Meditation improves everything from memory to sex

Anyone whose experienced a stressful day may just do well with learning to meditate. You do not need a Tibetan temple to practice the techniques of meditating or be able to understand the health benefits of meditation. From relaxing the mind to pain reduction and improving your sex life, meditation is about more than holding that pose.

Regain your calmness
It’s unlikely you’ve ever seen Dali Lama wandering in an aimless frenzy. Perhaps his calmness can be directly related to meditation. Mindful meditation can help people stay out of mental traps that often disable problem solving. In recent tests involving a few weeks of mindful training, meditation participants were able to create new strategies to help them better problem solve. Jonathan Greenberg Ben-Gurion of the University of the Negev in Israel says, “this difficulty of letting go of old, habitual and non-adaptive ways of responding for the sake of better ones may underlie many of our everyday difficulties.”

Pain management
Turns out that more times than not, certain body aches and pains may be all in our heads. A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that participants who practiced just 80 minutes of meditation per month were able to cut their pain perception almost in half.

Improved sex life
Women who practiced mindful meditation, which is learning how to bring thoughts into the present moment, experienced enhanced sexual pleasure. It works by eliminating all the self-judgment chatter that fill the heads of many women. Women who practiced this form of meditation were aroused quicker and experienced a more fulfilling sexual experience.

Better focus
No matter where you go, there’s often a piece of technology ringing, buzzing or demanding the attention of its owner. With so many distractions it’s a wonder people can focus — but a trick to blocking out those mindless noises may be hidden in Buddhist meditation. A study published in Psychological Science showed that experienced meditators were better able to sustain their attention toward a demanding, tedious task after Buddhist meditation training.

It basically boils down to thinking about not thinking, something many people in today’s world could use a little training in. Study participants, relatively experienced meditators, were better able to make fine visual distinctions and sustain visual attention during a demanding, yet tedious, computer task after Buddhist meditation training.

The seemingly nonsensical Zen practice of “thinking about not thinking” may also boost your attention span by freeing the mind of distractions. A brain-scan study detailed in an issue of PLoS ONE showed that Zen-meditation training, in which a person stays alert and aware of their breathing and posture while dismissing wandering thoughts, led to different activity in a set of brain regions known as the “default network” which is linked with spontaneous bursts of thought and wandering minds. Their brains were also quicker to return to this “Zen mode” after being distracted compared with those who had no meditation training.

Meditation can also help protect a person from the debilitating effects of some emotional events like going off to war, researchers reported in  the journal Emotion. In the study, U.S. marines preparing for deployment spent two hours each week practicing mindfulness meditation training for eight weeks. Compared with the marines who didn’t meditate, those who did showed improved moods and working memory, which allow for short-term retrieval and storage of information. The training seems to allow individuals to stay alert and in the moment without becoming emotional, giving them a kind of “mental armor”.

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