Why Meditation Is Like Physical Exercise for the Brain
Meditation exercises the brain in the same way an aerobics class exercises the body. The benefits for both are tangible and comparable. A complete fitness plan includes exercising the mind. A healthy body means little without a healthy mind.
Here are 7 ways meditation is excellent exercise for the brain:
1. A cardio workout strengthens the heart by increasing the heart rate. Therefore, the avid aerobic class attendee’s strong heart works less to pump the same amount of blood when the fit person is at rest. The brain works the same way. The meditative state strengthens the mind’s ability to focus and control its thoughts. When the person meditating comes out of the meditative state, the brain’s focus centers are strong and able to concentrate with less work.
2. During physical exercise, the body is put through an increasing amount of stress. A regular workout routine enables the body is do more because of the strength gained in previous workouts. A regular meditation practice builds the brain’s ability to focus session by session. The person who meditates often can build on previous sessions to achieve a meditative state more quickly or more deeply.
3. Physical exercise improves brain chemistry. Likewise, meditation improves brain chemistry. The most famous case of physical exercise helping out the brain is through the release of neurotransmitters called endorphins. The release creates what is known as the ‘runner’s high.’ Meditation releases the same neurotransmitters. It also enhances DHEA, GABA, serotonin, and melatonin. These substances help us sleep, stabilize our moods, and alleviate depression. And while physical exercise elevates our cortisol levels to unhealthy amounts. Meditation decreases them relieving some risk of bone loss, sugar imbalance, and chronic stress.
4. Self-confidence is gained through exercising the body and the brain. While physical exercise helps us achieve goals and gives us a better body image, meditation allows us to step away from our goals and body image worries. Ultimately, these moments away from our goals can assist in seeing new solutions to our problems and ways to achieve. During a meditative state, we remove our minds from their self-judging states and train them to go easy on us when it comes to criticizing our bodies. A positive body image is a huge gateway to better self esteem.
5. The word ‘aerobic’ means with oxygen. The increased flow of oxygen during exercise brings nutrients to the muscles and tissues. It also releases toxins in our exhalations. Meditation employs the same deep breathing techniques to increase the flow of oxygen throughout the body. The result is the same.
6. Most complete physical exercise programs include some form of stretching. This increased flexibility inhibits injury to our tendons and joints. Meditation stretches the mind protecting it from injury. It increases the gray matter in our brains. Gray matter is responsible for cognitive thought and decision making.
7. An athlete is trained to control his or her entire body during sport. The athlete relaxes the muscles that are not needed in a particular movement and tightens what is needed. Runners are told to relax their jaws and shoulders, so their energy is concentrated in their legs. This is the basis for the meditative state in the brain. The person meditating eases all thoughts. Perhaps a candle or mantra is used for the one who meditates to center on. Everything else is pushed aside. The brain learns to center its energy on important thoughts the same way the muscular system uses its energy wisely during sport.