to come up with new ideas.
When we meditate we train ourselves to be aware of wandering thoughts. Meditation is a practice in keeping focus – but taking up a regular practice of meditation also improves our ability to focus even when we’re not meditating. Because meditation is a practice in focusing our attention and being aware of when it drifts, this actually improves our focus.
Q: What is gray matter?
A: Gray matter contains most of the brain’s neuronal cell bodies, and includes regions of the brain involved in muscle control, and sensory perception such as seeing and hearing, memory, emotions, speech, decision making, and self-control.
Meditation has been linked to larger amounts of gray matter in the hippocampus and frontal areas of the brain. So, meditate more and get more gray matter. More gray matter means more positive emotions, increased emotional stability, and heightened focus throughout the day.
Meditation doesn’t just improve gray matter and brain function. Meditation also decreases the effect aging has on existing gray matter and actually reduces the natural decline of our cognitive functions over time.
Couldn’t we all use an extra dose of empathy? Research on meditation shows that people who regularly practice meditation have more empathy and compassion. How so? When you meditate, you stimulate your amygdala – the part of the brain that processes emotional stimuli – especially when interacting with others.
One study found that people who meditate regularly have stronger activation levels in their temporal parietal junctures – the part of the brain linked to empathy – when they hear people suffering, than those who don’t meditate.
Taking care of yourself doesn’t need to stop when your Southeast Asia holiday does.
Don’t know the first thing about meditation? While on your Siem Reap holiday, be sure to schedule a consultation with one of our Wellness Practitioners. They specialize in different schools of yoga, traditional medicine, and meditation. Pick up a few tips and tricks to bring home when you leave your luxury hotel resort in Siem Reap and return to the real world.