Our minds are sometimes the toughest places to be. Every day people search for various ways to alter their consciousness and even quiet their thoughts. Some turn to harmful means like drugs and alcohol; others choose simple but mildly effective means like sleeping, listening to music, taking a walk, and so on. Then there are those who select meditation for the positive impact it has on health and well-being.
Meditation has increased in popularity over time, but still many misunderstand it. In this article, we will discuss the benefits of meditation and much more to help you understand this practice both to get started on it and get the right idea to guide your practice.
Stick with these lines.
What is Meditation?
This is the big question. Everyone presumes to know what meditation is, but do they, really. Some think meditation is some sort of religious practice or ritual even. So you might easily catch your neighbor giving ‘that’ look when they find you with eyes closed, legs together, and sitting in a quiet space in your home.
Perhaps after enlightening yourself, you can share this article with them as well for insight.
So, regardless of what everyone thinks meditation is, meditation is actually just a set of techniques or practices that help you increase your state of relaxation, awareness, and focus, ultimately altering your consciousness positively. It is like an exercise of the mind. Hence, just like exercising the body does so much good to your health and physical appearance, so does exercising the mind impact our entire well-being.
Meditation can be practiced in either of these three ways:
What does it really mean to be aware? Look around you (seriously look around. It will take you one second). At a glance, you can tell there are lots of things going on around you. For example, the fan is turning, the wind is blowing, and some little creatures are creeping around trying to hide from you, and so on. Awareness lets you truly see or perceive something. For instance, you can be aware of the turning fan blades. Aware of their rhythm and how that movement circulates the air around you. Meditation (exercising the mind) can be practiced with awareness of being conscious and undistracted. You might think it’s easy, but humans are the most distracted creatures on earth. I can almost bet that your mind is in different directions right now, and you keep bringing it back to focus on reading this article.
As humans, we have the ability to observe, but we hardly use it. Imagine sitting outside in a park or at the beach and doing nothing but watching. If you do it right, you will notice how much little things go by without us knowing simply because we never slow down to observe. You will see that there are subtle signs of trouble or discontentment a couple might miss within themselves, which might lead to big problems. They never knew about these signs because they never practiced observation. We are keener on reaction. Observation is a mode of meditation that stills the mind and just lets you see what’s around you. It’s functional medicine for the soul and for your relationship with others.
Concentration is a bit more forceful but becomes natural when you get into it. You force your mind to be quiet, to think what you want it to think at that time. Concentration as a way to meditate can be focused internally, externally, or on an object. So, it’s as simple or hard as staring at a flame of a candle and picturing that these flames are shedding away so many things you don’t need in your head. Or you could close your eyes and feel yourself float into peace.
Relevant Details to Know About Meditation
- Meditation is not a new thing. It’s been around for centuries evolving like everything else. It has been practiced across cultures and religions for years.
- Meditation is a personal or rather individual thing. Even when a group of people sits together to meditate, the experience is personal. You do not bond with the next person in your mind. It’s you alone up there so as the benefits are your own too.
- To practice meditation, maintaining body stillness is essential.
- Keeping the eyes closed is a key part of meditation, but there are techniques or open-eye styles of meditation to use.
- There are different types of meditation.
- Meditation is used for more than a ‘me’ time. Medical fields and other professionals use meditation to treat some conditions. It is often used as a psychotherapeutic technique.
What Mediation is Not
Meditation is many things, but there are some practices people tend to mistake for meditation. First of all, you must know that when it comes to spiritual or personal development exercises, there is quite a lot to choose from. These exercises are not synonymous with one another.
Here are some of them below
- Prayer – Prayer is not meditation. It’s true that in Christianity, the word ‘meditate’ is said to mean a sort of prayer or private time meant to connect you with God. Prayer itself involves a conscious flow of thinking, focused words all directed at a deity.
- Affirmation or Self-hypnosis – When you affirm, you are trying to send a message to your mind. For example, if you affirm, you are trying to create an imprint on the mind. In fact, the perfect explanation is self-hypnosis. It would seem you’re hypnotizing yourself and exercising control over what your mind thinks with that hypnotic strategy.
- Relaxation – Relaxation is a day at the beach or in a pool with peace and quiet; a day at the spa just sleeping slightly as strong, trained hands eliminate all the stress and tension in your body. Relaxation is not meditation at all. More specifically, relaxation is aimed only at releasing the pent up energy (good or bad) in your body, and when you meditate, you get relaxation as a benefit of meditation, among other benefits.
- Breathing exercise – That’s all it is quite frankly –good old fashioned breathing. Breathing exercise tries to teach you to breathe better, be calm, and purify your body.
Benefits of Meditation
What does meditation do for all the folks who practice it so faithfully? Quite a lot, actually, but you will get the proof you seek in a moment. The benefits of meditation are dozens upon dozens, most of which are scientifically proven. The benefits span from mental to emotional, physical, and spiritual. If you recall, we have established that meditation affects your entire well-being for good.
Mental Benefits of Meditation
Like we have said or implied, the mind can be a scary place. It’s well known that your very own mind can terrorize you. After all, persons who commit suicide didn’t just waltz to a rope, knife, or drug overdose. The suicide began long ago in their minds. Their mental state was compromised, and they couldn’t solve the problem. When your mind makes your life a living hell, it becomes possible to feel hopeless and want to end it all. That is why practices like meditation should be more popular, to help people overcome all of this. Meditation literally brings things into perspective mentally and makes life as it is worth living for.
Here are ways meditation comes through for our mental health.
Stress itself is a normal part of life. You can’t run away from it. But you can manage stress or ensure that you don’t take on more pressure than you should. As simple as it sounds, it’s so hard to do. Mostly because the world today seems to thrive on stress. We are quick to feel like we have the world on our shoulders, and that is just a lot of weight.
Studies have shown that meditation is effective at reducing stress. It reduces the density of the brain tissues associated with stress.
In 2014, the Journal of Psychoneuroendocrinology published a study carried out on a group of people undergoing stress symptoms. The group was split into two, with one group taught to analyze poetry with the intention of learning better critical thinking skills and another group who performed a 25-minute meditation session for three days. After this short time, the participants were told to complete a speech and math test under the supervision of ‘stern-faced evaluators.’ The idea was to create a stressful environment and gauge the group’s response. At the end of the test, the group who had performed meditation reported that they felt less stressed while the poetry group did not.
There are several other studies that attest to the effect of meditation on stress. Another is a PTSD research that came to the conclusion that meditation helped to balance the nervous system, restore hormonal levels, and improve brain coherence.
Doctors have discovered that stress leads to life-threatening health conditions like heart disease, body pain, lack of sleep, low sex drive, and so on. Meditation reduces this to a minimum, helping you better manage your current stress levels and future stressful situations.
Anxiety is closely linked to stress. It is aptly defined as the body’s response to stress. It involves the feeling of fear and apprehension – how am I going to do this? What do I do? Oh, this is so troublesome. I’m scared and tired – words like this indicate anxiety. Thus in most cases, when you can lower stress levels, you indirectly lower anxiety levels.
Scientific evidence to back this exists as well. In a 2012 study, about 2,500 patients who practiced different meditation strategies, showed significantly reduced anxiety levels. Another 8-week study of people who practiced mindfulness meditation, the results were the same. In 2018, the Journal of Psychiatry Research published a study showing that patients diagnosed with a generalized anxiety disorder who participated in a meditation course had lower stress-related, hormonal, and inflammatory levels than those who didn’t.
Like stress, anxiety leads to health complications nobody needs. Meditation helps eliminate it.
Improves focus and Concentration
Focus is so important for everyone right now, and it is difficult to achieve it without help. Some people turn to coffee to sharpen their minds and enhance focus, but it’s not healthy to become a coffee addict – which you might be if only you can admit it. Meditation is known to improve focus and concentration significantly. A study carried out with human resource workers, revealed that those who practice meditation could stay focused for a longer time on a specific task. They also had better memory and higher productivity. There are various styles of meditation, and each influences focus and concentration to a certain degree.
Focus and concentration are helpful in everyday lives, a few minutes of meditation regularly can be all you need to be sharp and top-performing.
Reduces Age-related Memory Loss
Aging is a natural thing, and as much as you would love to stay young forever, it just won’t happen. With aging comes a decline in our physical and mental state. A drop in memory retention is one such change. It can be new and confusing to start losing all you know suddenly. Thankfully, this can be managed and significantly reduced by meditating. In a review of 12 studies on the subject, it was discovered that several meditation styles played a major role in memory retention and development. Also, those who suffer dementia and other cognitive issues can take advantage of meditation to boost memory and brain function. With barely two minutes of meditation daily, older adults can cope with any mental dysfunctions.
Meditation enhances your mental agility, old or young. Starting early can help you skip the age-related memory loss altogether.
The most creative minds meditate. These include names like David Lynch and Yoko Ono. Meditation helps you see beyond your current perspective. It broadens your mind and expands your knowledge. These benefits influence and inspire creativity. Gain clarity when you take a few minutes to meditate daily before diving into work.
If you feel stuck or out of creative juice, do the same thing, and watch the best things happen.
Our emotions practically rule our lives. They influence everything you do, how you interact with people, who you interact with, what you say, how you say it, and so on. On most days, your emotions can be everywhere, making you a mess. Meditation presents several benefits that help keep emotions in check and bring out the best in you.
Promotes emotional health and control
Emotional health means being in control of your thoughts, feelings, and emotions. It means being aware of them and able to control them. Unfortunately, you might not be emotionally healthy. In one study following 18 volunteers. It was discovered that these volunteers experienced a steady decrease in depression as a result of practicing meditation. Another study compared electrical brain activity between those who practiced meditation and those who did not. Those who meditated had positive thinking and were consistently optimistic, those who didn’t were left out of such benefits.
Meditation helps you battle depression and take a better view of life. Suddenly those complicated problems don’t seem so big and scary anymore. You understand the simplicity of it all and that emotional health makes the world a better place.
Generate Feelings of Kindness
Yes, you read that right. Meditation can help you become kind and compassionate. You might feel a bit disconnected from others and the world around you. But there are types or styles of meditation like Metta that are dedicated to connecting you back to the world. Metta meditation helps you groom empathy and revive social connections. Proof of this exists in the form of 22 studies. 22 studies carried out on Metta have all proven its effectiveness. Among them is the study on 100 adults who experienced an increase in loving-kindness and compassion after engaging in Metta meditation.
Meditation influences you towards kindness, compassion, love, and joy. This is good for the heart, your health, and others around you.
Enhance Mood and Boost Positivity
Have you ever met a pessimist, or are you a pessimist? They can suck the life out of your day. They can make you just like them, too – that is assuming you are not the guilty one here. But give a pessimist meditation and watch how they change.
Meditation helps to boost mood and positivity. From learning to care and love others, all the way to learning to control your emotions, alleviate stress, and so on all these benefits help you see the bright side of things easily and quickly. They help you to be a happy person. Don’t mistake this for those weird scenarios where people are brainwashed and plastered with a fake smile acting all happy and chappy like the world is roses and ice cream. That’s not what we mean here. This goes down to the very essence of meditation and how it is a personal experience that takes care of your mind.
Meditation is beneficial for everyone to enjoy happiness, positivity, and better moods.
Positive Effects for Relationship
Relationships – romantic and not romantic relationships – can be a minefield. Half of us don’t know what we are doing. People just go with the flow most times, copying others in the way they handle their relationships. Remember our talk on observation at the start of the article? Imagine being able to apply that to your relationship. Imagine being able to see the signs of how your partner or neighbor feels when you interact with them. Meditation makes you compassionate and kind and able to control your emotions to add value to others. You would also be able to avoid negative influence.
Meditation has helped several relationships blossom and last. And people who meditate are often the best kind of people with open, kind hearts, and understanding.
Improve communication skills
Communication might seem as simple as asking questions and getting answers from a person you are conversing with. It’s often more profound than that. How is your communication when there is a conflict? How about when you misunderstand instructions or a simple message sent to you? Communication is a broad concept, and philosophers agree that humans are yet to grasp this fully.
Meditation might just be the way out of the communication gap most people have. This is as a result of what meditation teaches you. Meditation teaches you to have an awareness of the next person and your surroundings. It teaches you to observe more than their words.
With meditation, communicating effectively is possible. If you are looking to work on your communication skills, a few minutes of daily meditation practice can help you do just that.
Ability to Make Decisions and Be Confident
Confidence is natural for some and harder for others. It makes you wonder how those smug humans do it. Well, while you are not aiming for smugness, you can learn confidence and improve your decision-making skills with meditation. Following our discussions above, you see how most benefits of meditation tie together to affect your overall well-being for the better. You gain confidence when you become aware and learn to observe. Observation, compassion, mental prowess, and more contribute to your ability to make decisions. And not just any decisions, accurate ones that are correct and valid over 90% of the time. With clarity, compassion, happiness, and emotional control come confidence as well.
Physical Benefits of Meditation
Your mind reaches out to your physical body in so many ways. Stress, for example, starts in the mind or consciousness. From feeling pressured or overworked, your body starts to respond to these too. Stress can quickly lead to fatigue, heart conditions, headaches, aches and pains, and much more.
This is why meditation can impact your physical well-being.
Let’s look in on the benefits here.
Improve Sleep Quality
Parents know and enforce the value of sleep for their kids. They acknowledge that the quality of sleep can help kids grow and develop mentally. It’s the same for adults, only you are not growing physically anymore, you are just improving and maintaining your health. Any health practitioners would tell you that 8 hours of sleep a day is what your body needs to rejuvenate and beat several illnesses. In this fast-paced world, you might barely get away with 4 hours – that is, if you get any sleep at all. Insomnia has proven to be the biggest enemy of proper rest for the population.
After a stressful day, you might expect to fall into a deep sleep in seconds and end up disappointed to find yourself tossing, turning, thoughts racing. In a study comprising two groups of participants, one group practiced meditation while the other did not. The group that practiced meditation fell asleep sooner than those who didn’t. Don’t you just want to meditate now?
Meditation helps your body relieve tension and control the tumbling thoughts that influence your right to quality sleep. With quality sleep –even if it’s not 8 hours per night but substantial – your health will be significantly improved.
Decrease Blood Pressure
High blood pressure affects millions of adults worldwide. The symptoms are rarely noticeable until something goes drastically wrong. High blood pressure increases your risk of fatal heart attacks heart failure, kidney disease, and more. A significant number of studies have looked into how or if meditation can play a role in reducing high blood pressure. The studies came away with evidence to support the theory that meditation plays a functional part, and combined with medical solutions, it might eradicate the problem or minimize it to its lowest. In a two-year study involving 56 adults, it was observed that those who practiced meditation had a significant decrease in blood pressure. This was in comparison to patients who received progressive muscle relaxation therapy. This other group saw no changes.
The immune system is our defense against diseases, illnesses, infections, and so on. It is how we stay strong and healthy physically. You might fall ill more often than you would like, and it could be traced back to your immune system. To develop a robust immune system, you are often advised to eat healthy, exercise, drink lots of water, and care for yourself, and so on. Another essential way to maintain a strong immune system is via meditation, and there is proof.
A study of meditation and the possibility of meditation lowering cancer risk showed that meditation practices boost lymphocyte count and help the body develop a shield that fights the toxic cells of cancer. In another study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in 2003, it was discovered that regular meditation improves the immune system’s functions and produces a lasting positive change to the brain.
Meditation is your way out to kick sickness to the curb and strengthen the immune system.
You Can Meditate Anywhere
Being able to meditate anywhere is a benefit in itself. How would you feel if, after exploring all these benefits of meditation, you find out it can only be carried out at the top of a mountain or some other unreachable inconvenient place? You would be very upset and wish you didn’t take the time to read this at all. Thankfully, meditation does not work that way. It can be done at home, at the office, in a park, and so on. Meditation does not discriminate on any level. It is for all (including kids), and it is extremely easy to get started on. All you need is yourself, your spot, maybe a few tips on styles, and that’s it. You can join a group or keep a credible online resource handy for directions.
Spiritual benefits of meditation
This practice itself is built to influence the mind, and all that is linked to it. Your spiritual life has a lot to gain from meditation, starting with a sense of peace, no matter where or who you are. Meditation gives you that ‘quiet,’ that inner calm that you crave.
It disconnects you from negative thoughts, disturbing thoughts, negative people, or situations. Meditation trains your mind to avoid or tackle any situation efficiently that tries to mess with your inner peace.
You become fully aware of the inner you. It’s right to say that many, many people are not in touch with themselves. In fact, they probably don’t know themselves as they should. The reason is usually a lack of patience or personal time. Sometimes it is necessary to look inwards and recognize yourself. This births confidence, self-love, and love and understanding for others. Meditation helps you achieve this.
Self-realization and spiritual awakening are a part of this mental exercise.
Does Meditation Replace Medication
No, it does not. Meditation is not for sick or ill persons. Not everyone who practices meditation has something wrong with them. Meditation is a lifestyle you adopt for wellness and the total transformation of your well-being.
How to Start
As we have seen within the course of the article, there are different types of meditation. They all serve unique purposes, so it’s important to discover them and pick what suits you to begin with. All meditation styles or types impact health, emotion, mental health, and spiritual health. Just by using them regularly, you will experience it all. In the same way, exercise is excellent for your entire physical body, but you chose a program to help you grow a more massive chest. You will get the larger chest and the full package of benefits known to exercise – this is what choosing a meditation style entails.