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University Mental Health Day - The benefits and science behind meditation and mindfulness

 

When it comes to discussing mental health and wellbeing, these topics come up a lot – mindfulness and meditation. People meditate for a mix of reasons such as stress relief or positive thinking, often simply as a way to help improve their mental health. Whilst this isn’t a new concept, many people can be sceptical about the possible benefits of exercises like these. If you’re one of those people or just want to learn more about why meditation is beneficial, here’s some useful information:

 

Research shows that it works – but consistency is the key

Various studies and research have shown that those who meditate see reduced levels of aggression and an improved sense of focus. It is suggested that you can potentially see benefits early on but consistent and regular meditation is what leads to better results.

Studies show it changes the brain shape

Neuroimaging studies have shown that after 8 weeks of consistent meditation, participants have seen an increase in brain size in areas that play parts in problem-solving and emotional regulation. The studies have also suggested that there’s a change in the ‘fight or flight’ part of the brain, meaning that those who have seen the benefits of meditation are likely to combat stress with a more positive approach.

Meditation can help with social anxiety

A Stanford University team found that ‘mindfulness meditation’ can help relieve symptoms of social anxiety. Whilst it shouldn’t be seen as an easy fix for issues like this, it can be enough to make a big difference.

Mindfulness can be a form of Cognitive Therapy

Cognitive Therapy is a common way to help with certain stresses and mental health struggles through training our minds. Willem Kuyken, PhD, an Oxford Professor, states that mindfulness exercises can help people to essentially train their brain, helping to change perspectives and to be able to deal with stresses in a healthier way.

 

Forgetting science briefly, these exercises are time to yourself, helping to create a positive mindset

Essentially, meditation and mindful exercises can help you think, feel and act in a different way that can help with your mental health. Of course, there can be scientific reasons for this but forgetting that for a second, just taking a step away from daily stresses to clear your mind and developing proactive thought processes can help make you more aware of the present and be more considerate to yourself. These are steps that can be taken to help you reflect and change your own behaviours to help reduce stress and give you a clearer perspective.

It’s important to remember that meditation isn’t the sole key to mindfulness and mental health but it’s a skill worth taking on as it’s a positive practice that many people find to benefit their mental health and happiness. Make sure to check out the SU website for more information on mental health.

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