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The benefits of meditation

People sit in a circle and quietly meditate during a gathering of the Midwest Moon Sangha at the Wehrli Chapel on the Webster Groves campus in St. Louis on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015. The meditation session was followed by a quiet walking portion and concluded with second portion of sitting. (Roberto Rodriguez/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)

(Roberto Rodriguez/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)

You should take time out of your daily life to meditate. We all should.

This is a bold suggestion, especially coming from someone who doesn’t even take her own advice. But the truth is the art of meditation has scientifically proven benefits that we can all appreciate.

With the holiday season approaching, stress levels tend to escalate immensely. Uncomfortable Thanksgiving dinners with family members you haven’t spoken to in months, stressful Black Friday shopping sprees, and cringe-worthy times at household Christmas parties can all lead to serious anxiety. Far too often, we find ourselves unleashing our stress by fighting with our relatives or sneaking too much wine from our grandfather’s liquor cabinet. These tactics never end up being particularly healthy, but one option is: meditation.

I started meditating on and off several years ago during a period of peak stress. I taught myself through YouTube videos, Buddhist literature and a virtual eight-week program entitled “Mindfulness Practice.” I practiced my mindfulness every night before I went to sleep, and in the process found myself becoming a more emotionally stable and less stressed individual. Though my discipline waned as time went on, I still find myself turning to meditation when I’m in need of guidance and wishing that I continued to do it on a regular basis.

Meditation isn’t something that has just helped me – its beneficial results are astounding. If you’re seeking a better release for your holiday stress this year, I strongly recommend that you consider meditation. Even taking just 20 minutes out of your day can help. Many scientific studies have been performed regarding the topic of meditation and they generally support the fact that this altered state of consciousness can be effective in treating anxiety disorders, reducing stress and decreasing depression.

It’s incredible to me that all of this can be accomplished without the use of medication or other types of therapy. The reason behind this is primarily because meditation “requires focusing one’s attention on experiencing the present moment.” Oftentimes, you may develop depressed or anxious feelings by looking back on the past or peering into the future. But with meditation, the goal is to reduce these feelings by focusing on other aspects.

There are many different types of meditation, and they are all important in their own ways. Do research. Try out however many you want. Find out what works and what doesn’t work for you. You can try focusing your attention on one object or on all your perceptions. There’s not a correct or incorrect way – just what you enjoy and what relaxes you.

You might think you don’t have time to begin the journey to mindfulness, but there’s really no excuse besides a little bit of laziness. Meditation can make you feel mentally and physically better, and learning to focus your mind can also result in better concentration skills with classes and homework (and let’s face it, most of us need help with that).

Take a few minutes out of your day to explore your mind. What do you have to lose?

Gabby Vacarelo is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at gvacarelo@umass.edu.

Comments
One Response to “The benefits of meditation”
  1. David Hunt 1990 says:

    Wait, isn’t this cultural appropriation by eeeeevil white-hetero-normative-imperialist-colonialist-oppressors?

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