We’re often told to meditate our troubles away but exactly how does it make everything so much better? Sarah Alexander explains the benefits to body and soul of regular quiet time
Meditation, or stilling and focusing the mind, has many benefits for our health. There is both scientific evidence and experiential evidence that it reverses the physiological effects of stress: it slows our breathing and heart rate, lowers our blood pressure, relaxes tension from our muscles and stimulates our immune system. It allows us to feel more calm, centred and serene.
In our busy lives and fast-paced careers, these benefits are essential to our long term well-being. However, when we are facing a health issue, we need to be able to think clearly and make important decisions about the right way for us to work with the issue; we need to tune into our body’s wisdom to understand intuitively how to best look after ourselves and we have to be able to communicate that guidance clearly to both health care professionals and those at home supporting us.
So how can meditation help with all of these important skills?
Let’s go back and look at how our brains actually function during meditation to answer this question.
Our brains are electrical in nature. The neurons in our brain are continually producing electrical impulses that occur in patterns called brain wave frequencies. Like sound, these frequencies are measured in Hertz or cycles per second. There are five brain wave frequencies which correlate with different states of consciousness. Let’s look at each of them:
- Beta brain waves (13 – 38 Hz): This is our predominant frequency when we are fully awake, alert, engaged in a cognitive task and focused on the outside world. Reading this article you are in a Beta state. When we are ‘thinking’, or in a continual stream of unconscious thought, our brains are omitting Beta brain wave frequencies.
We are in a high Beta state when we are stressed, worried, angry or experiencing any negative emotion.
Our thoughts are fast-paced. We are a not thinking effectively. Making decisions in this state is hard. And, this state takes a lot of our energy.
- Alpha brain waves (8 – 12Hz): In the Alpha state, we are entering a relaxed and semi-meditative state. When we are mindful and ‘in the now’, we are in Alpha. As we relax further, our brain wave frequency slows and we are able to access the wealth of our creative and inspired ideas and we have clarity of thought. It is in the Alpha state that we literally have our so-called ‘brain waves’. Also, we are able to absorb and retain large amounts of information with these 8 – 12 Hz frequencies. It is the perfect place for learning. Importantly, we experience positive, stable and balanced emotions. Our fears, worries and concerns just seem to melt away.
Having spent time in the Alpha state, we experience greater physical, mental and emotional health and we experience less worry and stress.
In short, the more time we spend with our brain waves around 10 Hz, the better the quality of our lives. And, just closing our eyes and taking a few conscious, fully-present deep breaths will take you into an Alpha state – it is that simple!
- Theta brain waves (4 – 8Hz): In the Theta state, we are in a deep state of meditation and with access to our unconscious.
It feels as if we are floating, dreamy and totally unaware of the outside world. It is peaceful and harmonious.
In this state we can receive incredible flashes of insight, inspiration and profound intuitive wisdom; often hidden ESP skills are stimulated and we somehow ‘just know’ things. On leaving this state, we feel more connected to others, and, as a result, able to communicate with far greater clearly.
MORE: HOW TO MEDITATE
- Delta brain waves (0 – 3Hz): This is the state of very deep, silent meditation where we have a sense of detached awareness. When asleep, it is our time of dreamless sleep. Here our sense of empathy is stimulated. Significantly it is here that we experience profound healing, regeneration and rejuvenation for our body, mind and spirit. This is said to be a very beneficial, restorative state to be in, either during meditation or during sleep.
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Gamma BRAIN WAVES (38 – 42Hz): Gamma waves are associated with advanced meditators such as Tibetan monks who spend a lot of time in meditation. These are the fastest brain waves; they come from a very quiet mind and relate to simultaneous processing in different brain areas. They are associated with highly expanded states of consciousness.
we can train our minds to enter the Alpha state regularly during our day, by taking three or four conscious deep breaths, or having a one/two minute mini-meditation
As we train our minds to enter the Alpha state regularly during our day, by taking three or four conscious deep breaths, or having a one/two minute mini-meditation, we are in the right mental shape to be proactive in taking charge of our health and making effective decisions to support it. If, during our longer meditation practice, we relax our minds sufficiently to enter the Theta state, we can reap the benefits of deeper relaxation and inner peace, both of which make us feel better.
In the Theta state our thoughts may reduce to 10 – 15 per minute, or less, which gives us generous amounts of refreshing mental silence from which to gain great wisdom to help us in every area of our lives.
In mental silence too, we gain recognition and awareness of our True Self and all the wonderful qualities that it exudes. Here we are able to feel its power, its strength and its benevolent qualities that can help us as well as others.
Like every muscle you want to strengthen, all of this takes commitment and practice because you are so used to functioning predominantly in the Beta state. So, next time you think you are too busy, too stressed or too tired to do a meditation practice, please remember the many benefits that you are missing.
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Sarah Alexander is a coach, mentor, author and speaker with 14 years’ coaching experience. Sarah has worked with international sports competitors, executives from multinationals and successful entrepreneurs. She is the founder of a coaching and training system called MAGNIFICENCE: Twelve Steps to High Performance and Low Stress for Business Professionals.
Sarah Alexander has had a daily meditation practice for over 18 years and brings that quietness of mind and inner connection to her coaching. She offers intuitive guidance in her coaching conversations which gives clarity, inspiration and peace of mind.
She is the author of Spiritual Intelligence in Business – The Eight Pillars of 21st Century Business Success, £7.99 and Spiritual Intelligence in Leadership: From Manager to Leader in Your Own Life, £10.99
To download Sarah’s ‘Eight Top Tips on How To Be Magnificent’ go to www.sarah-alexander.co.uk