Discover Bliss: The Extraordinary Benefits of Meditation for Mind and Body
What are the benefits of meditation? Imagine you are in the doctor’s office. You’re there because you’ve been having trouble relaxing after work. The doctor writes a prescription and slides it across the desk, on the small piece of paper, there is a single word. “Meditate.”
You look at the doctor confused. Seeing your confusion, she smiles and nods and tells you that it should help with the difficulty relaxing…and help you sleep, lower your blood pressure, help you live longer, make you more focused, and generally happier. And that’s just some of the benefits of meditation.
Meditation is the practice of bringing your attention to the present moment. Regular meditation helps transform the brain to be less vulnerable to stress, improves focus, and reduces the brain’s aging. This article will look at the 14 benefits of meditation.
Why do we need meditation?
Humans have evolved to worry about what we’ve done in the past, and what may happen in the future. It’s a survival mechanism that served us well in the past. But the days when wild animals could hunt us in the wilderness, and we had to forage for food are long gone.
Now we react with the same flight or flight response for work meetings, social interactions, and dating as we did being hunted by a saber tooth tiger. Add to that the invention of artificial light and social media, and we’re spending more and more time worrying about these perceived dangers.
Related: The Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation
Why is meditation so powerful?
We’ve never needed to meditate more. The power of meditation is that it shifts our awareness to the present. We spend most of our attention either ruminating about the past or worrying about the future.
This state of living in what has happened and what could happen, causes stress, anxiety, and a host of related illnesses both physical and mental. The simple practice of focusing on the present moment can not only cure these ailments but transform your mind and your life for the better.
How to meditate
There are several types of meditation to choose from, but they all share the common act of focusing on the present. This could be an image, sound, object, or word, anything could be used as an anchor to the present.
Try this: 5-minute breathing meditation
A common meditation practice is focusing on the breath. Start by finding a comfortable position to sit. Make sure you have a tall spine and can breathe easily, and set a timer for 5 minutes.
Take three deep breaths, breathing in through the nose, and out through the mouth.
After the third breath, allow your breathing to return to the natural rhythm.
Just focus on where you feel the inhale and exhale.
Notice when thoughts come up. When they do, let them go and gently return your attention back to your breath
Continue this until the end of the timer.
If this is your first time, you may notice how often the mind wanders and how difficult it can be to stay in the present. Don’t worry, this gets better with practice.
So let’s look at how doing that on a regular basis can transform your brain.
Benefits of Meditation:
1: Meditation improves your sense of wellbeing
The reason many of us start our meditation journey is to be happier. Research shows that meditation improves our self-image and self-awareness. The more often we meditate, the better we get at understanding our emotions and thoughts that drive the way we feel.
We spend so much time on auto-pilot that we often gather mental baggage and don’t truly recognize how much with picked up each day. Taking a pause and observing our thoughts and feelings gives us the opportunity to recognize what’s really on our minds and deal with them better.
2: Meditation is a simple way to reduce stress
Have you ever been to a spa, and felt better for about a day, but then slipped back into feeling stressed? Meditation can help.
Stress is our mind’s short-term reaction to a recognized threat. Part of the problem is that our mind creates stories about what could go wrong. In some cases, stress can be helpful as it helps us prepare for future dangers. But it can negatively affect us when this fight or flight state is constantly on. It can even lead to physical health conditions such as high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome, and even cancer.
But don’t stress about stress. Meditation reduces the mind’s tendency to worry and ruminate reducing our stress and anxiety.
3: Meditation helps manage anxiety and depression
Where stress is a reaction to short-term recognized threats, anxiety and depression are a whole different beast. But again, meditation helps.
Anxiety is a constant sense of worry often without any recognized stressor. It is usually the effect of constant stress conditioning our brains to be in a permanent state of worry.
When we practice meditation regularly, we are doing the exact opposite of what anxiety is. We are reigning our minds back from worrying about the future or ruminating in the past and into the present.
Research shows that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy consistently improved the mental health indicators in 20 of the 22 participants in the study.
Other studies showed that mindfulness meditation changed the density of the gray matter in the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that controls the fight or flight response. The effect of meditation was that participants could switch from a state of fear to a state of calm far more quickly.
4: Meditation improves focus and concentration
It increasingly becoming common knowledge that meditation can improve focus and concentration, but what’s surprising to know is that you only need to practice meditation for a few weeks to see the benefits.
In a study, they found that mindfulness meditation can help improve concentration in just 2-weeks of practicing.
As the key principle of meditation is focusing your awareness on one object, activity, or idea – it’s no surprise that meditation can help improve concentration.
5: Meditation improves self-esteem and self-awareness
As we take time to slow down and observe our thoughts we become aware of our state of mind with less judgment. Every day without really being aware and noticing, we have an internal dialogue about ourselves. Without practicing meditation, this dialogue is predominantly negative.
But different types of meditation can help improve our self-image. Mindfulness meditation helps us recognize this internal dialogue and stop it from happening as often. Studies have shown that using affirmations (positive statements to ourselves) in meditation training can improve confidence and self-esteem.
Loving-kindness, also known as Metta, meditation is a type of meditation that encourages positive thoughts to yourself and others. Meditators of loving kindness are said to feel better about themselves.
6: Meditation helps to manage pain
A study by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) found that mindful meditation reduces pain sensations in the body.
Meditation activates the area of the brain that deals with pain. With mindfulness meditation, participants exposed to negative stimuli felt 27% less pain than they had before the meditation.
7: Meditation helps to fight addiction
Meditation transforms the receptors in the brain that are associated with addiction. The more we meditate, the less we are drawn to addictive substances such as drugs and alcohol. As an extra benefit, a 2018 study showed that meditation also reduced the chance of relapse into substance abuse by ex-addicts.
8: Meditation helps to preserve and slow the aging of the brain
Over time cell regeneration in the body slows down. Bone, skin, muscle, and even the brain slow down the creation of new cells.
The density of the prefrontal cortex, the area that controls cognitive functions, begins to thin. But research shows that’s that regular mindfulness meditation retains the thickness of the prefrontal cortex. This reduces illnesses related to aging of the brain such as memory loss, and even dementia.
9: Meditation improves memory
Linked to the last point, meditation not only reduces the aging of the brain but also increases memory.
In a Harvard medical study, 17 participants were examined before and after an eight-week meditation program. Brain scans showed a physical change to the density of the brain in areas responsible for learning, memory, and emotional regulation.
10: Meditation improves decision making
As we’re starting to see, there is a clear mind-body connection and benefit when we meditate.
A 2016 study at Carnegie Mellon University showed that meditation, particularly mindfulness-based stress reduction meditation helped to develop the density and connections of the brain related to decision-making.
Add to the mix your improved attention and focus, a calmer and less reactive mind, which gives the meditators the perfect tools to make effective decisions.
11: Meditation improves communication and relationships
When we focus on the present we are less reactive and more mindful. We are better able to listen to our partners and respond in a way that meets their needs. Being fully aware enables us to hear what they are saying – both the words and the emotion behind them.
Meditation also helps us to be less reactive and more responsive to things that would normally trigger us. This ability to pause and think before reacting gives us the vital space we need to give a more mindful and measured response.
RELATED: 3 Simple Ways to Improve Your Relationship Using Meditation
12: Meditation helps you manage anger
The benefits of meditation are all interrelated and regular practice can help us to feel calm and in control. Meditation can help us manage anger in the following ways:
Having a better self-image makes you less likely to be defensive of comments.
Mindfulness meditation helps improve your focus so you can better understand what is happening andnot make assumptions that may anger you.
- Meditation makes you better at understanding your emotional state. Sometimes we resort to anger when we don’t know how to feel. Sadness and confusion are often substituted with anger.
- Meditation is shown to reduce stress and improve your sense of well-being, so you reduce the emotional conditions to become angry.
13: Meditation can improve sleep
As someone who suffered from acute insomnia, meditation as part of a more general sleep routine helped me finally find restful sleep and significantly improve my quality of life.
Sleep is the tool our body has to heal both the mind and body, it affects our mental and physical health when we aren’t able to get restful sleep.
Meditation helps sleep in two ways:
Practicing meditation will help your ability to control anoveractive mind that can keep you awake.
- Meditating before bed creates conditions conducive to falling asleep.
14: Meditation improves creativity
And last but not least, another of the benefits of meditation include improved creativity. General meditation and the changes to the brain create new neural pathways to help discover different ways of seeing and doing things. Not only does it improve creativity in the classic sense; of art, music, and design, but it also helps in problem-solving.
Different types of meditation can focus on creativity more than others, such as Visualization meditation. This involves meditating on an image in detail and observing what you see, hear, feel, smell, and taste.
How often should you meditate?
The effectiveness of meditation is more about how often you do it than how long you meditate. The following is a rough guide on how long you should meditate.
|Duration||2-5 minutes||5-15 minutes||20-30 minutes or more|
|Frequency||Daily or when stressed||Daily, or a minimum of four days a week||Every day|
|What to expect||Emotional regulation and Improved stress management||More energy, happier outlook on life, improved focus, memory, and learning||Overall self-improvement, emotional expertise, measurable levels of peace, improved self-awareness|
As we can see, there is a wide range of mental health benefits when we meditate.
Different types of meditation and focus on key areas you wish to improve in life. The benefits of meditation have an impact on both short-term and long-term mental health such as reducing and preventing anxiety and depression, improving memory, and even how we interact with others. Meditation works.
Do you know of any other benefits of meditation? Let me know in the comments.