Meditation is one of the most popular, most clickable, and most searched for words online. The reason for its popularity’s hike lies in the fact that more and more people have discovered its undisputed benefits. Meditating just a few minutes a day could probably save you thousands of dollars on pills!
A brief definition
In most general terms, meditation is a habitual process whereupon one learns to train his or her mind to focus on certain phenomena and channel their thoughts in a particular direction.
Some of the most common applications of meditation
For many people, meditation is an effective technique of reducing stress and stimulating their ability to concentrate. At the same time, it has been found to increase one’s awareness of themselves and the environment around them.
Meditation has also been credited as a useful way to promote one’s positive mood and outlook of the world, along with their self-discipline. People who meditate on a regular basis have reported a significant improvement in their sleep hygiene and even increased tolerance for pain.
The two most popular styles of meditation
There are several different forms of meditation and the good news is that most of them don’t require any special equipment or place to practice. Moreover, you don’t need to follow any particular routine, just a few minutes a day is enough.
If you want to practice Focused-attention meditation, you should focus on a single object, image or sound.
The key here is to try to free your mind from any possible distractions by concentrating on your breathing, or a particular mantra.
The other most popular meditation style is called Open-monitoring meditation.
Its practitioners focus on broadening their awareness of all aspects of the environment, including their train of thought and their perception of their own self. It may involve becoming aware of thoughts, feelings or emotions that you may normally try to avoid.
Where to meditate
A quiet and tranquil environment is the most important prerequisite for effective meditation. However, if you have small children at home this can be particularly hard to achieve. Provided that you have your own office, meditating for a few minutes during the lunch break shouldn’t be a problem. However, you may not have the opportunity to practice your favorite method of meditation in a shared office space.
Alternatively, you can sign up for a meditation class, where you will enter a supportive and understanding community and get better results of your meditation exercises. If this isn’t an option, just try to get up a bit early and take advantage of your silent home at dawn.
The top 11 reasons to meditate on a regular basis
To keep you motivated and determined to keep up with meditation, listed below are eleven undisputed benefits of regular meditation:
The majority of those who’ve taken up meditation say they have been actually trying to cope with the high level of stress in their everyday life.
Regular meditation has been found to reduce the levels of cortisol in the body, thereby alleviating some stress-related symptoms such as irritable bowel syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, and fibromyalgia.
The decreased levels of cortisol in individuals who meditate regularly mean that they have better sleep at night, their blood pressure is normal and they get tired less often.
2. Meditation as an anxiety management tool
Having established the important role that meditation plays in relieving stress, let us now focus on its ability to manage anxiety.
Recent research has highlighted the benefits that patients diagnosed with anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive behaviors and panic attacks have had from an eight-week meditation course.
More importantly, most of the participants in the experiment have continued to practice meditation on a regular basis after its end. As a result, all of those individuals now report normal anxiety levels and a complete absence of panic attacks.
Meditation is also highly recommendable to individuals who have stressful jobs. One recent study reveals that the participants in a short meditation program have reported reduced levels of job-related anxiety.
3. Meditation improves your emotional health
A group of psychologists, psychiatrists and researchers followed eighteen volunteers diagnosed with depression over a three-year-meditation program. The scientists found out that the participants in the meditation course experienced a long-term improvement in their overall emotional condition.
On the whole, they have become more optimistic about life and have adopted a positive outlook of their future. More importantly, their fits of depression have become far less frequent. Neurologists have since established that regular meditation stimulates the areas of your brain responsible for optimism and happiness.
4. Promotes Self-Awareness
Some forms of meditation may help you acquire a better understanding of yourself. For instance, self-inquiry meditation can help you to better relate to those around you. If you practice meditation for just five minutes every day, you will learn to recognize thoughts that may be harmful or counterproductive early on.
This is so because meditation enables you to achieve greater awareness of your thoughts and better deal with temporary feelings of loneliness or rejection. In addition, regular practitioners have also reported an improvement in their problem-solving and cognitive abilities.
5. Meditation broadens attention span
Focused-attention meditation can be especially beneficial to individuals with narrow attention span. For instance, the participants in an eight-week mindfulness meditation course reported a significant improvement in their ability to focus and maintain their attention on a particular subject.
Meditation can also be very helpful to those people who need to have a sharp eye for the detail or those who need to remember and process large amounts of information at a time. Best of all, the results come only after four sessions!
6. Keeps your mind sharper for longer
A few minutes of meditation a day, keep age-related memory loss at bay! For example, a group of elderly Alzheimer’s patients started practicing the Kirtan Kriya method of meditation and after just a few sessions they reported a major improvement in their ability to perform memory tasks.
In addition, researchers have found out that meditation has helped elderly people with dementia to better cope with their everyday routines.
7. Meditation can make you a better person
Some specific methods of meditation such as Metta are aimed at inducing thoughts of kindness and love in those practicing it. Step by step, they learn to extend this kindness and warm feelings first to their family, then to their close friends and, ultimately, to their acquaintances.
Also, the practitioners of this meditation technique have been found to be better capable of experiencing feelings of compassion, empathy and affection.
Because meditating individuals create a strong positive aura around themselves, they attract success, happiness, and prosperity in their life. A conclusion can be drawn, then, that those who meditate on a regular basis tend to have fuller and happier lives compared to those who try to succeed without meditation.
8. Overcome your addiction through meditation
Because meditation increases one’s self-control and awareness, meditating people are generally less susceptible to addictions than those who try to stay away from them without practicing meditation.
This is because regular practitioners have strong willpower and have acquired full control over their emotions and impulses. On the whole, they tend to have a better understanding of how addictions work.
One study carried out among nineteen recovering alcoholics who’ve been taught how to meditate established that towards the end of their course they were capable of managing craving-related stress much better than they did at the beginning of the program.
As we all know, addiction to food can sometimes be as harmful as the one to alcohol or drugs. Here, too, meditation comes to the rescue. Scientists have already established that regular meditation sessions may help individuals with eating disorders by reducing their food cravings and helping them to overcome emotional and binge eating.
9. People who meditate sleep better
According to the Sleep Health Foundation, about a third of all people in the world have problems sleeping at night. This condition is also known as insomnia. Sleeping pills and other medicines can offer only a temporary solution to the problem. More often than not, these lead to addiction and therefore cannot be taken for a long time.
To be successful in whatever we do, we need to get enough sleep. Moreover, the sleep we get should be of reasonable quality. Meditation can offer a long-term solution to your persisting sleeping problems and it practically has zero side effects.
One study has established that meditation practitioners fall asleep faster and stay asleep for longer, compared to non-meditating individuals. This is because meditation relaxes your body by reducing the tension in your muscles. The report further reveals that those who spend just five or ten minutes a day meditating have also assumed a better control over their runaway thoughts that are among the main culprits for insomnia.
10. Meditation as the ultimate painkiller
When we are stressed up, our perception of pain becomes more acute. If you have to deal with chronic pain in your life, meditation can become your most powerful ally. Just four sessions are enough to teach you how to better control pain and ultimately become less sensitive to it.
One comprehensive study explored the effects of regular meditation on 3,500 practitioners. The researchers found out that meditation was associated with decreased levels of chronic or acute pain. Here again, we should take into consideration the fact that the stronger a pain relief medicine is, the more adverse its side effects are. At the same time, meditation has none!
11. Take control over your hypertension through meditation
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost one-third of the adult population of the USA has been diagnosed with hypertension or high blood pressure. That’s about seventy-five million people!
At the same time medics often call hypertension one of the “silent killers” of our time, as its development almost always goes unnoticed until it’s too late. Worst of all, it always aims for the heart and the brain – the two most important human organs.
A recent study among 996 adults diagnosed with high blood pressure has revealed that when meditating, they can actually reduce blood pressure by as much as five full points.
This is so because meditation has been found to relax the neuron signals that coordinate heart function, by suppressing the hormones that trigger the fight-or-flight response.
A few final words on meditation
Above we’ve answered the question of why meditation has become so popular in the West in recent years by highlighting some of its biggest benefits to our mental and emotional health.
You can meditate virtually anywhere, without the need of any special gear or mentors.
If you are just too social to meditate alone, you can try to find a meditation course in your area and sign up for it. If there isn’t one, do not let this fact discourage you! Just call your friends and convince them to try it with you.
Once you’ve found your meditation buddies, you can pick up some of the numerous meditation methods available nowadays, each having its own benefits and specificities. The best thing about meditation is that it works even if you practice it for just a few minutes a day!