Let’s start by learning all the benefits of meditation. It will help you as it becomes the essential motivator on why you’ve chosen to learn this ancient practice. The benefits of meditation begin with improving your mental health, which then helps improve your physical health as well. In this episode, I will discuss the most common benefits of meditation.
It is the most common ailment that people decide to start with meditation. A recent study of 3,500 adults showed that meditation did live up to its reputation for reducing stress. Stress, whether it is mental or physical, is caused by increased levels of cortisol, which is a stress hormone in our bodies. It is responsible for all the unhealthy symptoms of stress. These symptoms can range from sleep disruption to depression and anxiety, and in some cases, increased blood pressure. It is also a regular contributor to overall fatigue and foggy thinking. Meditation helps battle stress effectively because being mindful is stress’ kryptonite. Naturally, when humans are in a state of fear, our minds start to go crazy. We begin thinking of all the worst-case scenarios and how that would lead to our untimely demise.
Sarah works in a lawyers’ office as a paralegal and is always under a lot of stress. She forgot to submit a document to her boss, which had a deadline of three hours ago. Naturally, Sarah’s mind goes wild – “My boss is going to be so angry! They are going to sit me down and fire me. I just signed a lease to my new apartment, and I can’t afford to lose this job! I’m going to have to sell my car and move back in with my parents after this! But I hate living with my parents – they are going to drive me insane. I’ll become so depressed, etc. etc. etc.” It is where mindfulness comes into play. Instead of spiraling at the thought of the mistake she made at work, she can focus on the task at hand. She would be able to reason with herself and think, “Why am I so scared and stressed?” and be able to answer her thoughts. Being able to be reasonable with your thoughts prevents spiraling, which, in turn, reduces stress. With mindfulness, Sarah can now say to herself, “Well, I’ve done a great job in the last year at this job – I don’t think my boss will fire me over one missed document. I better go tell them now and submit the document that I’ve missed.” It is the reasonable response that we all want to have in our head, whenever something goes wrong in our lives. Meditation and the practice of mindfulness will be able to help people with that.
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Controlling and Reducing Anxiety
Stress and anxiety are partners in crime. One intends to lead to another, and vice versa. Overall, having less stress, in general, tends to lead to less anxiety. In a recent study, people participated in an eight-week trial of mindfulness meditation in hopes of reducing their stress. The result was that it helped reduce severe symptoms of chronic anxiety such as; OCD, panic attacks, phobias, paranoia, and social anxiety. Three years following, there was another study that followed up with a group of volunteers after they completed the eight-week mindfulness meditation trial. More than half of the volunteers had continued to practice regular meditation and were able to achieve lower anxiety levels in their day-to-day lives. Many of those participants have begun practicing meditation in other forms, such as. Yoga is a form of meditation that has scientifically been proven to help people reduce anxiety. It is caused by the benefits of physical exercise and meditation together. Meditation in any form should be a must in the lives of people who work in high-pressure work environments. Job-related anxiety is one of the leading causes of stress in today’s society. Meditation is a safe and proven way to combat the daily stressors of a demanding and emotionally taxing job.
Increasing Emotional Health
Meditation promotes better emotional health. Similar to how stress and anxiety are partners in crime – emotional health is the overall state of your mind. Lowering negative emotions such as stress and anxiety leaves room in your account for more positive emotions such as happiness and calmness. There are forms of meditation out there that can help a person lead to a better self-image and build a life in a more positive light. In the same study above, those who meditated experienced long-term decreases in depression and better overall emotional health. A few other scientific studies suggest that meditation can treat depression by reducing cytokines. Cytokines are inflammatory chemicals in your brain that are released in response to stress, which affects a person’s mood negatively and can lead to depression in the long run.
Meditation enhances one’s self-awareness. Since meditation helps practice the act of mindfulness, it naturally increases one’s self-awareness as you’re paying attention to your thoughts. Self-awareness allows you to develop a more robust understanding of yourself, and why you think the things that you do, which in turn helps you grow into the best version of yourself. This benefit mainly helps people who face social anxiety problems. Facial expressions, tone of voice, and other forms of body language are a great way to know if you’re acting in a socially acceptable manner. Having good self-awareness is beneficial as society tends to treat people that have it better than those who don’t. It allows you to understand yourself more and, in return, can understand other people more. Being self-aware creates compassion and sympathy, not only for others – but for yourself as well.
Meditation helps make kindness. As mentioned briefly above, mindfulness and self-awareness generate compassion and sympathy, which fall under the umbrella trait of service. Some types of meditation focus more on increasing positive actions and feelings towards others and yourself. Metta is a type of meditation that is more commonly known as the loving-kindness meditation. Its entire theory rests on developing compassionate thoughts and perceptions toward your inner self. With training, people learn to show gentleness and compassion externally – usually to friends, acquaintances, and lastly, enemies. It is proven to be easier to extend compassion and kindness externally than internally. By mastering understanding externally, it helps one give more compassion and kindness to themselves. In a recent study consisting of 100 adults: they were assigned at random to a loving-kindness meditation practice program. Researchers found that the benefits of this practice were dependent on dosage. Notably, the more effort and time that the people put into the loving-kindness meditation, the more positive feelings of kindness they experienced. Another similar study proved that the beneficial feelings people develop after practicing loving-kindness meditation can help with anger management, marital conflict, and overall social anxiety. Another conclusion that was drawn from these studies was that these benefits appear to grow over time with the continual practice of this meditation.
Improving Attention Span
Meditation helps improve attention span. Have you ever noticed that you are unable to focus on something for an extended amount of time? A typical example would be starting to watch a new television show. You may find yourself drifting off after the first two minutes of a new presentation and end up doing something out of a bad habit like scrolling on your phone with the TV playing in the background. It is all due to having a short attention span. There is a type of meditation called ‘focused-attention’ meditation that is correctly used to combat this problem. This type of meditation is like lifting weights in the gym for your attention span. Its goal is to help improve the endurance and strength of your attention span. One recent study looked into the results of an 8-week program of meditation and mindfulness. It found that practicing this specific type of meditation improved the participants’ capability to maintain and reorient their focus. A related study focused on human resource employees showed that those who exercised mindfulness practices regularly were able to stay focused longer on any task. Also, these employees were able to remember the details of their assignment, whereas their peers who did not use meditation did not. Another analysis concluded that meditation could even aid in reversing bad habits in the brain that play a role in worrying and daydreaming. Overall, even briefly meditating can benefit someone’s attention span. Another study showed that all you needed was four days of practicing meditation to be able to increase your attention span.
Reducing Age-Related Memory Loss
Meditation helps reduce age-related memory loss. Scientifically, people who don’t actively use their brains tend to have them deteriorate at a faster rate. It is why, in a lot of senior homes, nurses and workers promote brain games for seniors to prevent deterioration. Games like chess, mahjong, and even video games help exercise the functions of your brain to keep it healthy. Kirtan Kriya is a type of meditation that uses a chant while moving your fingers and hands to help direct your thoughts. It is said to help improve the meditator’s ability to memorize tasks in numerous studies that relate to memory loss due to age.
Further analysis of 12 studies discovered that several other meditation practices helped increase memory, attention span, and mental speediness among senior participants. Overall, not only can meditation fight age-related memory loss, it can help improve the patients’ memory if they are battling dementia. It also can aid those who are caring for family members with dementia as it is extremely mentally and emotionally taxing.
Improving Sleep Quality
Meditation helps enhance the quality of sleep and prevents insomnia. Shockingly, nearly 50% of the population in the world will encounter insomnia in their life at some point. Meditation and mindfulness help you acknowledge and let thoughts pass through your mind allowing you to clear it of any lingering thoughts. Being able to recognize feelings and let them go plays a huge part in one’s ability to fall asleep. If you have many things on your mind, it tends to lead to the inability to fall asleep. It creates stress and anxiety, which is a good night’s sleep’s worst enemy. One study related two meditation and mindfulness courses by assigning participants at random to one of two groups. The first group participated in meditation while the second group did not. The first group who meditated was able to fall asleep quicker and remained asleep longer in comparison to the second group who did not meditate. Becoming experienced in meditation and mindfulness helps one control and redirect the “runaway” or “leftover” thoughts in one’s head, which often leads to insomnia. Also, meditation enables you to relax your body, which releases tension. It can then place you into a peaceful state of mind where you will be more likely to fall asleep.