For many, analysing how we view our mind and body is not a consideration or common thought. It is often an instinctive, unconsidered element of our lives and study of it does not seem relative or immediately useful. That said, many in the west are turning to practices such as meditation and analysis of their opinions of their mind and body in order to help improve their quality of life. The topic of the ego and how we view our thoughts as well as our bodies is becoming an increasingly popular subject, with many meditation retreats and coaching services spreading across the western world.
The tool of meditation is one traditionally shrouded in mystery. Often stereotyped as Buddhist monks high in a faraway retreat sitting in the lotus position for hours on end, there is often misunderstanding of the core principles of such practice and how it can benefit even the most fast paced city dweller. The practice of disciplining the mind and allowing it to discard negative trains of thought has profound impact upon quality of life and can aid in the struggle against various addictions, as many are discovering in ways never before thought possible.
At its core, the principle of meditation revolves around focusing the mind on a repetitive action, usually within the body. Breath is the most common area of focus in traditional meditation. A recent study, however, has used the heartbeat as a focal point, with a volunteer group of female students taking part in a study designed to determine if this tool can be used to help tackle eating disorders.
Results show that as the participants achieved a higher accuracy in counting their heart rate over a period of several minutes, their subsequent answers in a questionnaire based around the perception of their bodies showed remarkable change, with answers showing less objectification of their bodies. Dr Manos Tsakiris at the Royal Holloway Department of Psychology stated in conclusion that “Women who 'self-objectify' are vulnerable to eating disorders and a range of other clinical conditions such as depression and sexual dysfunction."”
These encouraging results show an interesting trend towards what were traditionally considered more obscure eastern practices. The study and focus of the heartbeat is, in effect, a form of meditation and proper use of this tool can provide remarkable improvements in mood and understanding of body and mind, something that can be helpful to all those suffering from any unhappiness, disorder or addiction.