Gisele Bundchen says being a supermodel for two decades and the wife of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady can sometimes unnerve her. When that happens she turns to meditation to help ease her “panic attacks.”
The 38-year-old model has been suffering with her mental health issues for many years. She says she started meditating in her “early 20s.” It helped her deal with anxiety.
“I started meditating in my early 20s, after having severe panic attacks. That’s one of the very important tools that helped me,” she says.
“It actually gave me a new life. When you start being loving with yourself, being loving with others, filling your mind with affirmations and loving thoughts, you create more of that in your life, and that becomes more of your reality,” she explains.
Meditation has been associated with almost all religions for thousands of years, but only gained currency in the West during the 19th century, with heightened awareness in the spiritualism and mysticism.
Meditation gained renewed interest during the ’60s counter-culture revolution. Young people began looking for alternative lifestyles. The Beatles, famously, studied transcendental meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in India.
In its simplest form, a technique is used to focus the mind on a particular object, thought or activity, according to references. It helps train attention and awareness, and achieve a mental clarity and emotionally calm state.
Gisele Bundchen says she makes meditation a part of her every day life, starting when she wakes. She’s up every morning at 5:30 am to light a candle, sit in silence and meditate.
“When you reach rock bottom, you have to figure out a way to get out of there. It gave me a new life, and an opportunity to become aware of a new world that I didn’t know existed, which was a world within myself. It’s really helpful if I just take a few moments to be quiet for five, 10 minutes, and take a few deep breaths, and just go into that space. And then when I come out of it, I just feel revitalized and ready to tackle so much more.”
One study of more than 3,500 adults found that it really does help to reduce stress.
Mental and physical stress can cause increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which promotes inflammation, disrupting sleep, promoting depression and real physical changes like increased blood pressure.
In an eight-week study, a meditation style called “mindfulness meditation” reduced the inflammation response caused by stress. Another study in nearly 1,300 adults demonstrated that meditation may decrease stress. Notably, this effect was strongest in individuals with the highest levels of stress .
2. Controls Anxiety: One of the side benefits of reducing stress is a reduction in anxiety, social phobias, paranoid thoughts and obsessive-compulsive behaviors.
A three year study of 18 volunteers found that an eight-week meditation program lower anxiety levels over the long term. A larger study in 2,466 participants also showed reductions in anxiety levels.
3. Promotes Emotional Health: Improved self-image and more positive outlook on life are two of the byproducts of meditation.
Two studies of mindfulness meditation found decreased depression in over 4,600 adults, according to healthline.
Another controlled study compared electrical activity between the brains of people who practiced mindfulness meditation and the brains of others who did not. Those who meditated showed measurable changes in activity in areas related to positive thinking and optimism.
4. Greater Self-Awareness: Self-inquiry meditation explicitly aims to help people develop a greater understanding of yourself and how you relate to those around you.
Other forms teach you to recognize thoughts that may be harmful or self-defeating. The idea is that as you gain greater awareness of your thought habits, you can steer them toward more constructive patterns.
A study of 21 women fighting breast cancer found that when they took part in a tai chi program, their self-esteem improved more than it did than in those who received social support sessions.
In another study, 40 senior men and women who took a mindfulness meditation program experienced reduced feelings of loneliness, compared to a control group that had been placed on a wait list for the program (21).
5. Improved Memory and Attention Span: Focused-attention meditation is like weight lifting for your brain. It helps increase the strength and endurance of your attention. A study looked at the effects of an eight-week mindfulness meditation course and found it improved participants’ ability to reorient and maintain their attention.
A similar study showed that human resource workers who regularly practiced mindfulness meditation stayed focused on a task for longer. Meditation may even reverse patterns in the brain that contribute to mind-wandering, worrying and poor attention (25).
A review of 12 studies found that multiple meditation styles increased attention, memory and mental quickness in older volunteers. Meditation can at least partially improve memory in patients with dementia. It can also help control stress and improve coping in those caring for family members with dementia.
Keith Girard is Editor and Publisher of Celebrity Health & Fitness, a New York City lifestyle Web magazine devoted to health, fitness, diet, beauty and relationships. Before that, he was editor-in-chief of Billboard magazine and a reporter for the Washington Post among other media positions.