The practice of meditation originated from Hindu traditions in 1500 BCE but has since gained popularity in Western cultures as a form of self-care. Recently, meditation has permeated the University of Saskatchewan’s list of clubs, becoming the focus of the USask Meditation Club.
Wilson Li, a third-year biomedical neuroscience student and co-founder of the meditation club at the U of S, was motivated to start the club because he felt that there was not enough attention directed toward meditation as a mechanism to improve wellness.
“There [are] all these mental health resources and all this mental health talk and education, but what are we really doing about it?” Li said. “Starting this club was really about adding another angle to the mental health conversation.”
Through engaging in meditation, people can improve their mental health by reducing stress. And this has been clinically proven — one study found that participants’ distress decreased by 46 per cent in the workplace after meditating for eight weeks.
Meditators also seem to experience a higher pain threshold, helping those suffering from chronic pain manage their conditions more effectively.
From his personal experience, Li has noticed the benefits of meditation in his relationships. Li says that meditation has helped him be present in his relationships and notice when he becomes annoyed in a conversation, which helps him let go of his negative emotions.
“[Meditation] absolutely transforms the way that I talk and communicate with people because I’m able to just be truly present with them,” Li said.
Li has also noticed that meditation has helped him focus better on a variety of tasks including studying, having conversations and exercising.
“[Meditation has] helped me [be] fully present with whatever and 100 per cent into whatever I’m doing rather than constantly thinking about different things,” Li said.
Research has supported the claims that meditation improves focus and concentration. In general, people who have been meditating for a few months perform better on tasks with distractions.
Moreover, long-term benefits of the practice of cognition include an increased volume of gray matter in specific areas of the brain — areas that are responsible for attention, sensory awareness, global body awareness, and visual processing.
Engaging in the practice for 15-20 minutes per day is enough to maximize the benefits. Making sure that the commitment is long-term is even more important as many physiological and mental changes in the brain take time to occur.
Group meditation fosters a sense of community, according to Li. So if maximizing the potential benefits of meditation seems enticing, there are numerous resources available on campus to pursue the practice, such as the USask Meditation Club and Mindful Mornings every Friday.
“Honestly, it’s just so amazing to have a community of meditators.”