Until last month, I thought of meditation as something that other people did, a new agey practice that didn't seem at all appealing. But I changed my mind dramatically after a weekend yoga retreat with a friend.
All yoga classes at the retreat ended with a meditation period that lasted at least 15 minutes. I participated grudgingly in the beginning but after the second session, I felt transformed.
That brief period of silence and inward exploration made a huge difference in how I felt and reacted to everything else all day. I was hooked.
Since then, I've been looking for a scientific explanation of how meditation works. The best I've seen so far is in the meditation section of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Although there's still a lot of research necessary to fully understand the effects of meditation, scientists think that it may work by activated the parasympathetic nervous system, which slows down heart rate and breathing.
For the uninitiated, mediation is more than just sitting still. You have to breathe in and out in a specific pattern and focus your thoughts inward. I could never have learned this on my own so I recommend finding a good class to get started.