Careers, parenting, social lives, relationships, they all bring an element of stress into our 21st-century lives. Over the past few years, these stresses started to take an increasing toll on my physical and mental health. I searched for a solution. Meditation was recommended to me by a friend (who is also a healthcare professional). Increasingly, the NHS are recommending meditation as a form of self-care and self-medication. But would it work, I asked or was this a load of mumbo jumbo? Could there even be as many as 10 benefits of meditation?
The more I researched, the more convinced I was that meditation was at least worth a try. In a subsequent post, I’m going to discuss my own personal journey and experience with meditation. But here. I’m going to explore 10 benefits of meditation.
1. Improves overall Physical Health
The modern world can have a detrimental effect on our overall health, and in particular, the heart. Heart disease or cardiovascular disease is one of the top killers in the UK. A number of studies have been conducted on cardiovascular patients who used meditation alongside their regular medication. These patients showed a significant improvement in comparison to those patients who used only modern medicine without meditation.
This is because meditation helps to control stress levels and lower blood pressure. These are important factors not only in heart disease patients but for everyone! Lowering blood pressure and controlling stress can also prevent heart disease too.
Meditation is also said to aid the immune system and so is beneficial to already healthy bodies.
2. Reduce Symptoms of Medical Conditions
Quite often even with all the modern medicine available, some people still suffer from terrible pain caused by an illness.
Meditation can also help you become more resilient to pain. For instance, Zen Buddhists who regularly practice meditation have a much higher threshold for pain than those who do not meditate.
I have suffered for years with crippling, excruciatingly painful migraines. Meditation now helps to keep these to a minimum. In fact, the pain I experience is less severe. And I’m hoping to completely eliminate them as I continue my meditation journey.
3. Decreases Depression
For those suffering from depression, learning to meditate is one activity I would urge you to do. Stress and anxiety can lead to depression and meditation has been shown to lower these.
Research has found that meditation alters parts of the brain that are linked with depression, e.g. the part of the brain identified with worries, the ‘Me Centre’. Also the ‘fear centre’ or the amygdala which is responsible for the fight or flight response.
When suffering from depression, these two parts of the brain link up to increase stress and anxiety. However, by meditating, we can break these links thus reducing the symptoms of depression.
4. Controls Stress and Anxiety
A point discussed under some other headings, but I cannot underestimate the importance of these benefits. They simply had to be included in a list of 10 benefits of meditation!
Meditation can help to alleviate some disorders associated with stress and anxiety, such as phobias, panic attacks and paranoid thoughts.
5. Improves Sleep
If you struggle to sleep, I can highly recommend meditating before going to bed. I have struggled with insomnia on and off since adolescence and aside from medication, meditation is the only thing that has worked for me! Meditation puts your body in a state of complete relaxation. The practise of meditation which is, in essence, quieting the mind and cutting out all distractions creates psychological changes similar to those we experience when getting ready for sleep.
Not only can meditation help you ease into that sleepy state but it also improves the quality of your sleep. I seem to fall into a deeper sleep after meditating and feel much more refreshed in the mornings. I track my sleep patterns on my Fitbit and have noticed an increase in the amount of time I spend in a deep sleep and ‘REM’ sleep than I did prior to meditating.
6. Promotes Self Awareness
We spend far too little time without ourselves and with our inner thoughts that we often don’t know who we are. This can be an especially daunting prospect for anyone suffering from depression and anxiety. But I would urge you to take the plunge and become self-aware.
We can write all our skills and qualifications down on a CV but what personal qualities do we actually possess?
Spending time alone with your thoughts will enable you to understand your thoughts a little better. Why do you think the way you do? Where do some of your worries come from? When you better understand yourself, this promotes self-care and self-healing.
7. Improves your Relationships with Others
Thanks to the reduction in stress levels that meditation brings, you might start to find that your relationships with close loved ones improve. (I certainly have). As you begin to know yourself, you become more empathic and caring towards others. Your connection with others will increase as you connect with yourself.
8. Promotes Creativity
To be creative, you need inspiration, right? Where better to find inspiration than in your innermost deepest thoughts you can access during meditation? We all have an imagination, sometimes we just need to unlock our potential and have time with our thoughts.
9. Improves Cognition
Meditation can increase your ability to perform tasks that require skill and concentration. In essence, the practice can give you brainpower!
Studies have also indicated that meditation can help you to remain focused for longer on perhaps mundane or repetitive tasks. Those who do meditate can often work better under stressful conditions such as deadlines. Meditation can also help you to retain information for much longer.
10. Meditation Gives you Perspective
During the meditation process, you clear out all of the junk from your brain and you’re left with your pure thoughts. You can figure out what makes you tick, which direction you want your life to go in. By thinking these things through and finding these answers, you become more confident. As your stress levels reduce, you become happier. With an increased focus, you can do anything you set your mind to!
Meditation is truly empowering!
So, there were my 10 benefits of meditation, although to this list could be added many more! There are so many essential benefits to meditation that can improve not only our mental health but also our physical health too!
Do you meditate? What are your own experiences with meditation? Let us know in the comments below.
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