I am considered a very intelligent person, yet I suck at making decisions. People have advised me to meditate to learn more about myself and better my decision-making skills. I’ve also heard that meditation relieves stress and can help you get better sleep. I’ve even heard that it can reduce mild pain. But why would I start meditating without knowing if it can actually help me?
Before I proceed, I would like to tell you that I tried the exercise, and it had a very soothing effect on my mind and a calming effect on my body.
The process seems simple, but it isn’t very easy. Contrary to common belief, you don’t need to find a calm, silent place to meditate – you can, in fact, meditate while you’re returning from university or work or even in a crowded, noisy space. However to start, I recommend you to do it at home, or someplace that is silent.
The simplest way is to close your eyes, and breathe. Make yourself breathe fully and completely. Let these breaths be deep and fulfilling. As you keep breathing, your mind will shift your focus from your conscious breathing to the worries or things that bother you. Your next step should be to stop your mind from constantly running. Hold it in place. Make it focus on your breathing, and only breathing. And, that is it.
The benefits of meditation and their scientific evidence are:
1. Stress reduction
Stress is one of the main and common reasons that make people move towards meditation.
Evidence may be found in the results of a study of 1300 individuals. The most important finding was the reduction of stress in those with the highest levels of stress.
An eight-week study showed that mindful meditation reduced inflammation caused by stress.
2. Anxiety control
Stress can any time translate to anxiety. So meditation helps with anxiety too.
A study involving 18 volunteers who continued practicing regular meditation for three years had maintained lower anxiety levels over the term.
Another study of 2,466 participants suggested that different styles of meditation may reduce anxiety levels.
3. Help people with depression
Some form of meditation can give you a better outlook and an improved self-image.
Inflammatory cytokines that are released in stress response can lead to depression. Studies suggest that meditation may reduce these inflammatory cytokines.
4. Increasing Self-awareness
You can understand yourself better and become your best self by the power of meditation.
Meditation also makes you a creative problem solver.
A study of 40 senior women and men who practiced mindfulness meditation in a program experienced reduced feelings of loneliness, compared to the other group who had not taken the program yet.
5. Enhancement of attention span
Meditation can strengthen and increase the endurance of your attention.
A study found that meditation improved the participants’ ability to maintain and reorient their attention.
Another study showed that practicing meditation regularly helped human resource workers to stay focused longer on a task, and these workers remembered their tasks in better detail than their fellows who didn’t practice meditation.
Meditation can even reverse the patterns in the brain that are involved in worrying, mind-wandering and poor attention.
6. Reduction of age-related memory loss
A Kirtan Kriya, which is a method of meditation and involves a mantra or a chant while moving the fingers repeatedly to focus thoughts, was found to improve the participants’ ability to perform memory tasks in many studies.
7. Generate kindness
A form of meditation, Metta, aka loving-kindness meditation, begins with generating kind thoughts towards yourself.
People learn to extend the kindness and forgiveness externally to friends, acquaintances and finally, enemies.
Twenty-two studies have shown that peoples’ compassion towards themselves and others increases by practicing this form of meditation.
More studies showed that Metta meditation can also help people with social anxiety, marriage conflicts and anger management issues.
8. Fight addiction
Research has suggested that meditation can help you redirect your attention, increase your will, control your emotions and increase your understanding about why you are addicted to something.
Another study taught 19 individuals recovering from their alcoholism how to meditate. The participants who got the training could control their cravings and stress better than those who didn’t.
9. Better sleep
A study compared two meditation programs by assigning participants randomly to one of two groups. One of the groups meditated, the other did not. The group that meditated fell asleep faster and longer while the other group could not.
Since meditation can help you with controlling your busy mind better, you will be better able to keep insomnia at bay.
10. Pain relief
A study observed brain activity using functional MRI techniques while participants experienced painful stimuli. Some of the participants had been practicing meditation, whereas the others had not. The meditating patients were found to have more activity in the brain centers that control pain and had less sensitivity to pain.
Another larger study with 3,500 participants found that meditation was associated with less number of cases and complaints of intermittent or chronic pain.
Additionally, a study of patients with terminal diseases who regularly practiced meditation could decrease their chronic pain at the end of their life.
11. High blood pressure control
Meditation can reduce strain to your heart and improve your physical health.
Consistently high blood pressure makes pumping harder for the heart, and it has to work harder, leading to poor heart function.
A study of 996 volunteers revealed that meditating on a silent mantra, a repeated, non-vocalized word, could reduce blood pressure by five points on an average. This effect was more pronounced in older volunteers and those having higher blood pressure before the study.
Meditation, in part, appears to control blood pressure by relaxing the tension in blood vessels and suppressing the fight-or-flight response that increases heart rate and alertness in seemingly stressful situations.
There are several meditation styles that you can practice. Here are two common and popular styles:
- Focused-attention meditation: You focus on one object, thought or sound like your breath, or visualization. It can help you focus more.
- Open-monitoring meditation: You focus on everything that’s going around and into you, the birds chirping, the cars honking, and your thoughts. It makes you aware of your feelings and thoughts that you unintentionally suppress.
Meditate whatever way that works for you – it has fantastic benefits to make the exercise really worth your time. And you don’t even have to pay hefty charges to do it.