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The Psychology of Spirituality and Meditation

February 1, 2017 57 5 No Comments

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The Psychology of Spirituality and Meditation

In this day and age, we are constantly busy, going from one task to the next. Most of us struggle squeezing in time for ourselves when we are balancing a hectic schedule filled with obligations and responsibilities. How often do we actually take a moment to breathe, relax or collect our thoughts? We have become accustomed to letting our thoughts wander and our bodies run from point A to point B. We become so caught up in our actions that we often forget to live in the present moment. To some of us, it might even feel weird to take a moment for ourselves to put our mind and actions on pause just so we can be in the present moment. Maintaining a busy schedule can inadvertently cause unwanted feelings of stress and anxiety. Meditation, yoga and tai chi are a few types of mind and body exercises we can utilize to reach our spirituality. These exercises reduce stress and anxiety as they allow us to achieve a deep state of peace and tranquility.


How to meditate:

If you are just discovering the art of meditation, sitting still in silence can prove to be a challenge. It is an activity that you may not be accustomed to especially if you have led a busy lifestyle. Meditation takes practice.

Step 1: Sit or lie down in a comfortable position. If you are sitting, remain in a relaxed, upright position.

Step 2: Close your eyes.

Step 3: Focus on your breathing. Be mindful of each breath you inhale and exhale.

Step 4: Control your thoughts and do not let your mind wander. Meditation is a time for you to reach peace and tranquility.

Step 5: Try meditating for 5 minutes then increase your time as you become more advanced.

The psychological benefits of meditation:

1.     Increased self awareness: Because our minds are constantly thinking and processing thoughts, our thoughts get pulled in hundreds of different directions. Mediation helps you get rid of the clutter of thoughts in your mind so your filtered thoughts are clearer. By de-cluttering your brain, you can develop a better connection between your mind and body as you become more mindful and aware of your thoughts and emotions. For meditation beginners, it is easy for them to let their thoughts wander, however, with practice, they can become experts in controlling their mind.

2.     Decreased anxiety and stress: Due to the mind-body duality, whenever your mind is stressed, your body becomes tense. Whatever affects your mind, affects your body. Meditation is important to combat anxiety because it allows your mind to achieve peace and tranquility. It puts away the thoughts that make you feel anxious and stressed, therefore improving not only our mental health, but also our physical health.

3.     Decreases depression: Practicing meditation allows you to filter your bad thoughts and alter them into effective and positive ones. Instead of dwelling on negative thoughts, meditation shifts your attention away. It allows for you to improve the communication within yourself by helping you recognize your emotions. Meditation helps you become mindful and aware of your emotions, therefore offering a solution on how to alter your thoughts.

4.     Reduces anger: When you find yourself stuck in an intense and emotionally heightened situation that makes you feel angry, meditation can help you calm your mind. By removing yourself from the situation and taking time to meditate, you can recollect your thoughts. Meditation allows you to control your thoughts and therefore control your interaction with the world around you. Instead of letting your thoughts spiral out of control or your anger escalating, take a moment to pause, breathe and relax. This will allow you to control your anger before it can control you. Meditation gives you mental resilience and allows for better decision-making.

Meditation offers an escape from our hectic reality and lifts the hindrances off our shoulders. Meditation provides a great amount of psychological benefits. It can alter your mind, transform your emotions and get rid of distractive thoughts. Meditation is not used to tune out our thoughts but to manage and control them. With meditation, you can develop a heightened awareness of your thoughts and emotions.

The psychology behind Tai Chi and Yoga

Tai Chi and Yoga are increasingly popular exercises that hold similar psychological benefits as meditation. Both low-impact exercises are insightful activities that incorporate the mind and body duality. Both exercises incorporate good postures, stretching and meditative movements accompanied by mindful and deep breathing.

Tai Chi

Tai chi, an ancient Chinese traditional form of exercise incorporates two belief systems: Qi and, Yin and Yang. The latter is probably familiar to most of us, but what exactly is qi? Qi is the flow of energy throughout our body. Tai chi utilizes the mind and body which helps our energy flow within us. Yin and yang are two opposing elements that when combined, create a harmonious whole. Tai chi helps us reach emotional and physical harmony so we feel whole.

Yoga

Yoga, a gentle form of exercise, combines graceful poses with deep breathing techniques and a state of relaxation that increases health. The movements are very calm but can increase in rigor. Yoga focuses on integrating the mind and body to reach complete harmony between the two.

There are 6 different paths in yoga:

1.  Hatha yoga focuses on physical postures, otherwise known as asanas, to gain control and awareness over your body. Hatha yoga purifies the body and its internal states to reach mindfulness.

2.     Karma yoga focuses on being selfless towards others as a way to help and heal yourself and others. It teaches us to take responsibility for ourselves and our actions.

3.     Mantra yoga focuses on your consciousness. It utilizes mantras to awaken the self through repetitive sounds. By focusing on concentration, it improves overall mental well being.

4.     Bhakti yoga is the path to devotion to God. This is a more spiritual form of yoga. This technique uses love, adoration and worship to attain self-realization. Bhakti yoga helps maintain awareness and positivity.

5.     Gyana yoga is the path to wisdom through the achievement of spiritual liberation. It requires mental strength to achieve self-affirmation. It is considered to be the most difficult of paths in yoga.

6.     Raja yoga is considered to be the royal path in yoga. It is independent and autonomous. It aims to achieve control over the mind and their emotions through self-discipline. It combines the other 5 paths as well.

Most of us look outside of ourselves for fulfillment. We have become accustomed to believe that monetary and tangible items can fulfill our innate desires. However, we can only achieve fulfillment if we realize what is missing within us. These different types of yoga can help us fill the void we have in us.

Tai chi and yoga extend beyond physical health benefits. They are both low impact exercises that can greatly improve how you feel about yourself.

Psychological and physical benefits of Tai chi and yoga:

1.     Decreased stress and anxiety

2.     Decreased depression

3.     Increased positive moods

4.     Increased relaxation

5.     Increased self-awareness

6.     Improved quality of sleep

7.     Increased energy and stamina

8.     Increased memory and concentration

Meditation, tai chi and yoga are exercises that have numerous psychological health benefits. They develop practices that allow us to become more aware and mindful of our thoughts and emotions and teach us how to regulate them. Incorporating meditation, tai chi or yoga into your hectic everyday routine can be refreshing to our spirituality.  

Resources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-science-behind-meditation/201507/brains-response-meditation

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/tai-chi/art-20045184

http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-health-benefits-of-tai-chi

http://www.yogananda-srf.org/what_is_yoga,_really_.aspx

 

Article written by Tiffany Dang

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