Note: This article does not constitute medical advice. Please consult with your doctor before making any decisions regarding your health.
Meditation is an effective way to reduce stress, improve your health, and live a happier life. Here are some of the ways meditation can help you feel better.
The idea of sitting quietly without thinking about anything, and with eyes closed might seem intimidating at the start.
However, the benefits of doing regular meditation seem magical as per research and also by the experiences of people. Although, the process might seem slow, and one may not experience benefits instantly. But, it doesn't take long before real changes start happening!
In many cases, meditators find themselves practicing more than once per day after just two sessions, which means months of practice could easily add up to hundreds of hours of peaceful relaxation over the course of a year!
So here are seven reasons why you should consider starting today.
1. Meditation Helps You Relax
It may sound like something out of a comedy sketch, but millions upon millions of us suffer from chronic tension headaches every single day. Headaches aren't caused by stress alone -- these painful sensations often occur due to tight muscles and poor posture, both of which contribute directly to increased levels of anxiety.
But meditation not only eases physical pain, but it also helps calm our minds so effectively that we're literally able to make our bodies relax. This makes our heads feel lighter while simultaneously reducing muscle tension throughout our entire body. We'll end up feeling calmer and healthier overall as a result.
The best part is that meditation takes very little effort -- sometimes no effort at all -- yet can completely transform our experience of daily life.
When was the last time you were able to truly escape from everything around you without having to worry about anything at all?
If you haven't tried it already, now might be the perfect opportunity.
2. Meditation Can Improve Your Sleep Quality
One reason why people struggle with sleep problems is simply down to the fact that they spend so much time thinking during the night.
True meditation encourages a state of deep rest where we become acutely aware of our surroundings yet remain fully relaxed.
Another interesting thing about sleep quality is that everyone seems to function differently. Some people wake up naturally early in the morning and have trouble sleeping again until late evening, whereas others wake up later and stay asleep longer.
Although there are clear differences between people, studies show that almost everyone has similar tendencies (e.g. higher tendency towards earlier mornings) regardless of age, sex, education level, income, occupation, or geographical location.
As mentioned above, the key point here is to focus on being mindful rather than trying to force yourself into specific sleep patterns. That said, anyone can benefit from learning simple meditation techniques that promote deeper states of relaxation.
For example, one technique called progressive relaxation teaches you how to automatically tense certain areas of your body, then release them in reverse order, followed by remaining still for a few seconds to allow full recovery before repeating the process.
3. Meditation Improves Memory & Concentration
A lot of research shows that regular meditation leads to improved abilities in various cognitive functions including memory capacity and concentration. Specifically, researchers found that experienced practitioners were able to recall words significantly faster than non-practitioners, and had lower cortisol levels compared to individuals who weren't meditating regularly.
One theory suggests that meditation produces its positive effects through reduced blood flow to parts of the brain responsible for processing memories, thus allowing access to short-term storage.
Another study showed that novice meditators performed better on tests involving attention and accuracy than experts did. Researchers concluded that meditation training promotes adaptive structural changes within the brain itself, leading to improvements in performance across several domains.
Other recent studies have shown that meditating can increase grey matter density in regions associated with working memory, verbal fluency, and spatial navigation. These findings suggest that meditation's ability to enhance cognition comes primarily from increases in neural efficiency rather than the volume of grey matter.
Although there hasn't been enough scientific evidence to support claims that meditation actually causes super human powers, it is clearly proven that meditation can boost mental acuity in different aspects of everyday living.
4. Meditation Can Help With Anxiety And Depression
Anxiety disorders affect millions of adults each year, causing serious social distress as well as significant impairment in productivity and general happiness.
The good news is that meditation can play a major role in improving our moods and dealing with depression.
According to Dr. Andrew Newberg, director of the Center for Consciousness Research at the University of Virginia Medical School, "the clinical efficacy of mindfulness meditation cannot be overemphasized."
He goes on to say, "For thousands of years, Buddhist monks have used this form of therapy to achieve extraordinary emotional balance."
The research significantly supports his claim. A 2014 review published in Clinical Psychology Review found strong evidence supporting the use of mindfulness-based interventions in treating a variety of psychological conditions including generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and substance abuse/addiction, etc.
Research suggests that meditation can also manage insomnia, fibromyalgia, cancer, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, chronic pain, asthma, arthritis, Parkinson's disease, migraine, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), dementia, Alzheimer's disease, and menopause.
What exactly happens during meditation?
Well, first off, the mind becomes totally focused on breathing -- that's right, breathe deeply -- and the breath slowly enters through the nose and exits the mouth.
Second, the mind begins to empty of all thought activity and gets absorbed in observing whatever is occurring inside and outside of oneself.
Third, emotions come and go freely, although they typically arise when our attention wanders away from the present moment.
Fourth, bodily sensation arises along with sounds, sights, smells, tastes, and tangibles. Finally, meditation ends when either someone yawns three times or decides he wants to stop.
5. Meditation Can Reduce Stress
Despite the fact that stress affects a humongous population, only 1 in 10 people seek professional treatment for their stress-related ailments.
This lack of interest in seeking help may stem from the belief among some people that medication is necessary, but it certainly shouldn't prevent us from taking active steps to manage our stressful lifestyles.
After all, there are plenty of alternatives available for coping with stress, including exercise, healthy diet, laughter therapy, yoga, art therapy, massage therapy, acupuncture, music therapy, energy psychology, hypnosis, prayer, journaling, aromatherapy, visualization exercises, and meditation.
Not surprisingly, meditation consistently ranks near the top of effectiveness when it comes to relieving stress.
Studies have repeatedly demonstrated that regular practitioners have lower rates of cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, strokes, hypertension, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, migraines, skin infections, cancers, stomach ulcers, inflammatory diseases, respiratory illnesses, allergies, autoimmune disorders, PTSD, ADD/ADHD, obesity, suicide attempts, and alcohol dependence.
Interestingly, meditation doesn't necessarily involve thinking about anything in particular. So whether you sit cross-legged on a pillow or lie flat on your back, the same beneficial effects follow.
However, if you choose to visualise images during your meditation session, you'll receive greater rewards since visual imagery is known to activate the limbic system of the brain.
6. Meditation Increases Happiness
Happiness is defined as pleasure plus meaning. While experiencing pleasure is easy, finding meaningful experiences can prove difficult unless we actively look for them.
According to psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Flow: The Psychology Of Optimal Experience, "meaningful action involves getting involved with activities that give rise to intrinsic motivation" [and] "intrinsically motivated actions are characterized by enjoyment, personal growth, skill mastery, challenge, and confidence."
As opposed to extrinsically motivated actions, intrinsically motivated activities require minimal external encouragement.
People who engage in enjoyable tasks enjoy themselves and derive satisfaction from completing projects. Conversely, people who perform unpleasant tasks solely for the sake of reward rarely develop lasting enthusiasm for what they're doing.
Now you must be having the larger picture in mind as to how meditation can help you as a whole to grow. What I would suggest is just give it a try and experience the benefits yourself!