In recent years, a growing number of studies have been done to analyze the effects of meditation on the mind and body. Meditation provides numerous benefits, including reduced anxiety and stress, a clear mind, a more positive outlook, and could even cure depression in some cases. Asian cultures have practiced meditation for thousands of years, and ancient civilizations dating back to as early as 1st century BCE have documented their successes with meditation as well.
Meditation is quickly spreading into the western world as Americans realize the many benefits of this peaceful practice that have been forgotten for centuries. If you don’t already maintain a regular meditation practice, here are some reasons why you should include it in your daily regimen more often.
15 Reasons to Meditate More Often
1. It quiets the mind
Throughout the day, our minds become filled with a lot of chatter and excess information, so meditation helps to clear your mind and ease the incessant thought patterns that might go through your mind. Meditation actually makes you wiser by enabling you to observe your thoughts and eliminate those that no longer serve you. It teaches you that you don’t have to become a slave to your mind, and how to master it instead.
2. It changes your brain chemistry
Neuroscience research has shown that meditation and mindfulness training can alter the neuroplasticity of your brain. A group of Harvard neuroscientists studying mindfulness meditation have reported that just eight weeks of meditation can result in structural brain chemistry changes. What does all that really mean? It means that just by quieting your mind for fifteen to thirty minutes a day, you can create positive changes in the makeup of your cells, which control every function in your body.
3. It can relieve anxiety and depression
As mentioned before, meditation can alleviate mood disorders, according to 47 separate studies analyzed in JAMA Internal Medicine. In a study done by researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, brain imaging of the participants in the study found that meditation-related anxiety relief was associated with activation of the anterior cingulate cortex, ventromedial prefrontal cortex, and anterior insula. These areas of the brain are involved with executive function and the control of worrying. Meditation-related activation of these three regions was directly linked to anxiety relief.
4. It increases your self-awareness
The whole idea behind meditation is to observe yourself without judgment. Most people feel disconnected in life because they actually don’t have any sort of relationship with themselves. Meditation allows you to develop a healthy relationship with yourself and explore your deepest thoughts and feelings. It helps you become aware of negative thoughts and teaches you to transmute them into either neutral or positive feelings.
5. It helps you stay focused
Oftentimes, people have a hard time focusing on the task at hand because their mind wanders in a million directions at once. Meditation can help with that over time by teaching the brain to slow down and fully immerse itself in the task at hand.
6. It teaches you self-love.
Believe it or not, your brain can become your own worst enemy. Meditation teaches you to become aware of your self-talk and take on the role of the silent observer behind the thoughts. A meditation practice allows you to increase your awareness of your thoughts without becoming attached to them. In this way, it helps you love yourself more when you can observe yourself without any judgement.
7. Meditation develops your self-confidence
This goes along with teaching you self-love, because confidence arises from actually knowing yourself. How can you feel confident about someone you don’t really even know? By getting to know yourself, you can accept who you are in your entirety, from your flaws to your greatest assets. When you truly love yourself, your self-esteem will increase because you no longer feel detached from your true essence.
8. It makes you feel more connected
Meditation can increase your interconnectedness to everything and everyone around you, not just yourself. The more time you spend alone, ironically, the more you will feel connected to the whole Universe. Recent studies have shown that by practicing what’s called “compassion meditation,” you can increase the area in your brain responsible for processing love and compassion.
9. It makes you feel happier
Who doesn’t want to feel happier these days? With meditation, feeling better about yourself and about life couldn’t be any easier. All it takes is commitment to the practice and the willingness to be open with yourself and flesh out all the bottled up emotions you may have.
10. It can help your memory
Meditation develops mental focus—a skill that may serve quite useful for other activities requiring prolonged attention. In a study in the journal Mindfulness, college psychology students who briefly meditated right before a lecture scored better on a post-lecture quiz than students who didn’t meditate.
11. It could lower your blood pressure
One of the biggest benefits meditation offers is the balancing of the nervous system, which helps regulate your blood pressure. A 1974 study conducted at Harvard Medical School (and since repeated in other studies) reported that borderline hypertension could be treated with meditation. By adopting the practice, most people under the age of 40 could expect to fall below the limit set for borderline hypertension, which is 130.90.
12. It can boost your immune system
Meditation also keeps illnesses and infections at bay. In one study testing immune function, flu shots were administered to volunteers who had meditated for eight weeks and to another group of people who didn’t meditate. Blood samples taken later revealed the meditation group had higher levels of antibodies produced against the flu virus, according to the study in Psychosomatic Medicine.
13. Meditation can ease PMS symptoms and increase fertility
PMS symptoms and infertility problems can be improved with regular meditation. In one study, PMS symptoms lessened by 58% when women meditated regularly. Another study found that hot flashes were less intense among women who meditated.
Women struggling with infertility showed much less anxiety, depression, and fatigue following a 10-week meditation program (along with exercise and nutrition changes); 34% became pregnant within six months.
14. It could increase your productivity
Most people who meditate find that they can focus better and get more done in a shorter amount of time. If you have been feeling frazzled lately, try meditating at least fifteen minutes a day. If you have a clear mind, you can more easily sort through tasks and get them finished quicker.
15. It makes you more optimistic
In general, if you feel disconnected and stressed, you probably can’t enjoy life to the fullest. When you meditate, you can eliminate all those barriers keeping you from a positive life and help you understand what you can do to make your life more enjoyable. With self-awareness comes self-responsibility, and by working actively on your life, you will have a better outlook and feel more positive about yourself and the future.
Join in the discussion: Do you meditate now? How has it helped you? If not, do you think you will start after reading this?