Stress, depression and anxiety: words that were fairly uncommon a few decades ago have now become a topic of daily household conversation. Burdens caused by education or work and interpersonal relationship issues have prevailed in our society for as long as one can remember. So, why then, has mental illness increased remarkably over the years? Is it that suddenly a lot of people have developed mental health problems? Even though human-beings have been dealing with problems and stressful situations for decades, mental illness has never been as common as it is now. Amidst a chaotic life at university, mental fitness can easily be pushed down to the bottom of our priority lists. The Gryphon uncovers the significance of mental fitness and mindfulness in today’s fast-paced world.
What has changed? Simple: The negligence of mental health. Especially at university, where students are constantly juggling between attending lectures, completing assignments, maintaining blossoming social lives, and maybe even holding down part-time jobs, mental fitness can easily get placed at the bottom of a young person’s list of priorities. The human mind is often taken for granted, its fitness deemed as insignificant and in isolation to the rest of the body. However, mental fitness is vital to be able to cope with the fast pace of this rapidly changing and complex world. So, just like going to the gym or eating healthy for our physical fitness, we must make sure we do the very same for our mind. While there are a number of different mindfulness practices one can undertake, meditation seems to be a highly effective way to establish a healthy mind and body connection.
“Meditation refers to the act of embarking on an journey within, to attain a place beyond every-day consciousness, where we can indulge in positive reflection and introspection and thoroughly enjoy the silence created around us”
The problem that arises now is the widely attached stigma to meditation. Meditation refers to the act of embarking on an journey within, to attain a place beyond every-day consciousness, where we can indulge in positive reflection and introspection and thoroughly enjoy the silence created around us. It is not, by any means, an escape from reality, to a state of trance or expanded consciousness. Practising it does not require us to chant any mantra and it certainly does not classify us as hippies-on-the-go! It does not make us avoid reality. Instead, it allows us to face our surroundings with an elevated thought process- the product of clear introspection.
Practicing meditation can help organise our thoughts in a manner that is manageable by the mind, in order to prevent a build up of mental confusion, conflict or chaos. Needless to say, there have been several scientific studies based on the importance of mediation in one’s life and its advantages. Yet the fruitful results of meditation stay unknown to many people. A 2015 study from UCLA established that long-term meditators had better-preserved brains than non-meditators. Similarly, a 2014 review study at Johns Hopkins, explored the ability of mindfulness meditation to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and pain. The researchers found that the effect-size of meditation was the same as the effect-size of anti-depressants .
Meditation helps us to choose creative thinking over the automated responses and ways of thinking that our minds have been conditioned to over the years, allowing us to re-discover ourselves and our positive qualities. By re-discovering ourselves, not only can we build on our strengths, but also develop new attitudes to life. However, like any other skill, this too follows the principle of “practice makes perfect”, and the more we practise it in our daily lives, the more effective our practise becomes.
“A 2014 review study at Johns Hopkins explored the ability of mindfulness meditation to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and pain. The researchers found that the effect-size of meditation was the same as the effect-size of anti-depressants”
Many people reject the idea of meditation as they are unable to practice it successfully and, therefore, regard it as hogwash. Again, like any other skill, it might not come to you the very first instance. Rarely do people like to control their diet and include all whole meal and green veggies. But, if necessary for their fitness, they are ready to be disciplined. In the same way, meditation acts as those green veggies and whole meal for our mind. And if we want to strive for mental fitness, it is important that we feed our mind with the right mindfulness ‘nutrients’. Even if that requires an extra bit of discipline and hard work, we should be open, rather than dismissive, towards it.
Quick Guide to Meditate Successfully:
Choose light meditation music to play in the background.
Find a comfortable place to sit.
DO NOT try to empty your mind or stop your thoughts.
Find a set of positive thoughts to replay in your mind and create a relaxed mind-set.
If you feel like it, you can take it one step further, and go through the actions you have performed throughout the day.
See yourself as a performer, undertaking particular roles and performing certain
actions during that day.
In your visualisation, alter the actions that you would’ve liked to perform differently.
This need not be something excessively trivial, it could be as simple as, perhaps, wanting to change the way you responded to your friend over lunch or coffee.
If this seems too complicated, then search for a guided meditation commentary on YouTube and follow that.
[Image: Enable Therapy Services]