These are testing times, the pandemic is proving to be a global menace acting upon people’s health and psyche. Better health and immunity and mental health can help us all get through this pandemic, and what better way to relax than meditate?
Meditation promotes mindfulness through relaxation, focus, and awareness. Meditation is practiced in one of three steps:
Concentration: focusing attention on a single object, internal or external (focused attention meditation)
Observation: paying attention to whatever is predominant in your experience in the present moment, without allowing the attention to get stuck on any particular thing (open-monitoring meditation)
Awareness: allowing awareness to remain present, undistracted and not engaged with either focusing or observing.
20 Benefits of Meditation
While many think meditation is only for the more learned and mentally agile people, many prisons and rehabilitation centers have used meditation as a tool for self-improvement and rehabilitation. Below are 20 benefits of meditation.
1. Reduces Stress
Our day to day navigation of career and social life is stressful indeed. The disease pandemic isn’t helping either. We are all scared, clueless and worried. , and these threats increase the level of cortisol, or stress hormone in the body, and activates the Autonomic Nervous system, which is responsible for fight-or-flight responses.
Research shows that mindfulness meditation lowers levels of cortisol, the hormone that causes stress. Brain studies of regular meditators revealed that they have lower cortisol levels in their brains, which explains their resilience and insightful nature. Reducing cortisol can decrease general stress, anxiety, and depression. These effects can disrupt sleep, promote depression and anxiety, increase blood pressure and contribute to fatigue and cloudy thinking.
2. Helps Promote Emotional Health
Emotional well being develops from an early age and our self-worth and love. Lack of such belief in oneself often leads to disharmony in emotional well being. Studies have shown that meditation improves self-image and self-worth. When we meditate, we get a clear picture of our mind and become aware of the thoughts that drive our emotions and actions at the moment.
We’ve all been stuck in traffic or in a long, boring meeting and couldn’t wait to escape but had to indure being blamed or shamed, or just bored. Practicing meditation and mindfulness helps build inner strength and endurance to calmly get through these situations. It creates an ability to be in the moment no matter how it is.
Corona pandemic and self-isolation cannot be an easy task for everyone, practicing meditation during these tough times helps us get past these days.
3. Helps build characters like Empathy
Empathy is a character we need more in this world than anything right now. The bigotry, racism people have shown towards Asians is at par. People hoarding without thinking about people who aren’t able to shop physically or financially is heartbreaking.
Meditation has been shown to better your ability to relate to others. How? It improves your ability to empathize, and it hones your ability to pick up on cues indicating how others are feeling. Meditation also increases your emotional stability, making you less likely to be influenced by any negative people in your life.
Metta, a type of meditation also known as loving-kindness meditation, begins with developing kind thoughts and feelings toward yourself.
Through practice, people learn to extend this kindness and forgiveness externally, first to friends, then acquaintances and ultimately enemies. Twenty-two studies of this form of meditation have demonstrated its ability to increase peoples’ compassion toward themselves and others.
Metta, or loving-kindness meditation, is a practice of developing positive feelings, first toward yourself and then toward others. Metta increases positivity, empathy and compassionate behavior toward others.
4. Helps better sleep
Sleeping helps recharge our mind and our body. It helps us stay sane and happy and healthy. Meditation just before going to sleep has a positive impact which is profound and visible. Some recent studies have proved that meditating at night helps people with insomnia and sleep disorders. A short practice right before we hit the bed helps to calm our nerves and get us into a relaxed state before we sleep.
According to a study by the University of Massachusetts Medical School, the sleep quality of people who practice bedtime meditation is better than non-meditators (Lazar, Carmody, Vangel, Congleton, 2011).
Ensuring a tight sleep is essential for maintaining productivity at work, and meditation can be the best solution we can offer ourselves for this. Research says that meditation improves the REM sleep state by up to 60%, which makes us sleep like a baby and wake up feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.
Practically, there is no limitation to when or for how long we can meditate. Understanding what your mind and body needs can be the first step for choosing a meditation time and robustly beating the sleep epidemic.
5. Meditation helps build a healthy lifestyle
- Early morning meditators stay energized for the full day without solely relying on caffeine, and this is the reason behind it. Starting the day with a 20-minute meditation practice activates the parasympathetic nervous system and releases energy-boosting endorphins that spring us up, making us more enthusiastic and fresh all day long.
- Healthy eating habits: When we are in a low mood or feel negative, we often crave for unhealthy or comfort food that pleases the mind temporarily. Studies have shown that after developing solid morning meditation habits, it becomes easier to cut off the extra sugar and fatty foods from our diet.
6. Benefits on Physical Health – Blood Pressure, Pulmonary disease, Pre Menstrual symptoms, Alzheimer’s and other inflammatory diseases. Meditation improves physical health by boosting the immune functions, regulating hormonal discharge, and decreasing cellular inflammation.
7. By regulating the Sympathetic and Autonomic Nervous systems, meditation controls our responses during sudden stress encounters and prevents us from nervous breakdown and panic attacks.
8. Meditation stabilizes blood circulation in the body and regulates blood pressure, heartbeat, metabolism, and other essential biological functioning.
9. An experiment, with a technique called “relaxation response”, yielded similar results, with 2/3 of high blood pressure patients showing significant drops in blood pressure after 3 months of meditation, and, consequently, less need for medication. This is because of relaxation results in the formation of nitric oxide, which opens up your blood vessels.
10. Meditation and meditative prayer help treat premenstrual syndrome and menopausal symptoms.
11. Results from recent research, published online in the journal ‘Brain, Behavior and Immunity‘, states that just 30 minutes of meditation a day not only reduces the sense of loneliness but also reduces the risk of heart disease, depression, Alzheimer’s and premature death.
12. In a study published by the Korean Association of Genuine Traditional Medicine, practitioners of the “Integrated Amrita Meditation Technique” showed a significant decrease in heart rate and respiratory rate for up to 8 months after the training period.
13. Psychological stress is a potent trigger of inflammation. A brief mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction intervention delivered by audiotape during ultraviolet light therapy was found to increase the resolution of Psoriatic lesions in patients with psoriasis.
14. Meditation in Pregnancy and Labour
Meditation and mindfulness promote a healthy pregnancy and early parenthood.
- Mood agitations and crankiness during pregnancy can be overwhelming for both the mother and the people around her. Meditation calms the mind and regulates mood by controlling disruptive hormones.
- Some pilot studies indicate that daily meditation during pregnancy helps would-be mothers maintain a greater connection to their body (Duncan, Cohn, Chao, Cook, 2017). By eliminating stress and reducing the fear of labor pain, meditation allows women to stay calmer during delivery and prevent them from experiencing postpartum depression.
- Meditation means quality ‘me-time,’ which many women fail to give themselves. Cultivating the habit of daily practice cools down the nerves and reduces the tension, which can significantly benefit the health of an expecting mother.
15. Increases Grey Matter Concentration in Brain
Meditation increases grey matter concentration in the brain/ Meditation and memory of older people. A group of Harvard neuroscientists ran an experiment where 16 people were submitted to an eight-week mindfulness course, using guided meditations and integration of mindfulness into everyday activities. The results were reported by Sara Lazar, Ph.D. At the end of it, MRI scans show that the grey matter concentration increases in areas of the brain involved in learning and memory, regulating emotions, sense of self, and having perspective.
Other studies also show a larger hippocampal and frontal volumes of grey matter for long-term meditators.
Kirtan Kriya is a method of meditation that combines a mantra or chant with repetitive motion of the fingers to focus thoughts. It improved participants’ ability to perform memory tasks in multiple studies of age-related memory loss.
In addition to fighting normal age-related memory loss, meditation can at least partially improve memory in patients with dementia. It can also help control stress and improve coping in those caring for family members with dementia.
16. Meditation and Pain
Pain is a perception in our mind. It has the ability to debilitate even the strongest people. Your perception of pain is connected to your state of mind, and it can be elevated in stressful conditions. One larger study looked at the effects of habitual meditation in 3,500 participants. It found that meditation was associated with decreased complaints of chronic or intermittent pain.
An additional study of meditation in patients with terminal diseases found meditation may help mitigate chronic pain at the end of life.
17. Meditation and Addictions
Regular, scheduled meditation time can help develop mental discipline which may help you break dependencies by increasing your self-control and awareness of triggers for addictive behaviors.
One fascinating study found that Vipassana meditation can be incredibly effective at helping people overcoming alcohol and drug-related addictions, and similar effects have been found for various types of meditation.
18. Meditation and Kids
Kids are the current generation who will be at the helm of the future. During the lockdown, they must feel suffocated and restless. It’s the correct time to introduce them to meditation and help them build a habit. Even during school times, kids need some time to unplug. Their brains can get tired after a long day of studies, sports, and other curricula.
- Meditation is ideal for healthy brain functioning.
- It boosts energy, helps kids sustain attention, and improves academic performance significantly.
- Many specialists agree that introducing brief meditation sessions while dealing with ADHD and impulse-control problems in children resulted in a better prognosis. Besides improving essential body functions like hunger, sleep, metabolism, and immunity, meditation helps children remain more active and happy.
- Improving attention span.
- Reducing reaction time.
- Fostering self-confidence and self-esteem.
- Developing social connections and peer relationships.
- Enhancing academic goals and achievements.
- Building empathy, care, and kindness for themselves and others.
- Boosting motivation and mood, thereby promoting happiness.
- Improving general health conditions and immunity.
19. Meditation at Workplace
Competitive cut-throat and emotionally and physically draining work, this often takes the happiness out of us and makes us unhealthy. Leading companies like Google and Amazon offer meditation courses to their employees every year.
- Just like any other aspect of life, meditation helps reduce work-induced stress by regulating the stress hormones and releasing toxins from the body.
- Introducing group meditations at work can promote interpersonal connections among employees and supervisors, and foster empathy and acceptance in the team as a whole.
- Meditation practices like Mindfulness-Based Stress Relaxation therapy, are specially designed for professional executives to build decision-making and leadership skills.
- Studies indicate that commitment to daily meditation improves the general health condition of employees, causing them to take fewer medical leave, and boost productivity manifold.
20. Meditation improves cognition
Researchers agree that an excellent way for professionals to increase the likelihood of success is to keep meditation practice as a part of their daily routine. Studies have revealed that both transcendent and mindful meditation practices improve the brain’s problem-solving and decision-making strategies, which can bring a desirable shift in our professional life.
Let’s make meditation a part of our life and stay healthy and happy. Get started by learning about different types and techniques of meditation.