If you've been stuck at home for far too long this year, you might feel like you need a reprieve. In that case, you'll be relieved to know there is a way to induce the same relaxed feeling as going on holiday from the comfort of your front room. You can still work, sort the kids out for school and browse the Cyber Monday fitness deals, because this mindset can be achieved in just 15 minutes a day.
Of course, we're talking about meditation. Everyone from high-powered boardroom execs to advanced yogis to children are seeing the benefits to the age-old mindfulness practice.
Thanks to YouTube and meditation apps like Calm (opens in new tab) and Headspace (opens in new tab), accessing guided meditations, even on the go, has never been easier. If you've not dipped a toe into the waters of tranquillity yet, perhaps this is the science to make you reconsider.
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A study by researchers published in The Journal of Positive Psychology (opens in new tab) sought to study the impact of a 15-minute meditation session on the brain, compared to a day of vacation. For eight weeks, the study looked at beginners on days they were meditating and days they weren't, comparing their findings with groups who took holidays instead.
The findings were extremely encouraging. The study showed "on meditation days, participants reported lower levels of negative affect and higher levels of wellbeing, positive affect, and the mindfulness facets of observing sensations, describing thoughts and emotions, and nonreacting to feelings.
"We found similar associations of vacation with observing and nonreacting, and larger effects for well-being, positive affect, and negative affect."
The similar findings between the two groups shows meditation helps bring that holiday feeling into the regular workday. The "vacation effect" was significantly larger than the "meditation effect", with meditation only reporting an average of one-third of the satisfaction and nonreactivity a full day's holiday gave the participants.
This shows although a short meditation session can replicate some of a vacation's relaxing effect on the mind, it can't full replace a day off. However, considering you can meditate for just 15 minutes and bring out the same positive associations, we'd certainly call that a win.
Meditation has plenty of other benefits too: The practice of focusing on your breath leads to better concentration during the workday, helping you to get more done. In addition, the decreased stress from regular meditation practice improves sleep and promotes better cardiovascular health.
Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and News Editor at Fit&Well, covering all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.
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