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You don’t have to be a hippy to benefit from meditation

You don’t have to be a hippy to benefit from meditation
Ever since I joined the IPA a few months ago, I have bent the ear of my colleagues about the amazing benefits of meditation. So, they asked me to blog about it.

Throw the word meditation into a conversation and people often have a stereotypical view of who might practice this ancient art form. Generally, a long haired, be-sandalled hippy that lives on lentils and has dirty toe nails springs to mind.

Rest assured I am not like that at all. Indeed, my toe nails are currently a very hot shade of pink. More seriously though, in our ‘always on’ world, with a gadget for seemingly everything, it is getting harder and harder to switch off and relax completely. As a result, mental health issues are becoming more prevalent.

New research from The London School of Economics and Political Science shows that the United Kingdom has recorded a five-fold increase in the use of antidepressants since 1991.

Finding your balance

So, it seems we need to learn the art of switching off and relaxing completely. Meditation is a practice that gives balance physically, emotionally and mentally.

A“deep rest” meditation dissolves stress and enables people to makes better choices through clearer thinking. Those who meditate also report higher levels of self-esteem.

The practice has been used to help people quit smoking (sadly, I haven’t quite managed that), conquer drug and alcohol addictions, reduce blood pressure as well as numerous other health benefits. Some experts have compared it to a ‘reset button’ for your body. 

Fight or flee

Through experiments and tests using practiced meditators, Herbert Benson, a professor at Harvard Medical School, discovered that meditation counteracts the effects of the sympathetic nervous system – the one that gives humans the desire to fight or flee in any conflict situation. While primitive people needed this response in hunting situations, today it is the reason for many of our everyday stresses. 

During meditation, blood flow is directed to the parasympathetic nervous system instead. This is the part of the brain that triggers relaxation, a slower pulse and energy conservation, the opposite of the sympathetic nervous system.

So what has all this got to do with advertising? Well, as we know adland is a very creative space and meditation has been proven to aid creativity. But first we need to think about what creativity actually is. Creativity comes from a moment of inspiration, so to be creative you need to be inspired. Inspiration stems from clarity of the mind.

Calm clarity leads to creativity

You cannot learn inspiration, there is no exam. You need to relax into a more all-encompassing view of life and self. Regular meditation aids deep relaxation and leads to calm clarity, with moments of inspiration and creativity evolving organically.

I can already hear you shouting that you are too busy, that you can’t possibly fit regular meditation into your mad, bad adland schedule… but you can, trust me! 

Ten minutes out of your day is all it takes – longer if you have it, but if not, ten will do. Find somewhere quiet, sit or lie down and SWITCH OFF your phone.

Focus on your breath

Close your eyes and mentally talk yourself through relaxing every part of you – from head to toe. Focus on your breath. And relax. Don’t think about your to do list, that defeats the object.

However, if you need help to learn this beautiful art form, there is a lot out there. If you type meditation aids into Amazon, you will find plenty of guided meditation CDs and downloads. Alternatively, you can go to a class or try the website Do Nothing for 2 Minutes.

Last updated 08/08/2013

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