Zen, Matcha & the Beginning of Mindfulness

Many of us live fast-paced lives where it can be difficult to take a break. Work or school, deadlines, financial pressures, parenthood and day-to-day life can suck our energy and leave us feeling exhausted. And it’s during these tiring times our bodies crave stillness and focus.

Most of us know the benefits of Zen meditation and how it can improve our physical and mental health, but did you know that by using a combination of Zen meditation and matcha you can easily improve your  life?

What is Zen?

Zen, or otherwise known as mindfulness meditation, is a spiritual meditation rooted in Buddhism, emphasizing core techniques in uniting the body and mind.

Zen meditation has been practiced for more than 1,500 years, with the overall goal to enhance the awareness of the individual by focusing on breathing and the body, while calming the mind. Zen meditation helps increase positivity, rejuvenating your being while keeping your mind rested.

Zen meditation discourages mental withdrawal from the world and dreaminess. By using breathing techniques, it helps dismiss any arising thoughts that may lead to distraction.

Zazen, the most traditional form of Zen meditation, focuses particularly and critically on the posture, as aligning your whole body correctly can enable optimal breathing.

Through Zen meditation we can concentrate on clearing the mind of all thoughts, alleviating the psychological burden of daily worries and procuring a higher state of consciousness.

Zen & matcha - A healthy lifestyle combination

Combining Zen meditation with matcha is nothing new. Japanese Zen monks have practiced Zen meditation alongside matcha since the late 12th century, even though the ritual originated in China.

Let’s explore the benefits of the Zen and matcha combination:

Enhances brain activity and performance

Since the latter half of the 20th century, there has been a lot of research into the psychology, neuroscience, and neurobiology of mindful meditation and how it affects brain activity and performance.

A study conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in 2000 has shown the average brain’s cortical thickness of meditators aged 40 - 50 is comparable to those of non-meditators aged 20 - 30. These results mean practicing meditation can support the preservation of brain structure and cognitive performance.

Brain scanning research also found months of intense Zen meditation helps the brain to sharpen its focus on details that might otherwise go unnoticed. MRI scans of those practicing Zen show that grey matter concentration increases in areas involved in learning and memory, emotion regulatory, sense of self, and perspective. So Zen meditation can boost your brain performance and cognitive functions, improving your memory, sharpening attention, or enhancing information processing and decision-making skills.

Zen can also help you sleep more peacefully and deeply, benefiting your brain’s health by allowing it to better repair itself, clear out toxins, and reorganize memories.

With matcha, the benefits on your brain and performance can also become optimized. With the synergy of L-theanine and EGCG, matcha is known to enhance our memory and increase our concentration.

In addition, L-theanine is known as an amino acid that helps with relaxation and drowsiness, improving cognition and attention.

Together, matcha and Zen complement one another, heightening the health benefits for brain activity and performance.

Improves the mind & mood

The goal of Zen is to improve your mind and mood, boosting your overall mental well-being. Scientists found that Zen meditation helps reduce stress & anxiety, increasing concentration, improving posture, and eliminating depression and other psychological disorders.

Research shows the link between Zen meditation and its positive effects of treating attention deficit, hyperactivity disorders (ADD or ADHD), anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression.

This study shows Zen reduces anxiety and stress by activating the left prefrontal cortex - an area associated with positive feelings such as calmness, serenity, peace and happiness, while inhibiting activity in the right prefrontal cortex of the brain.

Furthermore, researchers found that Zen meditation gives people a higher pain threshold, including for chronic, neurological or psychological pain. A study published by the American Psychological Association states that by thickening certain areas of the brain’s cortex, pain sensitivity is reduced. Zen meditation can reinforce the anterior cingulate, a central brain region, which regulates pain perception.

By focusing our mind, Zen reduces pain sensitivity by teaching us how to cope with and perceive pain in a different way, improving our moods and general mental well-being.

If you are interested in learning more about how Zen meditation improves our pain thresholds, here is a great article explaining the process in detail.

Benefits on the body & overall health

Known for containing lots of antioxidants, matcha is a well-known superfood benefiting the body and physical health. The magical EGCG has anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-carcinogenic properties. It helps with weight management, lowers the risks of heart disease, prevents dental problems, promotes anti-aging, and rejuvenates the skin.

Surprisingly Zen meditation is also great for our physical health. By guiding your focus to the breath and posture, it slows down the body’s respiration rate, allowing you to regulate your breathing which in turn can slow down the aging process.

Zen can improve blood flow, pressure and circulation, contributing to a younger you.

A study from Harvard Medical School shows practicing meditation improves cellular energy production, assisting in developing higher immunity and stress resilience.

As we all know, stress plays the big role in the aging process. Telomere, the end of our DNA sequence, and telomerase, a protein/enzyme that adds DNA sequences back to the telomere, are the two compounds responsible for aging.

Telomere shortening happens naturally as we age, while telomerase is the enzyme that prevents the telomere from shortening. A shorter telomere means a poorer immune system, which is why when we are younger the activity of the telomerase is higher.

This naturally slows as we age but research has shown this aging can be accelerated by stress. A study in 2004 found psychological stress was linked to shorter telomere length in antibody cells that help to fight disease.

Given that mindfulness meditation has been linked to the reduction of stress, Zen meditation may have positive effects on your physical health by slowing the aging process while boosting the immune system.

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There have been many studies that prove Zen meditation helps create a positive lifestyle that can improve our minds, boost performance, and keep us healthy. The aforementioned research is just some of this vast evidence. So, have you incorporated meditation with your matcha yet?

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