Meditation used to be looked at as something only the hippies and yogis did. Well, the hippies and yogis are still doing it, but thankfully more and more people are catching on to the amazing benefits of meditation.
Nearly 18 million adults in America practice meditation regularly, using this practice to bring balance and peace of mind to their stressed-out lives. With our current on-the-go lives, and anxiety and stress levels at record highs, using meditation to manage pain, reduce stress, tame negative emotions and increase learning capabilities is catching on––as it should.
Here are some of the key benefits of meditation:
1. Reduces Stress
Reducing stress is by far the most common reason people take up meditation. When we're stressed, our bodies elicit a "fight or flight" response. The relaxation response is a technique designed to elicit the opposite bodily reaction from the "fight or flight" response––a state of deep relaxation in which our breathing, pulse rate, blood pressure, and metabolism are decreased. Training our bodies on a daily basis to achieve this state of relaxation can lead to enhanced mood, lower blood pressure, improved digestion, and a reduction of everyday stress. Mindfulness meditation is a great technique to achieve this.
2. Stops Negative Self Talk
The more you say negative things, the more you embody what you are saying and buy into the idea that you are those things, when they are, in fact, only thoughts that you have chosen to give power to. The worst part is we often have these thoughts without realizing what's happening. Some forms of meditation may help you develop a stronger understanding of yourself, helping you grow into your best self, and you can then learn to recognize thoughts that may be harmful or self-defeating. The idea is that as you gain greater awareness of your thought habits, you can steer them toward more constructive patterns.
3. Controls Anxiety
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the US, affecting more than 40 million Americans aged 18 and older. Mindfulness meditation strengthens a person’s cognitive ability to regulate emotions, meaning meditation allows your brain to better process perceived threats.
4. Increases Attention Span
Just like a muscle, your mind needs to be strengthened, and attention-focused meditation is like a workout for your attention span. Being able to stay on task longer has obvious productivity benefits, but it also ties into the first three we listed. If your mind isn't wandering, it doesn't have time to worry (producing anxiety) or create negative thoughts. See how it's all connected?
5. Improves Sleep
A staggering amount of Americans aren't getting enough sleep. The causes for this ranging from sleep disorders like insomnia, long work hours, or other outside factors like young children etc. This means it's crucial to make the hours you do get count. Mediation has been proven to help people fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, helping those who practice to rein in runaway thoughts and clear their minds when it's time for bed. Getting enough sleep consistently is linked to reducing risk for disease and depression, reduce inflammation, improving memory, regulate hormones and more.
Meditation can also help improve your mood, control pain and improve your emotional health. Start by meditating just a few minutes each day, progressively building up to 10 minutes. 10 minutes is all it takes! Find a quiet place, preferably the same one, that you can practice mindfulness and meditation. I prefer a breathing guided meditation but there are countless other forms to help you reap the many benefits of this ancient practice. The best benefit? It's free and you can do it anywhere :) so get started today.