[soc_panel color=”blue”]By: Unber Shafiq[/soc_panel]
Did you ever think about silencing the chatter in, or controlling your thoughts? Or maybe being more aware of your emotions? Has it ever occurred to you that things would be different if you had the power to focus on the present? Meditation — the road to controlling your thoughts without letting them control you — is the required action here.
The quieter your mind, the more you can hear. The more you hear from the inside, the more self-aware you are. This eventually leads to a cascade of events that have all the positive effects on your body, mind, and soul.
Some people take meditation as a lengthy and challenging task that would require tons of hours and detachment from their daily activities. Others believe it to be the requirement for those monks who have some religious affiliations. However, meditation is for everyone. Me, you, the doctor, that monk, and even the high school student who believes it’s too early to silence random thoughts.
10 Amazing Benefits of Meditation (P.S. a Beginner’s Guide to Meditation)
From stress reduction to improving your attention span, the benefits of meditation are far stretched. Mentioned below are 10 amazing benefits of meditation that will want you to meditate now.
1. Meditation reduces stress.
Issues like stress, worry, tension, and a rush of emotions that are difficult to cater at the same time are more prevalent than ever before. There is a great chance that you are one of the affected individuals.
For hundreds of years, meditation has been looked upon as a tool to relieve stress and to be more self-aware. A study conducted on more than 3500 adults showed that meditation does live up to the claim for stress reduction.
Another study conducted on 1300 subjects concluded that meditation reduces stress, especially in those who have high-stress levels. So, you can take a break from daily life stress through meditation.
2. Meditation improves your emotional health.
In a study comprising over 4,600 adults, results showed that meditation reduces depression. Another study on people who practice mindfulness found measurable changes in the areas of the brain related to positive thoughts. Meditation has also shown to create an improved self-image in its practitioners.
With decreased stress and anxiety, improved mood, increased happiness, and decrease irritability, you are more likely to be emotionally healthy. Meditation helps you gain good emotional health.
Related article: Improve Your Mental Health With These Psychology Based Suggestions
3. Meditation enhances your attention span.
What do people do when they have to build their muscles? Mostly, they go for weightlifting. Meditation can be thought of as weightlifting to improve your attention span. It helps people increase the endurance of their focus.
People who practice meditation stay focused on a task for longer than those who don’t meditate. In this distractive era of facebook, twitter, instagram, and blogs, we all wish to have a better attention span so that we can focus better on our priority work list.
A study conducted during an eight-week mindfulness meditation course found that the participants had an improved ability to stay focused on a particular task. The practitioners of meditation also remembered the task details better than others.
4. Meditation for anxiety
There is a strong body of evidence that says meditation helps in reducing anxiety. It also reduces the symptoms related to anxiety disorders, such as social anxiety, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, paranoid thoughts, and phobias.
Of all the categories of meditation, mindfulness meditation works best for treating anxiety. Usually, individuals who have anxiety struggle with powerful, negative, and distracting thoughts. It is difficult for such individuals to distinguish between a problem-solving thinking and a worry that has no beneficial outcomes.
Amid these unproductive worries, you have the power to train your brain to think differently. Meditation breaks the pattern of negative thoughts. For example, a thought that nags you about getting late and losing a job can be replaced by the fact that it’s just a thought.
Mindfulness teaches you to recognize a thought that is only a nagging worry. It reduces your tendency to worry.
Meditation lifts your mood by balancing the neurotransmitters that are important for happiness. By increasing the levels of GABA and serotonin — the neurotransmitters — and controlling the stress hormone, i.e., cortisol, meditation contributes importantly towards reducing anxiety.
Related article: 13 Tools to Help You Move Through Anxiety
5. Meditation improves memory.
Do you often forget things that you thought you’d never forget? It happens to all of us. In fact, the biggest lie you can tell to yourself is, “I will remember this.” But there’s a solution, and this time it’s not any supplements. I am talking about meditation here — the old practice that can strengthen your memory.
Numerous studies conducted by neuroscientists have shown a clear link between meditation and memory. Frequent meditation improves the blood flow in the cortex region of your brain and thickens the cerebral cortex that deals with mental functions like memory and learning.
Meditating for as low as 20 minutes can have a significant effect on memory improvement and concentration. You don’t have to go to a mountaintop to practice meditation and improve your memory. It is possible to mediate from the comfort of your own home.
You can try out of many meditation techniques that experts have taught. Initially, you’ll have to go for hit and trial method. Once you’ve found which technique suits you the most, you are good to go with it.
6. Meditation generates self-awareness.
Meditation is the best way to quieten the busy mind chatter and re-connect to our true selves. It is the key to self-awareness.
Self-awareness is an inner exploration and self-reflection of your strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, emotions, and motivations. You could say that the concept of self-awareness is knowing thyself. A better understanding of yourself will help you grow into the best version of yourself.
Moreover, having a greater awareness of your thoughts can prove helpful in steering harmful thoughts towards positivity.
Self-awareness allows a person to understands other people, the way they perceive you, and your attitude/response to them at a particular moment.
7. Meditation controls pain.
Meditation is an appealing option to treat pain. Millions of people suffer from chronic pain, but they often outlook the benefits of meditation. Numerous studies have shown that meditation can significantly reduce pain and suffering.
Unlike painkillers, meditation is something that you do for yourself, and not a thing that is done to you.
Here’s how to meditate for pain relief using just 20-minute sessions:
- Find a place to sit in a relaxed position where you are undisturbed for the next 20 minutes.
- Breath in and breath out. Do this slowly and keep the breathing deep and calm.
- Become aware of things that you can perceive through your senses. Try to listen to one sound near you; feel your clothes against your skin, notice your breathing pattern, and feel your pain. Just observe. You don’t have to change anything.
- Divert your attention to the areas of your body, one at a time.
- Observe your thoughts. Accept each thought without trying to change it.
- Choose a phrase that has some meaning to you and repeat it while you breathe in and breath out. Your mind will wander at the start, but whenever it happens, focus on repeating the phrase.
- Briefly stretch your muscles.
- Take out a moment to reflect how this whole meditation experience felt.
- Repeat for at least 20 minutes daily.
“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh
8. Meditation improves your sleep
The train of everyday thoughts often robs us of a good night’s sleep. Mediation is considered a powerful remedy to treat insomnia and lack of sleep.
In a research study, participants with insomnia reported improvements in their sleep quality after practicing meditation. You can also use sleep meditation for quality sleep.
Deep relaxation techniques practiced during daytime can help improve sleep at night. A quality night’s sleep is what makes a productive day.
How to perform sleep meditation:
Lie down on your bed, place your palms on the stomach, and stretch your legs. Take deep breaths through your nostrils only. Your mind will wander, but bring back the attention to your breathing. These deep breaths will drive you to the relaxed state of mind.
Meditation improves many ascots of sleep such as
- sleep latency
- total sleep time
- total wake time
- sleep efficiency
- sleep quality
- wake after sleep onset
Meditation has also shown to reduce stress and depression, the two factors directly related to poor quality of sleep.
What’s the best type of meditation for catching those Zzzz’s?
For sleep, try one of the following forms of meditation:
- progressive muscle relaxation
- mindful breathing
- guided meditation
Watch this 10 minute Guided Meditation video.
9. Meditation generates kindness.
A unique form of meditation, i.e., loving-kindness (Metta), is meant to strengthen the feelings of kindness and warmth for yourself and others around you. This is a meditation of concern, friendship, care, love, and tenderness.
Initially, you break the barriers that prevent you from being kind and forgiving to yourself. You then extend this kindness and forgiveness towards friends, family, acquaintances, and even enemies.
The more you practice loving kindness, the more kind you become.
Loving-kindness is a selfless approach towards kindness and empathy without feeling obligated to do so. This form of meditation has tremendous benefits ranging from general well-being to improving mental health. Here’s a short video on loving-kindness meditation.
10. Mediation can help treat addictions.
Addictions are most commonly associated with emotional causes, be it stress, depression, fear, worry, anxiety, or pessimism. The improved mental health you attain through meditation can help you fight your dependencies.
Research shows that mindfulness practice increases a person’s understanding of the causes of his addictive behaviors and increase their willpower and control over emotions.
Mediation works by allowing the mind to step aside from addictive thoughts, and not by suppressing them. When you practice meditation, your mind starts to observe the thoughts and cravings in a detached and unemotional way.
Types of meditation
There are many types of meditation. Popular ones include
- transcendental meditation
- mindfulness meditation
- guided sleep meditation
- morning meditation
A beginners guide to meditation
The choice of selecting from many forms of meditation can leave you confused. If you are at a beginner level, you should try this simple meditation technique that is neither complicated nor time-consuming. Follow these steps:
- Find a place where you are less likely to be distracted for the next 20 minutes or so.
- Sit comfortably on a chair (Once you have developed the habit, you may even want to invest in meditation chair).
- Your feet should lay flat on the floor and legs should NOT be crossed.
- Close your eyes.
- Breath naturally. Take full benefit of your deep breathing capabilities.
- Now, focus your attention on the breathing and how your chest, shoulders, ribs, and belly move with each breath.
- Your mind will wander.
- Focus your attention back to breathing.
As a beginner, you can do this practice for just a few minutes, and then try to expand your meditation time. Do it gradually.
Most people who are new to meditation think that if they cannot control their thoughts while meditating, they cannot meditate. Remember, the goal of meditation is not the absence of thoughts, but it is gently pushing them aside.
What was being taught for hundreds of years is now a science-proven reality. Mediation does have enormous benefits. It provides you with a healthy brain, better attention span, a good mood, ability to cope with the stress of daily life, and a quality sleep that is necessary to a fresh start of your day. Practicing meditation for a few minutes in a day can have significant positive effects on your health and general well-being.