Meditation has been around for centuries, but the practice has become more popular in recent years. A growing number of people have realized the benefits of daily meditation and embraced it. This Buddhist-inspired collection of practices aims to make you more aware of yourself and your feelings. Rather than turning off your feelings you learn to step out of the frame to view and understand them better. It teaches you to be in the moment so that the mind is more relaxed and clear.
Many scientific studies extoll the numerous and varied benefits of meditation. Different types of yoga also incorporate meditation into their practice. The best thing about meditation is that you can do it anywhere at any time. Just 20 minutes of meditation every day is enough to see positive results. Although many people prefer to sit on a yoga mat in stillness, there are others who prefer a more active style of meditation. No matter what style you choose, there is no denying the positive benefits of daily meditation.
1. Shows a considerable dip in stress levels
One of the biggest benefits of daily meditation is a considerable dip in stress levels. When we meditate on a daily level the mind becomes more relaxed. This in turn helps to create a balance in the activation of the nervous system. It also balances hormonal levels. If the mind is relaxed, the tendency to overreact to situations will become less. Scientific research shows that meditation also reduces depression and anxiety. College students stand to benefit tremendously from meditation, especially when they’re stressed out about their career paths. Likewise, with working professionals. Managing work-related stress becomes much easier. This is one of the reasons why big corporates have introduced meditation in the workplace.
2. Controls Anxiety
A dip in stress levels also leads to a dip in anxiety. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), which is a newer kind of meditation, has shown to reduce a person’s anxiety. This form of meditation developed at the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts, has also been credited with helping people with social anxiety disorder (SAD). A study conducted by a team from Stanford University deduced that MBSR was responsible for providing relief from symptoms of social anxiety. Another study also concluded that meditation also improved the mood, functionality and quality of life of patients with SAD.
3. Can help you sleep better
It is a known fact that the most common causes for sleep disorders are anxiety and stress. When the mind goes into overdrive when thinking about problems and fears, sleep is literally a distant dream. Even if one is eventually able to fall asleep, it won’t be a restful sleep. Lack of sleep can lead to several other disorders. Rather than resorting to medication, a tried and tested method for good sleep is daily meditation. A relaxed mind improves psychological well-being which in turn helps with sleep. Apart from regular meditation, a good way to improve sleep would be to practice Yoga Nidra. For an insomniac, the benefits from yoga nidra and daily meditation are immense.
4. Enhances Self Awareness
Self-Awareness is going deep within yourself to understand and connect with who you really are. It’s a physical and spiritual awareness. These days everyone is so caught up with the whirlwind of activity that is around, we tend to lose our true selves. Who we really are sometimes gets drowned in the perception of what others think. Being in touch with your inner self helps with a better understanding of how you cope with various situations. Quieting the mind through meditation will help connect with your true self. Understanding who you are is the first step towards overall healing.
5. Promotes Emotional Health
While the benefits of daily meditation are immense, the most profound of these benefits is on a person’s mental health. Daily meditation develops positive emotions, leading to a higher level of psychological well-being. Research shows that regular meditation can increase the gray matter as well as the cortical thickness of the brain. These two areas are responsible for many of the emotional responses of the brain. Besides this, meditation can also decrease negative neurological connections to the ‘me center’ of the brain. When this happens negative traits such as anxiety, fear and stress are reduced. It literally rewires the brain towards more positive thoughts and emotions.
6. Makes you feel more empathetic to others
You may not see the immediate benefits of daily meditation on your level of empathy but with time it will become obvious. Very often we become judgmental or harsh towards people around us because of the constant mental chatter. Kindness is often drowned out by this chatter and lost in the far recesses of our mind. Meditating puts us in touch with our deeper selves. When we understand our own pain it helps us to empathize with the sufferings of others. There is a general misconception that when we set out on a path of meditation for compassion it is for the benefit of others. However, this is only partly true. The journey inward makes us kinder towards ourselves and in doing so develops empathy for others.
7. Fosters better relationships
Many scientific studies show that there is a positive link between mindfulness and the quality of a relationship. A person who is in tune with his emotions will obviously foster better relations. Studies have shown that people who practice meditation on a daily basis are more in control of their emotions. It’s easier for such people to bounce back from a tense situation. In doing so, conflicts are handled more amiably, leading to better relationships. Children also benefit greatly from mindful parenting.
8. Slows down the aging process in the brain
A few years ago, a study published by UCLA found that meditation had a positive impact on the aging brain. The study revealed that people who practiced meditation regularly had more gray matter throughout the brain as they aged compared to those who did not. Although researchers expected to find a small difference in the two, they were quite taken aback by their findings. They observed that meditation had a widespread effect on the entire brain. This finding is again connected to lower stress levels. How often have we commented on how a person who has gone through a trauma has aged? More stress puts are body through a series of reactions that are detrimental to its health.
Another observation regarding meditation and aging is to do with telomeres. These are protein caps that are present on the end of chromosomes in the body. During cell division, the replication of chromosomes leads to a shortening of telomeres. Telomeres that become too short can no longer replicate which leads to aging. A study conducted on participants who took part in a meditation retreated noted that there was an increase in the length of telomeres after the retreat. The study also concluded that any practice that triggered relaxation response such as yoga or prayer helped with the production of telomerase.
9. Builds better focus and attention
Inability to concentrate for long periods is a trait that is generally associated with children. However, it’s not just children but adults too who suffer from this. One of the greatest benefits of daily meditation is undoubtedly better concentration leading to improved attention. Since meditation is all about focusing on an object or idea, it’s no surprise that it improves people’s cognitive skills. Mindfulness stops the mind from wandering. Research has also shown that this improved attention is not short lived but can last up to five years. Several studies have also shown that meditation helps Attention Deficit Activity Disorder (ADHD).
10. Boosts Creativity
The Walt Disney Company was one of the earliest companies to realize the benefits of daily meditation to boost creativity. When meditation was introduced into the workplace, there was a dramatic increase in creativity. Many other companies have since realized this invaluable practice for boosting creativity. Google also has a mindfulness program for its employees called ‘Search Inside Yourself.’ The company also has a labyrinth for mindful walking meditations.
Numerous studies show that meditators have a tendency to come up with novel ways to solve problems as against those who did not meditate. Non meditators had a greater cognitive rigidity and generally came up with more ‘boring’ solutions. Meditation brings about a greater awareness which in turn creates conditions to move through problems effortlessly.
11. Helps Overcome Addictions
Given that meditation has positive effects on the self-control regions of the brain, it can help people on their path to recovery from addictions. Smokers who have undergone a course in meditation are more likely to quit. This is because meditation reverses psychological and physiological factors that lead to substance abuse. When you meditate you are able to separate the state of craving from the act. You’ll be able to control this wave of craving until it passes. The main reason for this is lowered stress levels. With a decrease in stress levels, cravings for stress busters will also disappear. Other forms of addiction have also been shown to benefit from daily meditation.
12. Lowers blood pressure
Since meditation has been shown to lower sensitivity to stress, it also keeps blood pressure under control. When the person’s nervous system becomes more resilient it reduces damaging spikes in blood pressure. An experiment involving high blood pressure patients using a technique known as ‘relaxation response’ showed significant results. 2/3 of the patients involved in the experiment showed significant drops in blood pressure after practicing meditation for just three months. Another controlled study on people over 55 years old suffering from hypertension yielded similar results.
13. Improves Cardiovascular Health
Meditation has also been shown to have a positive effect on the health of the heart. Consistent meditation reduces carotid artery intima-media thickness which is one of the major reason for atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is the thickening of the walls of the arteries resulting in the accumulation of cholesterol. A controlled study from 2007 also showed that Transcendental Meditation improved the quality of life for patients suffering from congestive heart failure. Another study from late 2012, involving a group of 200 high-risk individuals over a span of five years revealed more positive results of meditation on the heart. Researchers noted that participants who had opted for meditation as a means of improving their health had a 48% reduction in their overall risk of heart attack.