By: M. Carramaschi
This month’s theme for the magazine, “Nights through dreams tell the myths forgotten by the day”, had me spend the past week wondering about our subconscious minds. How does it affect us, what power does it hold and more specifically, how can we take control of it? Whilst going through this tough and incredibly stressful time, there aren’t enough self-care methods we can do to try and salvage whatever is left of our mental health, and so, one of the most common things I have heard people rave endlessly about, is meditation. At first, I thought it was just another trendy, heat-of-the-moment alternative to our tried-and-true saviour, therapy. But could I be wrong?
After some research, I found meditation can be defined as a ‘set of techniques that are intended to encourage a heightened state of awareness and focused attention (1), resulting on a wide variety of psychological and physical benefits. For example, studies have shown meditation led to increased cortical thickness in the brain, especially in the hippocampus. Now you may be asking, what on earth is that? Actually, the hippocampus is an area of the brain that plays a huge part in memory and learning. This means meditation can cause improvements in your memory. According to another study done in Massachusetts, by stimulating the production of nitric oxide in the brain, meditation caused a blood pressure drop in 64% of the participants, so significant they could decrease their prescribed medication. Also, a UCLA research showed that patients who routinely meditated had larger fold of the brain cortex compared to an average brain. An increased number of folding means there is a larger surface area, which has been proven to enhance neural processing- also known as, decision making. (2) That’s right. Who could have guessed that sitting in silence and reflecting could be the answer to you finally making up your mind?!
But in all seriousness, the amount of concrete, scientific evidence I found on meditation’s benefits astonished me, and had me wondering why this practiced isn’t taught to us from the day we learn our ABC’s. I say this because for instance, one of the most heard of benefits of meditation is the reduction of, the most commonly felt and well-known sensations to us humans, stress. By reducing the production of cytokines, an inflammation-promoting chemical released when cortisol (the stress hormone) is excreted, meditation relives anxiety and can even promote altruistic emotions like kindness and love. (3)
After reading and digesting all of this information, I sat down with my family to watch the news. And, whilst watching one of the biggest cirque-de-soleil performances on earth, commonly known as Brazilian politics, I sat back and wondered if maybe, just maybe, all our country needed to save ourselves from our grueling political, social and economic scenario, is for our authorities to just sit down, breathe, and meditate for a while.
1 Cherry, Kendra. "How Meditation Impacts Your Mind And Body". Verywell Mind, 2020, https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-meditation-2795927#:~:text=Meditation%20can%20be%20defined%20as,benefits%20on%20psycholo
2 "15 Surprising Facts About The Science Of Meditation - Online Psychology Degree Guide". Online Psychology Degree Guide, 2021, https://www.onlinepsychologydegree.info/amazing-facts-about-the-science-of-meditation/.
3 "15 Surprising Facts About The Science Of Meditation - Online Psychology Degree Guide". Online Psychology Degree Guide, 2021, https://www.onlinepsychologydegree.info/amazing-facts-about-the-science-of-meditation/.