Meditation refers to the practice of habitually training your mind to redirect your thoughts and focus. Meditation is becoming increasingly popular, especially now, with more people being aware of its health benefits. Meditation can be used to bring awareness to yourself and your surroundings. Meditation can also assist in stress reduction and can help in the development of concentration.
Meditation is also practiced to develop other feelings and habits, such as having a positive outlook on life. It is also used for developing healthy sleep patterns and self discipline. There are lots of benefits of meditation, and we will look at them here.
Reducing stress is one of the most common reasons people meditate. Physical and mental stress can cause an increase in cortisol, which is the stress hormone. It triggers the release of cytokines, which are inflammatory chemicals that are harmful to us. They can cause disruption in our sleep, increase in blood pressure, cloudy thinking, fatigue, and feelings of depression and anxiety.
Mindfulness meditation was shown to reduce inflammation response caused by stress in an 8 week study. Other research also shows a positive correlation between meditation and alleviation of symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia and post-traumatic stress disorder.
There are many styles of meditation that are helpful in reducing stress. But not only will meditation reduce the symptoms of stress, but it will also help to minimize any medical conditions that may be triggered by stress.
When meditation reduces your stress levels, it will also reduce your anxiety as well. One meta-analysis shows that meditation decreases anxiety and has the strongest effect in persons who are suffering from the highest levels of anxiety.
One 8 week study showed how meditation helped to reduce anxiety in persons suffering from generalized anxiety disorder. Another study of 47 sufferers of chronic pain revealed that persons completing the 8 week meditation program had noticeable improvements in anxiety, pain and depression over a year.
Meditation can also alleviate job related anxiety. In one particular study, employees used a mindfulness meditation app for 8 weeks, which left them feeling less distress and less job strain compared to those who did not use the app.
It is clear that meditation done habitually can help to improve one’s stress reactivity, coping skills, and also reduce anxiety.
Boosts Emotional Health
One review of meditation used to treat over 3500 people found that mindfulness meditation was useful at improving the symptoms of depression. Another study found that persons who did meditation exercise had fewer negative thoughts when viewing negative images when compared to the control group who were not engaging in meditation exercises.
Another review shows evidence that meditation reduces the production of cytokines, which are released as a response to stress.
Enhancement of Self-Awareness
Some meditation can help you to grow into your best self by helping you to understand yourself better. One such type of meditation is known as self-inquiry meditation. This type of meditation helps one to develop a greater understanding of themselves and also how they relate to people around them.
There are other forms of meditation that teach you to recognize when your thoughts are being self-defeating or otherwise harmful. The aim of this type of meditation is to help you gain a greater awareness of your thought habits and to develop the ability to steer your thoughts to more constructive places.
A review of 27 studies showed how beneficial the practice of tai chi can be for improving self-efficacy. This term describes one’s belief in their own ability and capacity to overcome the challenges they are faced with in life.
Another study where 157 participants used a mindfulness app for two weeks showed that these people experienced increased social contact and reduced feelings of loneliness.
It is also thought that experience meditating can help to develop more creative problem-solving skills.
Increase Attention Span
There is a type of meditation called focused-attention meditation that works to lift your attention span. It also helps with improving endurance and strength of attention. Improved attention means better accuracy when completing a task.
Similar studies showed that people who regularly practiced meditation were better at visual tasks and had a longer attention span. One review had the conclusion that meditation even has the ability to reverse brain patterns that contribute to poor attention, worrying and a wandering mind.
If you can meditate for even 13 minutes per day, you can benefit from enhanced memory and increased attention in just 8 weeks.
Reduction in Age Related Memory Loss
You can keep your mind young with improvements in clarity of thinking and in attention. One method of meditation that can help with this is called Kirtan Kriya. It combines mediation and chant or mantra with repetitive motions of the fingers. Studies show that people who are suffering from age related memory loss saw improvement in their performance on neuropsychological tests.
One review confirms preliminary evidence that multiple styles of meditation can help to increase memory, mental quickness and attention in older participants. Patients with dementia can also see a partial improvement in their memory when they practice daily meditation. This is welcome news for caretakers of those with dementia, as it will help them cope better and minimize their own stress.
There are types of meditation that increase positive feelings and actions towards others and towards yourself. This type of meditation is called Metta. It’s focus is on helping participants develop kind thoughts and feelings toward themselves. This kindness can then be extended towards acquaintances, friends and family members, and even “enemies”.
This type of meditation has proven to have the ability to increase a participant's compassion towards themselves as well as towards others. A study including 100 randomly assigned adults showed that benefits of this type of meditation are dose-dependent.
Another study in which the participants were college students showed that from just 3 weekly sessions there was an improvement in understanding otters, interpersonal interactions and positive emotions. Over time, these benefits accumulate with the continued practice of METTA meditation.
Meditation can help you to develop a certain level of mental discipline that can help you in breaking any dependencies you may have. This can help to combat addictive behaviors, no matter what you find yourself addicted to.
Research shows a link between meditation and the ability to redirect attention, manage impulses, manage emotions, and an increase in the understanding of the causes behind one’s actions.
In one study, 60 people were receiving treatment for alcohol use disorder. The results of practicing transcendental meditation yield lower levels of alcohol cravings, alcohol use, psychological distress after 3 months of ongoing therapy.
A review of 14 studies found that meditation can also help to control food cravings. This is ideal for persons who suffer from emotional and binge eating, as meditation would help them to see a reduction in these behaviors.
When practiced regularly, meditation can help participants develop mental awareness. This can help one to manage their triggers or any unwanted impulses. This is great for persons struggling with addiction and other unwanted habits.
Improvement in Sleep
Insomnia is a very common complaint, with almost half of the population having struggled with it at least once in their lifetime. In one study, the comparison was made with mindfulness based meditation, which found that people who meditated were able to stay asleep longer. Others saw an improvement in the severity of their insomnia.
Honing your meditation skills can help you redirect your racing thoughts and control them, so you can steer clear of insomnia and get some well needed sleep at night. By relaxing and controlling your thoughts, you can shorten the amount of time it takes for you to fall asleep. This will further have a positive impact on your sleep quality.
Pain perception is connected to your state of mind. During stressful conditions, your stress can be elevated. Several studies suggest that incorporating meditation in a daily routine can be beneficial for controlling pain.
One review on the results of 38 studies concluded that mindfulness meditation can indeed reduce pain. They also show that mindfulness meditation has a positive effect on one’s quality of life, while decreasing those pesky depression symptoms.
Large studies with approximately 3,500 participants have concluded that mindfulness meditation does have the ability to decrease pain. The review saw both non meditators and meditators experiencing the same amount of pain, but it was the person meditating that saw the ability to cope with pain the best.
With meditation, you can diminish the perception of pay in the brain. This can help with treating chronic pain without the use of physical therapy or medical care.
Decrease in Blood Pressure
Meditation has the ability to improve physical health, as it reduces the strain on the heart. If the heart is working harder to pump blood, you could be suffering from poor heart function.
Narrowing of the arteries can arise from high blood pressure brought on by stress and anxiety. This can lead to a stroke or heart attack later on. But with some habitual meditation, you can lower your risk.
Meditation has been proven to lower blood pressure across 12 studies with nearly 1000 participants. The meta-analysis of the studies proved that this effect was stronger on participants that were suffering from higher blood pressure before the study, and for older individuals as well.
There was one review that concluded that different types of mediation produced similar blood pressure improvements. The reason it works is because meditation controls blood pressure by relaxing nerves that signal and coordinate heart function. Studies show that meditation can also decrease blood vessel tension and the “fight or flight” response.
Meditation can lower blood pressure while in a session, and can also lower blood pressure over time when one meditates regularly. Lower blood pressure keeps the strain off the heart and its arteries, and so prevents heart disease.
You can meditate almost anywhere and any time of day. You also do not need any specialized equipment or space for meditating. With just a few minutes each day, you can start meditating and start benefiting from this practice of meditating. If you are interested in meditating, try and find out what type of meditating is best suited for your needs.
The two main styles of meditating are focused-attention meditation and open-monitoring meditation.
Focused-attention meditation requires concentration on a single thought, object, visualization or sound. The aim of this type of meditation is to free your mind of all distractions and focus on a calming sound, your mantra or your breathing.
Open-monitoring meditation encourages you to have a broader awareness of your environment. You are called to be aware of your thoughts and your sense of self as well. You can become aware of suppressed thoughts, impulses or feelings so you can act on them.
There are many guided meditation exercises that you can find for free on the internet. You can browse and find one that best suits the way you can meditate and address the problem that has turned you towards meditating.
If you cannot find quiet time to sit and meditate, you may consider joining a class. This will additionally give you community support that can boost your chances for success even more.
Another option you have to get some amount of meditation in is to set your alarm for just a couple minutes earlier than necessary in the morning. Use this as your quiet time and develop the habit of meditation. Starting your day with meditation may just be the positive change you need to make a difference in your life as a whole.
There are a few different styles of meditation you can try if you are interested in incorporating meditation into your day-to-day routine. Try different styles and see which one suits you best.
The bottom line is that meditation is something that everyone can benefit from. You can see the benefit in your emotional, mental and physical health. What is great about meditation is that you can do it anywhere, and you can have the support of a group, as well as you can go it all by yourself. You don’t need any memberships or special equipment, but if you choose to pay for any of those, that is of course your choice.
Improve the quality of your life in just a couple minutes each day meditating. You won't regret it, you have so much to gain and nothing to lose!.
The Crafted Nutrients Team