The Benefits of Meditation Are No Longer a Secret
Have you ever wondered why the happiest, most successful people practice meditation? The answer is simple: when adequately developed, meditation yields benefits such as self-awareness, better concentration, and lower stress levels.
Meditation involves focusing on the present moment, breathing, and being in touch with your body sensations. Most people use their minds all day long. Doesn’t your mind deserve a break? Just like any part of your body, it needs a rest from constant thinking.
Our thoughts are a huge distraction that affects our quality of life. Your thoughts do everything possible to distract you. They make you chase them down and give them attention.
As your day carries on, you get completely lost in thought, without realizing you haven’t had a chance to tap into your inner self. Our body and mind are on constant autopilot.
Just imagine how many thoughts you have on a daily basis. If you have so much running around in your mind, how can you realize who you are within?
If you’re thinking of starting meditation, consider some of its benefits:
Meditation reduces stress
Managing stress is a common reason why people try meditation. The latest neurobiological research shows that mediation affects the amygdala, the “fight or flight” area of the brain (1). The amygdala filters emotions such as anxiety, fear, and stress. That area of the brain shrinks when you practice meditation, which correlates to a reduction in stress levels.
High-stress levels also correlate with higher levels of cortisol. This hormone increases inflammation, which promotes anxiety, fatigue, and disrupts sleep. An eight-week study found that meditation reduces stress-related inflammation (2).
The typical coping strategies for anxiety are to “take a time-out” or “take a few deep breaths.” These two strategies are basically what meditation encompasses, but with more effectiveness. When we get anxious, we’re usually concerned about the future.
An eight-week study found that mindfulness meditation helped to reduce anxiety and other anxiety-related disorders such as phobias, social anxiety, and paranoid thoughts (3).
Mind and Performance
Meditation allows you to focus your thoughts on an object or sound, rather than on trying to achieve a more precise mind to focus. In one study, students practiced meditation for 20 minutes a day and showed improvement in their cognitive skills (4). Some students did ten times better than the control group that did not meditate.
Strengthens you against pain
If you apply the same pain stimuli to the same body part, wouldn’t you feel the same amount of pain? In a study of the Journal of Neuroscience, led by Fadel Zeidan, Ph. D, volunteers attended four 20-minute meditation courses.
Heat at 120 degrees was applied to their calves, and the results showed that 57 percent of them felt less unpleasant pain and 40 percent less intense pain (5). Maybe meditation will be part of the future treatments as we work to address America’s opioid crisis!
Meditation helps manage ADHD
I think we all have a little ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) because of our highly active lifestyles and addictions to technology. In a study with 50 adult ADHD patients, the use of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy resulted in a reduction in hypersensitivity and reduced impulsivity (5).
Emotional well-being is vital if we are to meet the demands of society and function in our everyday lives. Eating better, positive thinking, and exercising are crucial to well-being. A study conducted at the University of Utah with 38 subjects linked meditation to greater emotional stability, better self-rated emotional control, and lower pre-sleep arousal (6).
Reduced blood pressure
Some 75 million American adults have high blood pressure – that’s 1 in 3 adults (7)! High blood pressure puts you at risk of heart disease and stroke. No wonder it’s called the “silent killer”!
After using an experimental technique called “relaxation response,” two-thirds of patients with high blood pressure showed a significant drop in blood pressure, which resulted in less need for medication (8).
Meditation for loneliness, depression
Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses; it affects 16 million American adults each year (9). Researchers at UCLA showed a decrease in loneliness and depression in seniors who participated in an 8-week meditation program (10).
Similarly, in a study of 400 students aged between 13 and 20 in Belgium, students followed a mindfulness program and afterward reported reduced depression, anxiety, and stress (11). These results persisted six months after the mindfulness program ended.
How to Enjoy the Benefits
There’s no doubt that meditation is beneficial – but can you get results from just one session? Probably not. To receive the full benefits of meditation, you have to incorporate it into your daily life.
It only takes a few minutes a day. Soon enough, you’ll love emptying your thoughts, and meditation will become the best part of your day!