Mindfulness meditation began in India and goes back as far as Buddha in 500 BCE. Today, people all over the world practice meditation. An estimated 8% of Americans enjoy the benefits of meditation.
But why meditate? What exactly are the benefits? Read on to discover ten science-proven reasons you should start meditating.
1. Reduce Stress
One of the main effects of meditation is that it reduces stress. This is the main reason people begin to practice meditation.
But can people actually measure your levels of stress to prove that it works? Yes, in fact, they can!
When we feel stressed, our bodies produce a chemical called cortisol. This stress hormone is bad news and has various harmful effects.
One of the effects of cortisol is that our body begins to produce a small protein called cytokines. This, in turn, results in inflammation. And this is something that scientists can measure.
A recent study that monitored over 3000 participants over 8 weeks as they engaged in mindfulness meditation. The result was a moderate reduction in stress.
2. Increased Self Awareness
The foundation of all meditation is focusing on the breath. This is something that we do up to 50,000 times a day. Yet, we rarely if ever pay attention to our breathing.
The purpose of meditation is to slow down, take a few minutes out of our day to sit and experience our body. Many guided meditations lead people through a body scan. Beginning at the tip of the head, participants will explore the feelings in the body without any judgment.
People will notice where there is tension or tightness and where there is space or pain. As a result, people who meditate become more self-aware of their bodies and the mechanisms they take for granted every day.
Meditation also enables us to become more self-aware of our thoughts and feelings. In the quiet moments, without distractions, we are better able to tune into our core. Here, many people find the root cause of a problem or are able to pinpoint why they feel a certain way.
Learn how to find the best time to meditate during your day.
3. Improve Attention Span
In our modern, digital society, people now have a shorter attention span than goldfish. We tend to switch our focus every eight seconds.
One of the benefits of meditation is an improved attention span. One study found that meditating daily resulted in less mind wandering in participants. They also tested better in memory and attention span than a group who did not participate in meditation.
Of course, improved attention span is useful to become more efficient and productive at work.
4. Keep Anxiety Under Control
People who suffer from anxiety benefit from meditation. That’s because reduced stress lowers anxiety. Plus, continued meditation is able to keep anxiety down over a long period of time.
One study showed that meditation resulted in a significant improvement in both subjective and objective symptoms of anxiety and panic in those who have anxiety disorders. Study participants were able to maintain the positive results they get from an 8-week mindfulness meditation training course three years later.
5. Improves Sleep
There are many meditation techniques that are helpful in relaxing and unwinding before bed. This helps get rid of a racing mind at night that prevents people from falling asleep.
Meditating can help people fall asleep faster and improve your quality of sleep.
6. Decrease Blood Pressure
One study showed that people with high blood pressure lowered their blood pressure by an average of five points after meditating.
Why is that? Meditation relaxes the nerve signals that create a flight or fight response in our bodies. In other words, meditation helps people relax inside their bodies.
7. Conquer Addictions
Meditation is a common part of addiction recovery programs. There is a lot of research to back up the positive effect meditation has on addicts.
Meditation increases a person’s awareness, self-control, and helps people learn to strengthen their mental discipline. Then, they are able to control their impulses and resist.
Plus, meditation allows people struggling with addictions to access the root cause behind their addictive behavior. This is a powerful tool in the path of recovery.
8. Fight Memory Loss
Along with sudoku and brain-teaser games, meditation can also fight dementia and age-related memory loss.
Seniors who engage in meditating test better in their memory, attention, and mental response. Dementia patients also gain a partially improved memory recall when they practice meditation.
9. Become Kind
There are various types of meditation. Some of them focus on increasing self-love and extending goodwill to those around you.
For example, Metta, or loving-kindness meditation, starts by thinking kind thoughts about your own self.
It takes practice and consistency before people are able to learn to love themselves. Then they work to extend kindness to their family and friends. Finally, they extend that goodwill out to those who hurt them.
Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself, and meditation can help you harness the power to have the strength to forgive. You become a better version of yourself as a result.
10. Improves Emotional Health
Those cytokines that we talked about earlier can also affect your mood. They can also lead to depression.
As meditation reduces the inflammation these cytokines cause, it also can reduce depression.
Besides reducing inflammation, meditation can change the way our brains work! One study looked at the differences in the brain activity of people who meditate and those who didn’t.
They found that those who engaged in mindfulness meditation have more brain activity in the areas responsible for optimism and positive thinking.
Final Thoughts on Why Meditate
We hope you found these science-backed benefits of meditating insightful. Why meditate? Now you have ten good reasons to give it a try.
Many people worry about how to start meditating and have fears about doing it wrong. Check out our beginner’s guide to meditation that will help you get started.