Statistics consistently reveal one of the key issues affecting 21st-century society is mental ill health.
One in four adults will experience symptoms at some point in their lives, with the figures for under-16s showing every sign of following this trend. But much as mental ill health is pervasive, all is not all doom and gloom.
Debunking the stigma
There can be no doubt there have been huge advances in how mental health issues are perceived today.
For far too long these were ridiculously stigmatized compared to physical conditions, with sufferers inclined to keep problems bottled up rather than seeking remedy for fear of being seen as weak or unfit to perform their jobs.
Unfortunately, problems never dissipate if they are merely ignored. This will only ever exacerbate the symptoms, often prolonging the illness.
It is reasonable to say mental ill health is reaching a tipping point, with patients far more likely to receive sympathy. Nowadays it’s the individual who would stigmatize people undergoing what can be an intensely debilitating experience who will be seen in a negative light.
How meditation will cure
Over the years mental health has been the subject of the intense debate centered on a cure, or better still, prevention. This often focuses on anti-psychotic medication. But there are much more basic defenses we can bring to bear against this scourge, and one of the most effective of these is meditation.
In fact, more and more clinical professionals are turning to meditation as a method of pre-empting episodes, rather than simply relying on pumping patients full of prescription pills.
Once upon a time, this activity was unfairly labeled the stuff of hippie communes. Rather than it being embraced for its main healing properties, it was typically written off as a self-indulgent practice associated with a minority of people who had deliberately withdrawn from society. As with most stereotypes, the truth bears no resemblance to the fiction.
The beauty about meditation is that it is something that anyone can indulge in within the confines and comfort of their own home. Unlike physical activity such as those diminishing trips to the gym, this is something that costs nothing and can be practiced at whatever frequency you find appropriate to tie in with your lifestyle in general.
Moments of supreme focus
So what is the goal of meditation? While it is focused on the relief of stress – one of the leading factors contributing to mental ill health – there is so much more to the process than simply choosing a quiet time for relaxing and unwinding.
Meditation is all about setting aside a few precious moments every day to focus on becoming more mindful of one’s self and more accepting of everything going on in your life.
In this way, the emotional debris of anxiety, angst or worry that may be clinging to your innermost feelings is far more readily consigned to the bucket.
On a purely physical level, meditation has been proven to change the way your body responds to stress, giving your brain the power to cope with negative thoughts and to place them in a far more appropriate perspective. There are obviously huge benefits to this approach, covering a diverse range of conditions, from depression to post-traumatic stress disorder.
How meditation works
So how does meditation actually combat the symptoms of mental ill health? It’s all down to the breathing techniques that would be recognized by anyone who has ever signed up for yoga sessions.
By formalizing something as natural and involuntary as the way you breathe you can learn to develop rhythmic breathing patterns that assist you in achieving wonderful states of relaxation.
This sense of well-being often has a physical affect: the participant consciously feels the tension seeping away from their muscles, leaving them in a state of peaceful bliss.
The medical explanation for what is happening here is that you are gently nudging your body’s parasympathetic nervous system – the functionality that controls aspects like the rate of your heartbeat or the degree by which hormones are released.
People who use meditation techniques on a regular basis will appreciate the benefits that can arise and will greatly anticipate their next session. The fact that the regularity of these activities is entirely at your disposal is one of the meditation’s most potent assets in terms of alleviating stress-related disorders. You can administer a ‘top-up of positivity’ whenever you have free time.
Studies published in the medical journal The Lancet have suggested mindful-based cognitive therapy is just as therapeutic as traditional antidepressants. A few quiet moments of immersive introspection has proved to be enough to put a spring back into the vulnerable individual’s step.
Reinvigorated, they’ll be fired with the enthusiasm that has perhaps been lacking and ready to participate in their lives again, whether they choose to embrace a dating service or channel their newfound confidence into social media in general.