6 Powerful Benefits of Meditation
Meditation is one of those things that everyone knows about, but we don’t actually do. It’s too easy to overlook. With busy, hectic lives, who has time to sit around doing literally nothing? But meditation has an assortment of amazing benefits that will improve your total wellness by leaps and bounds.
Meditation Relieves Stress, Depression, and Anxiety
Every day there’s a new headline about how we’re more washed up, stressed out, depressed and anxious than ever before. The digital age means we’re always on, always plugged in, and modern life can throw us all out of whack.
The result? Skyrocketing rates of all three mood issues. And while these can make you miserable, they can also negatively impact your physical health – particularly stress. While there are many conventional treatment options available, mindfulness sessions can also offer an improvement in many symptoms. One study found that in just eight weeks of practice, meditation reduced rumination, a key factor in depression and anxiety. Another study found that over a period of three years, a majority of people stuck with meditation practices and saw long-term improvements in their conditions.
Some studies have even tackled more severe forms of stress disorders, like PTSD.
Reducing stress by mindfulness meditation has also been shown to reduce inflammation, one of the most destructive physical side effects of a high-stress lifestyle. Meditation even improved the mood, stress levels, and some physical symptoms for cancer patients.
Meditation Improves Sleep
We’re always hearing about how important sleep is (spoiler alert: it’s crucial to overall health). We’re also always hearing about how we’re not getting enough of it—and even if we’re putting in the hours, it’s probably not good quality.
Meditation can help with that. Besides relieving depression, anxiety and stress—three conditions that have a negative impact on sleep—regular meditation can significantly improve insomnia. It even helps insomniacs fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. As a bonus, in the long term it might even reduce the total amount of sleep you need.
Meditation Reduces Pain
Meditation can relieve pain. It’s so powerful that it can even help alter how your brain processes the sensory input involved.
Meditation Improves Focus, Concentration, and Memory
A side effect of the modern world’s obsession with 24/7 availability is that we’re constantly pulled in all directions. Distractions abound, and most of us try to multitask our way out of it. The bad news alert: we all suck at it.
All that trying (and failing) to multitask has destroyed our attention spans. Thankfully, meditation can help repair them, so you’ll be acting a whole lot less like an easily-distracted squirrel. And you can start reaping the benefits right away! Long-term meditation practice has clear benefits, but what if you’re not a Zen monk with years of training to develop an iron will? The good news is that one awesome study found that even brief training showed rapid improvement. Bonus: that same study also found significant improvements in memory, visio-spatial processing, and executive function.
Meditation Increases Connectedness, Emotional Intelligence and Compassion
Even more importantly, this type of meditation can also help train your brain to be more compassionate. We often think of compassion as a natural trait, something that simply is rather than a skill that can be developed. But a study conducted by Stanford University found that a ‘Compassion Cultivation Training’ program involving meditation: “… resulted in significant improvements in all three domains of compassion—compassion for others, receiving compassion from others, and self-compassion.”
Meditation Boosts Immunity
As if feeling, sleeping, concentrating, and connecting better weren’t enough… it turns out that meditation can help keep you from getting sick, too. One study also found that in patients who’d had a flu shot, those that meditated had better immune response.
In other words, meditating actually made the flu shot work better! If you’ve got to get one, you might as well make the best of it.
As compelling as these benefits are, that’s not all. You could write an entire doctoral thesis on the topic – and some people have! It’s clear that meditation is a useful tool for total mind-body-spirit health.
The best part? It’s free. Meditation is a powerful practice that anyone can learn do without spending a penny. You can do it anywhere, without having to purchase any fancy equipment or products. There are no dangerous side-effects, either. In other words… no excuse not to give it a shot!
If you’d like to learn some easy meditation techniques to get started, check out this beginner’s guide at The Art of Living.